Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand during a Week 5 loss to Mississippi State and will miss significant time, including this week's matchup against top-ranked Alabama, according to multiple reports. Though coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters Monday that Johnson was day-to-day, reports indicate the prognosis for the injury is much longer -- potentially, the remainder of the season.
Johnson suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the 42-24 loss in Starkville when his hand made contact with another player's helmet on the follow through of a pass. He briefly received treatment and threw on the sideline, but did not return to the field as Haynes King finished the game under center.
Johnson, a transfer from LSU, lost the starting job to King in fall camp, but was inserted into the lineup after Week 2 in an attempt to provide a spark to an Aggies offense that was struggling in the downfield passing game. Johnson has thrown for 494 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions since taking over, leading the Aggies to back-to-back wins over Miami and Arkansas -- both of which were ranked in the top 15 at the time.
King was benched after tossing three touchdowns and two interceptions in the first two games, including the 17-14 home loss to Appalachian State. He was 6 of 13 for 49 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of Johnson last week. Despite that, Fisher is confident that King is ready to lead the Aggies offense.
"Haynes came and led us straight down, made a great drive" said Fisher. "His decision-making was good. Unfortunately he had a couple of breaks where the ball tipped the wrong way but he was doing the right thing. He came in and led well and took us to two touchdown drives as a matter of fact."
Johnson's injury is yet another big blow to an Aggies offense that has been snakebitten this year. In addition to Johnson, star wide receiver Ainias Smith has been lost for the season after the electric senior suffered a . The Aggies and Crimson Tide will tee it up at 8 p.m. ET at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the second half of the SEC on CBS doubleheader.
What are the biggest takeaways from the news?
Offense needs a spark
The Aggies rank last in the SEC in scoring offense (21.8 points per game), last in red zone trips (12) and next to last in passing offense (205.4 yards per game). That's bad news considering they are playing a Crimson Tide team on Saturday with plenty of offensive weapons that can transform this matchup into a shootout in a hurry.
King will provide more mobility, which should take a little pressure off of running back Devon Achane, who has essentially been the offense's only bright spot this year. King has 66 yards rushing on 16 carries (4.13 yards per attempt), as opposed to Johnson, who has 28 carries for 58 yards (2.0 yards per attempt).
Desperate times do call for desperate measures. If Fisher wants to roll the dice, he could take the redshirt off of true freshman Conner Weigman. The former five-star prospect, second-ranked quarterback and No. 22 overall player in the Class of 2022 out of Bridgeland High School in Cypress, Texas, enrolled in school in January and has had plenty of time to learn Fisher's system.
A season on the brink
It's not necessarily groundbreaking to say that Texas A&M's season has been a disappointment, considering it was picked to finish second in the SEC West behind Alabama in the media vote at SEC Media Days in July. This game against Alabama will likely serve as a pivot point for its trajectory moving forward.
The 3-2 Aggies have a bye next week, but will then travel to South Carolina before hosting Ole Miss and Auburn in the subsequent weeks. South Carolina and Auburn aren't intimidating, but this is a team that lost to Appalachian State and then Smith a couple of weeks later.
If Fisher posts a .500 record through the first half of the season, which seems likely at this point, A&M will be battling with the SEC's middle class to make a halfway decent bowl at season's end. No, that won't result in Fisher's dismissal. That idea has been bandied about on the Internet, but even the wealthiest Texas A&M booster won't feel great about buying out his deal considering the wealth of talent Fisher signed during the previous recruiting cycle.
But a loss to Alabama, coupled with quarterback issues that appear to be lasting deep into the year, would likely make this a lost season in College Station.