Kent State Review
Sometimes it’s just best not to have “Great Expectations”. Instead, perhaps it’s better just to enjoy the moment and to have no expectations at all. We had well laid out plans and expectations for the day but, as you know, the best laid plans oft go awry and such was the case Saturday. We were totally expecting one thing, one outcome and even though the outcome was achieved, how we got there was not how it was intended to be. But, enough about our trip to New York that was sabotaged by rain, flight delays and a fouled up Southwest flight board on Saturday – how about that Bama game?
Similar to our trip, the Kent State destination was a known. At the end of the day, we all knew Kent State would be flattened or scorched like the Golden Flashes they are called. Last week I joked about Betty White standing on the Kent State sidelines & wearing a trench coat – the ultimate Golden Flasher – and at times I thought she was playing wide receiver like she does in the Snickers commercial (Mike – you’re playing like Betty White out there!). Let’s face it. Kent State was the patsy they were supposed to be and that’s the reason I told you last week that the day would probably be unsatisfying. Whenever we made a good play – take for instance the Beast’s TD run of 49 yards, stiff arming one stiff and gliding away from another one – you had to calm yourself with the realization that “it’s just Kent State.” However, when you watched in horror as Trent Richardson was stuffed in the backfield on multiple occasions or watched our fifth turnover, you bristled with the realization that “IT’S JUST KENT STATE!”
Well, gentle reader, just as we eventually conquered all of our speed bumps on our way to NYC the Crimson Tide drowned their opponent as they were supposed to do. What should you have taken away from the game? Let’s go to the tape and find out!
It’s long been said that the best defense is a good offense. Well, as for that saying we may very well have to smack it up, flip it and rub it down (OH NOOOO!). Or, as the poet Chris Rock says, “You got to INVERT it!” What I’m trying to say is this season, the best offense might be a good defense.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner – It appears that we have ourselves a winner in the QB derby and, as much as it pains me to say it, I was wrong. Those of you who know me know that those are my three least favorite words and I get to say them to my wife ALL THE TIME. Sigh. Now I get to say them to you. I was wrong. There. Happy? Phillip Sims is NOT who we thought he was…
As the NYC locals say, “da troof is da troof” and, on Saturday, AJ McCarron was “da troof.” I can take solace in the fact that, back in April, I told you that I snuck into practice and I went there with the expectation of seeing the greatness that is Phillip Sims. Instead, I saw AJ McCarron blow him away. The same faults I saw in April and the same ones you all saw during A-Day are what separates the two in my book. While both have the ability to make you squeal with glee (not like a pig with a “purdy mouth” but in the good way – think Glee or Chelsea Square in NYC) on one play, they both have the ability to make you question if Alabama will ever get a top flight QB in the program. Both make bad decisions at times but AJ has the ability to read, anticipate and throw all in quick succession while Sims seems to be plodding along with what appears to be his translation of the New York subway system. A friend of mine once told me the key to surviving the NYC subway is if you don’t know where you are going then just get the hell out of the way. If this continues, that’s exactly what Sims will be asked to do at the QB positon.
Heisman Lite – Well, how’s that Heisman campaign going? You know, the one for Trent Richardson. Finally, now that Mark Ingram is out of the way (remember him – the only Heisman winner in Alabama history) we can all marvel at the talents of Trent Richardson. When TR gets a head of steam going, you get to see the skillz (that’s right, that’s the cool way to write about skills) that will blow away the NFL combine. Ridiculous power. Tremendous speed. Hands. Vertical. The chiseled RB that was made for the position. The one thing that Ingram had that is sooooo vastly underestimated by the “Trent is a better back” brigade is his vision. Honestly, the other three backs showed much better vision than TR did on the afternoon. Now, 3rd and 1 or 4th and 2 – give it to the Pain Train and applaud. The man moves mountains, piles and piles of mountains…
Australian for BEAST – That’s right. I called it! My three favorite words (three words rarely uttered to my wife, of course) are I WAS RIGHT!!!! Honestly – you saw him, too, and you marveled at Jalston Fowler just as I did. Did you notice he’s the lead blocker in short yardage situations as well? MAN CRUSH!
Circle Button – They call Eddie Lacy “Circle Button” after the spin move button on Playstation. The man works a spin move better than the Black Swan and he’s got more speed than Charlie “Winning” Sheen. Dude is pretty smooth. You know, when he signed with Bama, many said that he had as good or better of a skill set as TR. Well, the NFL combine #’s won’t match up to TR but, as a RB, I think you have to just about put them at even, don’t you? Lacy showed tremendous vision, very good speed and very good power. What’s not to like?
