COLLEGE STATION, Texas — During a speaking engagement this spring, Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher used colorful language to proclaim his team would beat Alabama during coach Nick Saban's career.
He fulfilled that promise in his first try since that vow Saturday night, handing the reigning Southeastern Conference and national champions their first loss since 2019 in a thrilling upset.
"Our team beat a really good football team ... and that's what's important to me," Fisher said.
Seth Small made a 28-yard field goal as time expired, and the unranked Aggies stunned No. 1 Alabama 41-38 to end the Crimson Tide's winning streak at 19 games. The victory came on Fisher's 56th birthday and is certainly the program's biggest triumph since he took over in 2018.
"I didn't know what to get him, so we thought as a team that we should get a win for him," Small said.
Alabama (5-1, 2-1) had scored 21 straight points — capped by a touchdown reception and 2-point conversion catch by Jameson Williams — to take a 38-31 lead with five minutes to go.
Texas A&M (4-2, 1-2) tied it at 38 when Zach Calzada connected with Ainias Smith on a 25-yard touchdown pass with three minutes left. Calzada was hit as he threw the strike and had to be helped off the field, but the quarterback returned for the next series after he visited the medical tent and Texas A&M's defense forced Alabama to punt.
Calzada's orchestration of the winning drive was highlighted by a 17-yard pass to Isaiah Spiller before Small finished it off, sending fans streaming onto the field to celebrate.
"I'm proud of our guys," Fisher said. "We made plays at critical times."
Calzada threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns as the former backup played like a star. Devon Achane returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, and the Aggies got after Alabama quarterback Bryce Young all night.
"This is a great win," Achane said. "It shows us that we're capable of doing great things."
Smith finished with 85 receiving yards and two scores, and Jalen Wydermyer had 73 receiving yards and a touchdown to help the Aggies to the win.
Alabama hadn't lost since falling 48-45 to Auburn on Nov. 30, 2019.
"Everyone needs to remember how they feel and not forget it," Saban said.
It's the first time Saban has lost to one of his former assistants after entering Saturday 24-0 in such games. He'd beaten Fisher four times, the most of any of his former staffers.
"It doesn't mean anything to me," Fisher said about ending the skid for former assistants. "Our football team is learning to play against other great football teams and have success. That's what matters to me."
Texas A&M also ended Alabama's streak of wins over unranked teams after 100 games, a run that dated to a victory over Colorado in the 2007 Independence Bowl to cap Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa.
The Aggies entered the season ranked sixth and gunning for Alabama after the Tide handed them their only loss last season. But by last weekend it looked as if this would be a lost season for the Aggies after consecutive defeats against Arkansas and Mississippi State sent them tumbling out of the AP Top 25.
But instead of falling into a bigger hole, the Aggies pulled off the upset to snap an eight-game skid against Alabama. It's their first win in the series since quarterback Johnny Manziel's spectacular performance led them to a 29-24 win in 2012 on the road when the Tide were also ranked first.
"We had a couple of tough weeks (but) you're defined by how you respond to adversity," Fisher said.
Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy that season, was among the 106,815 fans at Kyle Field on Saturday night to watch the Aggies win at home against the Tide for the first time. Texas A&M's first success in the series was a 20-16 win in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1968.
Manziel was also among those celebrating on the field in the wild postgame party.
The 17 1/2-point underdogs gained control early, racing to a 24-10 halftime lead behind two takeaways and a splendid start by Calzada. The Aggies' 24 points in the first half were the most Alabama had allowed to an unranked opponent before halftime during Saban's tenure.
"There were a lot of issues," Saban said.
Young threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, Williams had 146 receiving yards and Brian Robinson Jr. added 147 yards on the ground.
Alabama cut the lead to seven when DeMarcco Hellams blocked a punt by Nik Constantinou and King Mwikuta pounced on it in the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter.
But the Aggies took the blow and punched right back. Achane zig-zagged through two waves of defenders and then displayed the elite speed that lets him double as a sprinter on the track team to simply outrun everyone and make it 31-17 with eight minutes left in the third.
"The hole was so big," Achane said. "It was like, is this for me?"
Young then capped a 75-yard touchdown drive with a 29-yard pass Williams to cut the lead to 31-24. Williams put his finger to his lips to shush the crowd after the score.