TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Let your horses run. Let them jump and dance and dominate.
Nick Saban wanted that. He wanted his guys loose. Forget being anxious, he said, and just play football. Have fun. Be fast. Recalling the story of Secretariat he hoped to "just let 'em run."
Alabama hit its stride on Saturday afternoon, blowing past Texas A&M for a 59-0 win that had the previously sluggish Crimson Tide looking like playoff contenders once again.
T.J. Yeldon dodged and darted his way to 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Derrick Henry churned his long legs for 70 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Even Blake Sims let loose in the second quarter, running by a slew of defenders for a spectacular 43-yard touchdown.
Alabama fired on all cylinders while Texas A&M flamed out. It proved to be the Tide’s largest margin of victory in more than 30 years.
The emotion Saban said his team had been lacking was instead ramped up to an 11. The normally business-like Crimson Tide played the game like kids again.
If you’ve never seen a group of 280-pound men jump up and down to a beat, it really is something. A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen and the rest of Alabama’s defensive linemen couldn’t sit still. During each kickoff, they huddled on the edge of the field and danced to the music played over the loudspeaker.
Amped up, they took the field and held Texas A&M to 31 yards rushing on 24 carries. They sacked Kenny Hill six times and forced an interception. The Aggies were shut out for the first time since 2003.
It wasn’t just emotion, though. Alabama won by being faster, stronger and more aggressive. It was smarter, with no turnovers and zero penalties.
"There was a lot of anxiety on our team," Saban said, "a lot of guys worrying about expectations, about being defined by external factors.
"Everybody has to forget about all that other stuff," he added. "It does affect you. It affects a lot of teams. That’s why you see these top teams struggling."
On a day when Alabama could do no wrong, Texas A&M was left with nothing but second-guessing.
The Aggies ran defender after defender at Amari Cooper but never could wrangle the junior receiver as he racked up 140 yards and two touchdowns. Keeping up with all their missed tackles was a dizzying task. Mark Snyder’s defense gave up 45 points and 449 yards of offense -- in the first half.
"However you cut it, that performance was unacceptable and embarrassing," said coach Kevin Sumlin. "Alabama had a lot to do with that, but we have to get back to work and examine where we are right now and how we can get better."
Given the stark contrast in the quality of play, it’s hard to make any sweeping statements about the prospects of Alabama. It’s surely back in the playoff conversation, but this is still the same team that lost at Ole Miss and nearly fell to unranked Arkansas a week later.
But for now the critics should be silenced.
Saban wanted more emotion. He wanted his horses to run.
On Saturday, he got the right attitude and the right results.