I think it was the poetic trio of Three Dog Night who said, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” That pretty much sums up where the Tide stands after the complete and total emasculation of Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators – if Florida was the best challenger the nation has to offer, then the Tide stands alone in this collegiate world. In fact, this week, I’m calling for a name change from Gators to Sopranos …(1) because now that their manhood has been removed, they can certainly hit the high notes and (2) because, just like the series, this ending left you wondering “this is it?” With the scoreboard reading 24-0 with six minutes left in the second quarter, the nation had to be thinking, “this is it?” The most ballyhooed game of the season…the one game circled on everyone’s calendar. The best against the best. This coronation ceremony for the SEC was over just shortly after it began and, once again, it was an emphatic Crimson Coronation for King Nick Saban.
So, today one is the loneliest number. Fulmer is gone. So, too, is everyone’s favorite neophyte Lane Kiffin. Even Mr Six Fingers is gone – banished to the godforsaken area of Lubbock, Texas. And, after Nick wiped away Urban’s know-it-all smirk (you wonder if he didn’t shake hands at midfield and ask him “Why So Serious”, in true joker style), it seems that Florida is no longer a threat. After watching half a season’s worth of football, I simply can’t find a worthy opponent. No team in any conference on any field looks as complete as this team – all are pretenders by comparison. I wonder if DCH held a room for Urban Saturday night because the realization of his new place in college football had to nearly suck the breath right out of him. This Alabama team is becoming as good on defense as they are on offense and, when you look around the country, there really is no other challenger (Oregon, maybe?). Anyway, on to the game…
BTW – I’m going to bust out a change-up, in honor of the baseball playoffs (apparently they still do play that game, contrary to popular opinion). I’ve been playing around with different formats so, as always, this is a work in progress…
I think our basic plan was to attack UF thru the air. Of couse, when you are up 24-0 with six minutes in the 2nd quarter, you are less inclined to chuck the pigskin around. As Bear used to say, when you pass four things can happen to you and three of them are bad. I think it was Bear that said that. If it wasn’t, it’s definitely something he should have said… J
- Heavy D: It’s ironic that the famed rapper extraordinaire Heavy D provided the secret to beating the UF “Heavy” D in his song “Now That We Found Love.” “Why don’t you just stretch? Stretch for a sec.” Later he prophesized, “Stretch it, stretch it, flex it, flex it.” That’s exactly how Bama went after the “Heavy D”. In the first drive, Bama had 6 passes (including sacks and scrambles) and 4 runs. In the second drive, six passes and 3 runs. The third drive featured 2 passes (scrambles actually) and six runs (three inside the 10). And the fourth drive, two passes (one a sack) and zero runs. We scored the first four times we touched the ball and did so by forcing their extra DE to play in space and defend passes and screens. It was like watching the asthma attack commercial for the millionth time – he looked like a fish with no water, just flailing around the secondary.
- Screen 3: The first series had to be a horror movie (Scream) for the DE for Florida who was lining up as a hybrid rusher/OLB. We screened three times, forcing him to uncomfortably play in space. Brilliant!
- A-Maze-ing Grace: Anyone else have a religious moment when Maze pulled up to throw to a wide, wide open Michael Williams. We’ve been setting that up for two years. Loved the poise and the on target delivery. Best of all, he saw it and threw it and never allowed time for the safety to pick up his drawers and close ground on Williams. Brilliant play and brilliant call. And, that’s just one more thing to keep opposing DCs up at night!
- A-Maze-ing Grace II: Ok, so maybe not as big of a “moment” if you will but I noticed #4 lining up at RB. Predictably, he was matched on a poor ole slow LB and roasted him for a first down. Of course, we kept the same personnel in as the RB flexed out as a WR so there’s no real way to adjust to this defensively. It’s a subtle thing but a genius thing to do.
- Just Slide: Greg needs to load the Goo Goo Dolls up on the ole IPod and take a listen at their song “Slide”. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. FOUR times he could have kept himself out of harms way by hook sliding. Did the kid even play baseball growing up? I love the moxie but leading with your shoulder and looking for contact isn’t exactly Rhodes Scholar material, you know? As I think about it, he needs to add Kool and the Gang’s Jungle Boogie – “Get down! Get down!”