Missed it by thaaaat much – I’m man enough to say I’m wrong when I’m wrong and, dammit, I was wrong about something else. You think they were just hiding Blake Sims or you think he’s just not in the plans. No wildcat. No slot action. No motion. Heck, he didn’t even show up until less than 10 minutes to go in the game. You still got to see B Sims be Sims when he showed a burst of speed and cutback ability late in the 4th quarter. I still think we’ll see his playing time increase but it sure didn’t look like he was a vital part of the offensive machine on Saturday.
The Tush Push – My one and only request for Saturday was to see the big bodies of our OL push the heck out of those little Golden Girls on Kent State’s front line. Request DENIED. Several times, it appeared that Kent State ordered a code red and TR was playing the role of Santiago. We had several whiffs by the OL and I’m sure the musical chairs we were playing with them didn’t help. Alabama started experimenting with the line in the second quarter. With 10:48 remaining in the half Cyrus Kouandijo entered the game at left tackle and junior Barrett Jones moved to left guard for two series. Jones then went back to left tackle for the final two possessions of the first half when Alabama scored a field goal. Kouandijo returned with 10:58 left in the third quarter, with Jones at center (Sims interception to set up the Kent State touchdown). Jones returned to left tackle for a possession (touchdown), and played center on the 1-yard touchdown plunge following Kent State’s botched punt. On the final interception, senior Alfred McCullough was at left guard, with Kounadjo at left tackle and Jones at center, and the Tide had the same lineup on Fowler’s touchdown before going to the second unit. Whew. That’s a lot of movement on the OL, just not the movement I wanted to see.
Yes you know it’s true – Oooh, oooh, oooh, I love 2! DeAndrew White showed a little bit of what we’ve been hearing about. Yes, he dropped a pass and yes, he got de-crapitated on a punt return, but he showed a lot of wiggle and a LOT of speed. I think this kid is going to be as good as we’ve been advertising.
Uh-MAZE-ing – Marquis Maze showed up big for a little dude. Remember when we thought he was going pro last year and we all said, “WTF?” Well, maybe he knew more than we did! Whether it was as a #1 WR (grabbing eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown) or as a replacement for our dearly departed Javy Arenas (96 yards on eight punt returns, giving him a 12-yard average per attempt) our little grand Marquis finished with 253 all-purpose yards. I’ve always thought of #4 as a nice complimentary player but with Julio gone, he’s become a feature of the Bama passing attack that I never anticipated.
I’ll be short and sweet (like a Kent State possession) here. The D was as advertised and maybe even more dominant than we expected. Although coaches had already started rotating in reserves, when they pulled the first-team defense early in the fourth quarter the Golden Flashes had two first downs and just 19 yards on 52 plays, for an average of .37 yards per snap. They also had minus-26 rushing yards. Can I get an amen???? And, I need to go back and verify this but I think KSU had 2 yards after the catch all day long. Maybe three. Seriously. Wow.
Jesse’s Girl – Let’s be honest. Jesse Williams is 6-4, 320 and, in a dark alley, we’d all be Jesse’s girl if he wanted us to be. With that in mind, Jesse found himself in the KSU backfield just about as much as the QB did. VERY impressive first game for the Aussie and I think we are just scratching the surface.
Dialed In – We said last week that Quentin Dial would be a key component to the DL pass rush and I think he showed why. The big Q had a sack and several pressures and showed why he’s so well thought of on the DL. Of the 4 sacks on the day, Dial had the only full sack by a DL.
He’s Baaaaaaaack – Donte Hightower is back ladies and gents and this time he’s taking no prisoners. Whether he’s throwing the right tackle out of his way as a DE or chasing down ball carriers from sideline to sideline, the old Donte is back and it’s really good to see. With him on the field, Saban changed from a 4-1-6 to a 3-2-6 to a 4-2 and #30 was virtually everywhere. With him on one side and Upshaw on the other, well, wow.
Mercy De-Priest – Another one I got right (throws arm out of socket by patting self on back). Trey DePriest is a stud. He led the team in tackles and WOW hits. This kid is going to be sooo good.
