(In the words of Carly Rae Jepson)
“Hey, we just beat you
And that was easy!
Here’s my number (1)
Call me DADDY!”
As the “SEC” chants rained down on the Michiganders with 4:31 to go in the second quarter, you almost had to feel for the men, er, boys in Maize and Blue. It wasn’t their fault that the national media whiffed by making them the number 8 team in the land. No, they didn’t ask the world to build up this game as the game of the century, so you almost felt sorry for the kids who were being pounded into submission by our big, strong, burly men. SEC men. No, for the Big 10 it was the same ole, same ole. It’s the story that continues to be the same, no matter how hard Jim Delany tries to spin it. Simply put, Michigan, the Big 10’s one and only hope for credibility, was an inferior football team and they were thrown over daddy’s knee and spanked repeatedly.
On Saturday, Michigan’s daddy was college football’s daddy – Nick Saban. Honestly, there’s no shame in what happened to Michigan as they simply assumed the same position that Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas and most other Bama opponents have assumed since Saban arrived at Alabama. And, no, it’s not crash position that Nick forces them into. No, I think you know which position I mean – and there’s no “I love you’s” or lubricants provided for them, either. Ouch.
Saturday night was another classic Nick Saban opening night production. He uses the entire offseason to build an urgency within the team – it’s like intentionally withholding food from a pack of hungry dogs for a week and them releasing them on an unsuspecting pack of fresh meat. Formerly, the fresh meat included Tigers and Hokies. This year, the ravenous Bama bunch dined on a succulently plump and tender Wolverine. Tasty! Credit Nick for being the best in the business when it comes to getting his team focused and hyped for a game, as they seem to never have a letdown. Even coming off of their second championship in, yawn, three years, he managed to convince the team that they haven’t done jack shit. This evidently pissed them off to no end and they took it out on some poor physically overwhelmed opponent. Same ole same ole. Bama came into Cowboys Stadium with gun in hand, ready for the gunfight at the OK Corral. Michigan came with a flower and a sweet disposition…and daddy was more than happy to put them over his knee in front of the college football world. Hellooooooo, Michigan – daddy’s home!
Hey, listen, Alabama looked awesome for most of the game and they clearly are not resting on winning their, yawn, two titles in three years. But, before we make reservations for Miami, I implore you to remember that I told you Michigan was a woeful team. Beating them is essentially no different than beating Ole Miss, Kentucky or Vanderbilt, as that’s about where Michigan sits in the real world pecking order. So, enjoy this and bask in all of this win’s glory but, remember, everything that should have happened did happen. We simply beat Michigan like the rented mules they are. Mission accomplished! But, I digress….…on to the Notes!
Alabama on Offense
I expected Alabama to come out throwing but, given the huge disparity between our offensive line and their D line, Nick’s knack was to give this paddy wack a bone, as the Michigan d-line went rolling home. Bama used a textbook of combination blocking to open gaping holes in the Michigan defense. “On Lacy, on Yeldon, on Fowler and Hart! Pound away, pound away, yelled Kirby Smart!” Nick and his run-deer had open holes and slow footed defenders so they easily had their way all night long. Inside or outside, left or right, they were always effective.
While the passing game wasn’t quite clicking like we’d want, it was effective enough to establish a balanced offensive budget that Congress can only dream of. At the end of the half, Bama had rushed for 140 yards and passed for 140 yards. Even Saban couldn’t find anything to complain about there so, instead, he verbally sparred with a poor, unsuspecting sideline reporter. However, Alabama did give up three sacks and missed on three open downfield passes, so there is still plenty of work to be done before the Alabama offense can be satisfied. But, it was evident in comments made by Coach Saban and Barrett Jones – this Tide offense intends to strike downfield and utilize the talents of their athletic wide receivers and the confidence of AJ McCarron, so they weren’t satisfied with their efforts. If true, this could be the most fun that our offense has been but, like Saturday, they may just decide to brutally beat the shit out of people instead. Oh, decisions, decisions…
Start Me Up: As suspected, Eddie Lacy didn’t exactly look like he was 100% and it showed in the first three plays of the game. On the first play, Lacy missed a cutback lane that could have netted strong positive yardage. On the second play, Lacy dropped a low throw that would have been a tough catch but, as my daddy used to say, “if you can touch it you can catch it!” But, the most egregious play that Lacy had was the third play of the game where he missed a blitz pickup. Not a good start to the season for a kid who clearly isn’t totally healthy.
Like a Virgin: Give it up for the senior WALKON who started at H back! Props go out to Kelly Johnson who is the epitome of what football is all about. Go back and watch the tape because Johnson was excellent in his role as a blocker and even snagged himself a souvenir pass, good for 16 yards! What a story!
Simply Irresistible: Ok, tell me you feel it, too. I can’t be the only one. Jalston “The Beast” Fowler? Man crush? Anyone? As an I formation fullback or an H Back, Fowler punished the Wolverine defenders who appeared to be poorly disguised blocking sleds. He even picked up a corner blitz which allowed AJ time to pick on the newly inserted Michigan corner by finding DeAndrew White for a 51 yard TD. And, of course, Fowler simply destroyed multiple people when he finished his nimble, quick footed runs with vicious authority. No, Fowler doesn’t always play tailback, but, when he does, he always makes it a dos – wreckie. He is the Most Irresistible Man in the World!