- Line Dancing: Mega props go out to Vlachos and Warmack who consistently pulled on key running plays and got downfield on screens. Great athleticism and hustle. I probably don’t commend Vlachos nearly enough – he’s truly outstanding.
- Shock and Awe: Fast and Furious? Seriously? It’s better than Porterhouse (????), for sure. How that made the top five, I don’t know. Which one would be porter? And house? Uh? Anyway, Meat and Potatoes is just dumb. How about Peas and Carrots – at least former Bama player Forrest Gump came up with that one in his movie – they go together like peas and carrots! Clearly the best to me is Shock and Awe. Shock is Ingram’s ability to go from blocker to receiver in the blink of an eye to get a first down. Awe is the speed in which T-Rich turned the corner on a 30 yard run. Shock is getting trucked by Ingram just before he goes out of bounds. Awe is the ease in which T-Rich trucked the All SEC safety Will Hill and then carried a 300 lb DT another four yards where, with the help of two more UF defenders, they brought him down.
PARTING OFFENSIVE THOUGHTS
For those of you who are disappointed with the numbers the O put up, I was with you until the third time I watched the game. Once we got out to 24-0 lead, I think we threw the ball 3 or 4 times after that. We were also inside of our 10 yard line the majority of the second half. But, more importantly, if you doubt the ability of the O to score on UF, remember we scored on the first four possessions. Remember it was 24-0 with SIX MINUTES TO GO IN THE 2ND QTR! Good night nurse. I just about expected CBS to flip to Heidi or 60 Minutes or something because Florida had been Kevorkianed.
Where to begin. Florida stared four seniors on their offensive line but I think the only stunt they have seen was in a James Bond film. I guess the 007 flick they saw was “Live and Let Die” because while they stood there blocking air, their QB was getting clobbered. Upside – they lived. Downside – Brantley didn’t. It was so bad that on his pick to Dre and his pick to Mosely, Brantley actually had time. However, Brantley was panic-stricken and decided to throw the ball to the wrong team. Give the kid some credit for standing in there even after he nearly had his head separated from his torso but his OL nearly got him killed. Thank God Sentimore whiffed on that play or else they would still be trying to reassemble Brantley somewhere around the 30 yard line.
This is amazing though. Our D is still learning the system and getting better. Just think that after replacing 9 starters and, in previous games, seeing obvious chinks in the armor of the Alabama defense, this is what they have to show for it (and after playing against Arkansas and Florida, no less):
#1 – Scoring Defense
#3 – Rushing Defense
#3 – Total Defense
#1 – Pass Defense Efficiency
#2 – Interceptions
#2 – Opponent 1st Downs (Per G Avg)
#1 – Opponent Third Down Conversions
#1 – Turnover Margin
#1 – Red Zone Defense
All of this while being 10th in sacks and 12th in tackles for loss. Wow. And, again, they are still learning to play this defense.
Chump Pass: Leave it to Urban Meyer, the self proclaimed God of offense, to go to the well once too often. As Kirby Smart (the last name is ironic, eh?) jumped up and down in a jump pass motion, the defense calmly waited for Urban’s “genius” to combust his chances to score. Great plays by Square and Williams to knock the receivers off their routes and then either Nico or Barron could have picked off the pass. In a matchup of Xs and Os, take Nick Saban every time. This play determined the outcome of the game and is basically a microcosm of the matchup between the coaches. It’s like Bobby Fischer vs my dog Bandit in chess. Well, maybe my neighbor’s dog. Bandit’s pretty smart…
Upside: Can you think of a more complete game from one player? Derrick Thomas comes to mind – I forget the game where he had a bazillion sacks but I remember thinking someone might want to block him if their QB wanted to survive. Courtney Upshaw recovered a fumble, deflected two passes and had four tackles for losses. And, he’s not quite 100% on that ankle.