Hammer Time – It’s late. I know it doesn’t make sense but all I can see is MC Hammer running around in those flashy pants and then the next minute he’s sitting on the curb while they take all of his stuff out of his mansion. Well, last year, Dequan Menzie was sitting on the curb as his speed and quickness were taken away from him when he tore his Achilles. Oh, sure, he gutted thru the season but he wasn’t the player he wanted to be. Did you see how many times we blitzed him from Javy’s old slot position? Watch #24 poaching when he gets near the line of scrimmage and, if he comes clean….Oh Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em!
I could go on and on about the defense but I’ll shut it down here. I was very impressed with the group as a whole. The only blown assignment was the one that cost them 7 points from the 3 yard line, so that was good to see.
I’ll be brief here as well. In a preview, I mentioned that I felt a whole lot more comfy about Shelley kicking than I did Foster. Need more proof? Foster’s kick looked like he’d just completed the dizzy bat race and they asked him to kick a football. Yikes!
The Mandrell sister that was kicking Saturday may have been the finest one of the bunch. Cody punted 3 times for an average of over 42 yards – not too shabby! But, can he sing????
I hate to bag on Cade Foster but he only had two kickoffs inside the 5 and none made it past the goal line. Remember when he had that massive leg? Now he’s kicking more like the lamp leg in A Christmas Story. I think he must be Italian…
And now it’s on to Penn State where the natives are already signaling surrender with their “White Out.” Don’t they know what crimson does to whites in the laundry? Did they not hear about the Black Out in Georgia or the Red Out in Mississippi or the Drunk Out in Baton Rouge. Ok, the drunk out in Baton Rouge is every weekend but the other examples are valid! At any rate, Penn State will not be a Happy Valley if we commit five turnovers once again, no matter what they are wearing (and who the hell decides to make everyone wear white after Labor Day anyway – faux pas, anyone?).
I think you’ll see a very conservative game plan Saturday that features a HEAVY dose of three RBs, screens (bubbles and RBs) and deep shots just to loosen up the safeties. You’ll see Saint Nick roll up his sleeves and depend on his defense in order to wax the Beaver Stadium on Saturday. I’ll be there live and in color (since I won’t be wearing white) and I hope to give you all a taste of the trip, the campus and the game next week.
Here’s what you need to know about the QBs. With McCarron behind center for 42 plays, Alabama’s offense tallied 345 yards (8.2 average per play), four touchdowns and a field goal. With Sims in, Bama had 33 plays for 127 yards (3.8 average), one touchdown and one field goal. Alabama’s longest gain with Sims was an 18-yard completion to senior Brandon Gibson early in the second half. McCarron was 0-for-3 with two interceptions on third downs, and 2-for-5 and 27 yards in the red zone. Sims was 3-for-6 with two interceptions on third downs, and 1-for-2 and 10 yards in the red zone. Neither attempted nor, obviously, completed what was their supposed strength – the long ball. Nick’s dig the long ball so maybe we’ll get to see that down the road.
BamaOnline provided this list of 3rd downs which I thought was very telling. This is awful, no matter who your favorite QB is:
Third down offense: One thing that stood out on the stat sheet was the fact that the Tide only converted two of 10 third down tries. Here’s a quick breakdown of the ten plays Alabama ran on third down:
Third and 1 – Richardson rush for a first down.
Third and 10 – McCarron incomplete pass.
Third and 19 – Sims incomplete pass.
Third and 7 – Sims complete pass to Maze for a first down.
Third and 14 – Sims complete pass to Maze short of a first down.
Third and 10 – McCarron interception.
Third and 10 – McCarron incomplete pass.
Third and 3 – Sims interception.
Third and 4 – Sims interception.
Third and 15 – Sims incomplete pass.
The one thing that sticks out is that three interceptions came on third down.
From W2W4, here’s a recap of what was good and what was not so good:
- QBs – AJ showed better in all phases. He only threw 1 legit pick while Sims was lost as a goose.
- Trent – Left the game healthy. CHECK!
- Jalston Fowler – CHECK!
- Blake Sims – WHIFF.
- Drops – We had two drops but overall the corps looked good. CHECK!
- White – CHECK!
- Cyrus – Used as advertised. CHECK!
- OL Push – WHIFF
- DL – CHECK!
- DePriest – CHECK!
- Hubbard and Dickson – WHIFF.
- Secondary – CHECK!
- Foster Kick Offs – Whiffs
- Oregon over LSU – WHIFF!
- BYU over OM – CHECK!
- Boise over UGA – CHECK
Checks – 10
Whiffs – 5