Unforgettable: Dude, seriously, you’ve pecked away on the keyboard this long without mentioning TJ Yeldon? What a pecker! Well, as a freshman, Yeldon must yield the headlines to his elders so this is simply a form of Lighthouse hazing. However, I suspect that this may be the last time I can avoid putting him atop the offensive recap. My God. Dude is a freshman. FRESH. MAN! After destroying A-Day, it was no surprise that Yeldon, as predicted here, led the team in rushing attempts and yards. Sure, the OL opened gaping holes for him but Yeldon exploited them like no other Bama back. Showing a ridiculous combination of speed, power and vision, Yeldon became the first true freshman to ever rush for 100 yards in his debut. Meet the next great Bama back in a line of great Saban backs….and, when you do meet him, thank him for decommitting from Auburn!
Abracadabra: Bama’s new OC, Doug Nussmeier, has a lot of tools in his tool box to work with so it was no wonder that Bama showed a few new or seldom used wrinkles during the game. Bama split TEs Vogler and Williams out wide as WRs and placed their two true WRs on the inside slots, creating confusion in the Michigan secondary. The result was a nice catch by Kenny Bell. Then, Nuss would use the same personnel and move Cyrus Kouandjio next to big DJ Fluker to form an unbalanced line. Naturally, when Nuss placed the weight of the world on one side of the line, Michigan noticed (I mean, seriously, you have to notice two guys going 6’6 and over 320 bills, right?) and moved their personnel to that side to compensate for Bama’s girth. But, instead of running behind the elephants, Nuss simply ran to the other side for big chunks of yardage. Nuss even showed an I formation with two tight ends and only one lone WR. This was a very, very effective look as Fowler, the TEs and the OL outnumbered their smaller foes and easily moved the Michigan defenders from point A to point B against their will. It was fun watching the different looks that Nuss came up with…unless you were a Wolverine fan…
2 Hype: While AJ played an efficient game, he missed on a few throws that he’d tell you he probably should have completed. But, there were two plays that stood out to me and I’m guessing he’s getting some of his special Saban fanny “pats” for them today at practice. The first one is the obvious one where AJ casually flipped the ball towards Fowler in, shall we say, a lady like fashion. Hey, AJ, does your husband play? Kidding, of course but it was a goofy looking pass attempt that you had to laugh at. However, the second play was one that didn’t have Saban laughing at all. Facing a 2nd and goal from the Michigan four yard line, AJ stepped back and audibled to a pass. It fell incomplete. Ruh Rho. After having to settle for a field goal, AJ was forced to answer Nick’s questions on “why the F would you do that?” Saban wanted to run the ball on second and goal and, given the effectiveness of the running game, running would have been the right move…
Combo #5: If you ever want to teach your kids, your friends or your wives about the power of a good offensive line, just sit down and have them watch this game. While, sure, Bama was bigger, stronger and faster on the OL, they worked their combo blocking to perfection and that was the key to the Tide’s running game. Whether it was Jones, Warmack or Steen getting to the second level, they continuously worked effectively as a unit to open gaping holes for Bama backs. Honestly, it was a thing of beauty for these big bellied beauties.
Alabama on Defense
Sooooo, Alabama’s going to be worse on defense, eh? Yeah, not so much. The Tide defense boasts more talent than a SI swimsuit issue so the only question was whether or not these newbies would be able to “do their job” and be assignment sound. Well, let’s just say any questions that the national media had are now answered with some authority. Oh, yes, we are just as nasty as last year. Buckle up, buttercup, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride for opposing offenses.
Don’t Come Around Here No More: Dee Milliner was the national defender of the week by combining outstanding run support with tremendous plays on the ball when it was in the air. It’s not enough to be big and fast which, of course, Dee most certainly is. But, as he races step for step with the receivers, Dee possesses the uncanny ability to look back for the ball, adjust to it and swat it away with ease. Milliner finished with four pass breakups and a beautiful interception where he seemingly chucked the Michigan WR into the Bama bench. SWEET! Dee made himself some first round NFL money on Saturday…
Do You See What I See?: So, why in the world was Michigan attacking Milliner, anyway? Did they not know that Deion Belue was starting his first D1 football game? And, worse, the one time Belue was challenged, Michigan torched him for 77 yards to set up their first score. C’mon, Brady Joke – scout just a little, fella…
On Blitzen: I was surprised when I watched the tape that we blitzed as much as we did. We typically only rushed one extra defender and the blitzer typically came from Denard Robinson’s right side. The blitzes eliminated his ability to role to his favored right side and they typically forced a quick throw.
It’s Just a Little Crush: Alabama’s front four never fired out around the ends and never left their pass rushing lanes. It was brutally obvious that Bama’s front four were tasked with forming a wall around the pocket so as not to allow Robinson’s best talent (running) to take over. Instead of firing out, it was a controlled pass crush which slowly suffocated the QB.