Bad Moon Risin: Note to QBs. Don’t go out tonight. It’s bound to take your life. On one play, Upshaw was crashing the edge on the left side while Dareus was collapsing the right side. It’s what we’d hoped for at the beginning of the season but hadn’t seen until Sat night. Future OL that we face will need to start practicing their “LOOK OUT” blocks…
Elevate Good Times: Weird title, yes. It’s a take on Kool and the Gang’s Celebrate Good Times. Once you see the video, you’ll understand. If you have the game on Tivo then go to the 4:49 mark in the second quarter. It’s a third down pass from UF that Menzie knocks away harmlessly. Now, watch #30. He’s on a blitz. You’ll have to run this back in slow-mo b/c the CBS replay didn’t catch it. The UF RT is protecting the edge against Alex Watkins. As he sets his feet, Donte comes blitzing thru past the guard. What happens next defies the laws of gravity. A grown 300 lb man gets lifted in the air at the 18 and falls on his can at the 14, jettisoned there by the strong arms of Donte Hightower. Hightower never breaks stride and bears down on the QB. He also frees Watkins to whack Brantley as well. YOU MUST WATCH THIS! Good times!
Puttin on the Hitz: This title could go with several things but it’s what I thought of when I saw our corners come up and protect the edge on the sweeps. The first offensive play tested our wide side and Dre was there being blocked. If you watched the Duke game, you knew this was coming and this appeared to be our weakness. I pictured Demps’ speed turning the corner time after time. This time, though, Dre came up and made the tackle for a loss and Urban rarely went back to it. Later, when they tried again, Milliner made an outstanding tackle on the same type of play. The element that we were missing (toughness from our corners in run support) seems to be getting better which is bad, bad news for opponents.
Man in the Middle: Just a quick hitter but I thought Kerry Murphy dominated Saturday night. This kid is really coming along.
Delay of Game: Don’t you love Brantley running the option. Hmm. Should I take the pitch man who happens to be the fastest player in all of college football or should I take this slow footed dude. We overplayed the pitch man all night long and, on the play where Upshaw tracked him down from behind, Brantley was soooooooo slow. You looked around for a delay of game penalty or something cuz he was sloooow. And, they ran it to the short side of the field so even if he pitches, Demps had nowhere to go. Yet another tool from Urban’s box of genius.
PARTING DEFENSIVE THOUGHTS
It’s so hard not to write an epic novel just on the defensive players in this game. I have notes regarding the play of the obvious guys like Upshaw, Dareus, Nico, Mosely and Dre. But, I have other notes on the play of Murphy, Lester, Milliner (yes, he was flagged twice on the same series but bounced back to make some plays) and Square. What this tells me is that it was a total team effort. The kids are figuring out how to play with one another and now are taking care of their responsibilities within the scheme. It’s kinda like me taking on a “some assembly required” task. Basically, the team has muddled thru three games having some minor successes and set backs. But, now it appears they’ve read the instructions (or, in my case, received them from my wife who retrieved them from the trash). It’s like the Extreme Makeover, Bama Edition. Replacing 9 starters doesn’t just happen. Athletes are athletes and we have a great group of them but they are so much better when they are working together as a unit…or after they’ve read the instructions.
Florida brings a top notch return game year in and year out. It’s noteworthy that they did not get anything out of their return game whatsoever. Remember last year when we watched KO returns zip into the end zone? That’s not been a problem this year and I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere. Of course, I think it helps to have our kicker kick the ball, enter a phone booth, and then fly down and make a tackle. Even our kicker is a ripped dude for goodness sakes.
Mandell got an earful on a shank that set up the first Florida FG but redeemed himself another time when he was punting out of the end zone. Not his best performance but I thought it was a nice bounce back from having your @ss chewed out on national TV. He also had a ball downed at the one which was sweet.
And, lastly, what a great return by Julio. The outside gunners have been killing us all year in the punt return game as no matter who’s back there, they have no opportunity to catch the football and head up field. Credit Dre and John Fulton on rubbing out the two gunners and that allowed Julio to get an excellent return for the first time this year.
That’s it for this week. I tried a different couple of different formats but ended up coming back to something similar to the others. I’ll continue tweaking as we go along….