Mystify: The three long pass plays were all completed against the 3-4 which is our base look. Once Robert Lester left the game, newbies Sunseri, Belue and Perry were forced to play together so it was no wonder this was the alignment we got beat deep in. As it turns out, Lester will be even more critical than we thought this year in pass defense.
Hook, Line and Stinker: On the long 77 yard bomb, Belue got corkscrewed on a double move by Gallon. However, Vinnie, playing the single high safety was peeking in the backfield and continued to back peddle instead of turning and running with Gallon. The result was a big play over Vinnie’s head which led to Michigan’s first TD. On the long TD pass, Milliner bit on a double move and fell down. Perry, who was a single high safety on this play, simply had too much ground to cover and couldn’t get there in time. Milliner patted himself and told Perry it was all his fault but I think he would have been beaten had he stayed on his feet. On each long pass, we were suckered on a double move so you can be sure we’ll see a lot of that in the future.
Bookends: For not firing off the ball, Dickson and Hubbard were consistently in the backfield forcing early throws and causing chaos. When Nick lets these two big dogs off the leash, look out!
Ebony and Ivory: It looks like Jesse Williams has a backup after all, as Brandon Ivory played a helluva game. Every time I’d look up to watch the tape, big ole #62 was taking up a huge space on the screen. He showed vastly improved stamina and agility and may be the most improved player on the entire team.
It Had to Be You: Naturally, the pick six that Alabama had against Alabama would be none other than CJ Mosley. After watching him writhing in pain in the BCS Championship game after picking off Jordan Jefferson, it was awesome to see #32 strut into the end zone with his third pick six of his Bama career. This ties the record for interception returns but, remember, he’s a linebacker – that’s even more impressive. A tremendous performance after coming off a horrific injury. Amazing.
Putting on the Hits: Props to Christion Jones and Brian Vogler for having two absolute decleater blocks but the biggest hit of the game clearly goes to Vinnie Sunseri. Mama said knock you OUT! Vinnie’s de-crapitating hit to the Wolverine RB was awesome and the record crowd of 90,413 ooohed and ahhhed each time they showed it in super slo-mo on the huge jumbo tron!
Sack Man: Credit DJ Pettway and Quentin Dial for the one solitary Bama sack during the game. Again, with the mush rush concept, sacking Denard wasn’t the priority so credit Pettway and Dial for finding a way to get back there and get the first sack of the season.
Alabama Kicking Game
Not much to complain about here outside of a missed 52 yard field goal. Coverage teams were excellent and Geno Smith nearly said a big Texas “howdy” to the Bama nation when he narrowly missed a blocked punt. Alabama clearly won the kicking game and that was nice to see right out of the chute.
Celebration: Props to Cade Foster for hitting a 51 yarder after missing a 52 yarder on the previous possession. Nick could have gone for it on 4th and 2 at the Michigan 33 but, instead, he showed confidence in Foster by sending him back out. Foster had a nice game as he put 6 of 8 kickoffs inside the 5 yard line. Nice homecoming for this much maligned kid.
Kickin’ It Up a Notch: Here’s to Cody Mandell who blasted punts of 50, 51 and 59 yards! In fact, the only punt that didn’t travel over 49 yards was a shorty that landed inside the 10. Mandell couldn’t have played any better Saturday.
Michigan simply is not a very good football team and the W2W4 told you as much. While Bama fans can certainly talk smack around the Auburn water coolers come Tuesday morning, the Tide simply beat up on an inferior team this weekend. Credit the team for coming out hungry, angry and with something to prove but the final score was exactly what it should have been. I think these are the main points to take from the game on Saturday:
- The Alabama offensive line is as advertised and is truly the best in college football.
- TJ Yeldon is the best back on the Alabama team and it isn’t close.
- Eddie Lacy is not 100% and likely will not be this season. Surgery didn’t correct his turf toe issue so it’s unlikely that knocking heads on Saturday’s will help it.
- Bama has the capability of being a quick strike aerial team between AJ and his vast array of fleet footed WRs.
- Kelly Johnson has earned everything he’s gotten and it’s going to be fun to root for him this season.
- Cade Foster needed a confidence boost and I think he got one.
- Thou shalt not test Dee Milliner.
- Thou shalt pick on Deion Belue until he proves himself.
- As suspected, Bama will give up deep balls this year.
- Alabama’s pass rush will be much more active the rest of the year.
- These true freshmen played in the game Saturday: Geno Smith, Dillon Lee, Landon Collins, Amari Cooper, TJ Yeldon, and Reggie Ragland.
- Alabama has never had a more talented roster and it’s the greatest time to be an Alabama fan!
If you ever get a chance to see Cowboy’s Stadium, you have to go. I could write an entire article on how amazing that place is. Honestly, there is no better venue for a football game in all the land.
Roll Tide – we’ll be grading the W2W4 this week and looking for a few other things to send you, as well!