Florida Atlantic Review
The perfect day can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s a day at the beach with your best girl on a clear summer day. For others, it’s a day at the beach with your best girl where neither of you leave the room! Well, I submit to you Saturday’s beautiful first day of fall was the perfect day for Coach Nick Saban. Oh, sure, perfection is isn’t really possible for Saban but Saturday was about as good as it gets for the Bama coach.
As a Bama fan, Saturday honestly was about as good as it gets for us, too. The day started off with ESPN using about 15 minutes of Gameday to talk at length about the ills of the woeful Auburn football program. At one point, Lee Corso emphatically stated Auburn has given up over 26 points a game since Chizik got there so whatever they are doing they need to do something else – quickly! By the time the day was over, Auburn had lost again, LSU looked more than beatable and Alabama had secured an easy win on a gorgeous day at the Capstone. What could be better??
And, for Nick Saban, Saturday was as perfect and rewarding as a Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème pie, and the poor FAU Owls went down even more quickly. By halftime, Alabama had opened up a 30-0 lead and the reserves were already getting some valuable playing time. By the fourth quarter, Nick was able to insert 8 freshmen into the defense and exhort them on as they fought to preserve a third consecutive shutout performance. While the young pups failed to keep the doughnut on the board, I think Coach Saban would tell you he’d trade that doughnut for the sweetness of his freshman gaining invaluable experience. This week, Nick can drive the kids even harder for they clearly can’t rest on their laurels. Well, that is, he’ll drive them shortly after he removes his foot from the backsides of the offense who forced him to send his kickers out for four field goals. But, Bama got a big win, 69 different players played and Nick still has something to bitch about. In a word, PERFECT!
Alabama on Offense
The Alabama offense amassed 503 yards of total offense and achieved the near perfect of balance of 247 passing yards and 256 rushing yards. Once again, Coach Nuss and the staff must have found themselves at a loss trying to find a play that wouldn’t work! The staff did experiment with a couple of formations which I hadn’t seen much of with mixed success. Also, several passes were well defensed by the Owls so I think you’ll see them adjust some of their future routes as FAU was clearly squatting on the slot receivers running the corner routes. But, the line easily overpowered FAU at nearly every turn and the four Crimson horsemen (Lacy, Yeldon, Hart and Drake) as a group averaged 6.85 yards per carry, making for a literal walk in the park for the Tide.
Cross to Bear: No, I’m not talking about the tomb of Bear Bryant. No, instead, the cross to bear is in reference to the route that put the Owls into a Bryant Denny tomb – the crossing route. I’ve mentioned this year that we haven’t seen nearly as many crossers from the Bama receiving corps this year and I openly wondered if the route had relocated up to Fort Collins, Colorado along with Jim McElwain. Well, you can call off the search party as Alabama utilized the crossing routes with a deadly effect. Bell started the game with an 85 yard catch and run off the route and used the ref as a beautiful pick to rub off the defender. Amari Cooper caught three balls off the crosser and Jones & Williams snagged passes as well. Needless to say, the Owls’ defenders were, dare I say, crossed up all night!
Use the Force, Fluke: DJ Fluker had the best game of his career and it was no fluke. I guarantee you that he was blistered for his performance last week so he came out fired up with a nasty disposition. If you get a chance, go back and watch the first couple of quarters and bask in his dominance. On a second and 10 from the Owl 34, Fluker caved in the entire line working from right to left. It was so brutal, he actually conducted his own little Owl toss as he took out a second defender in his carnage. On most of his other snaps, you’d have to look six or seven yards downfield to find him as that is typically where he planted his hooting, er, hurting owls.
The B is Back: Elton John once said “the bitch is back” and, if he saw Eddie Lacy’s last two performances, he’d probably burst into song. While Eddie isn’t 100% (and won’t be this season), he’s getting closer and closer to his old self – even busting out his vaunted spin move this week. His first spin move was slow but was still effective as he gained extra yards after hitting the B button. His second spin, though, was nasty. Eddie is also eschewing the wiggles and, instead, is lowering his shoulder, looking like a bowling ball taking out defenseless pins. Yes, folks, this bitch may not be 100% but I still think you can say the bitch is back…
Only Got 2 Minutes to Save the World: Nick Saban was beyond pissed when Alabama failed to pick up a third and 1 against WKU near the end of the first half. In his post game presser, Saban said that he wanted to work on the two-minute offense and, had the picked up the first, they would have finally gotten a chance against the Toppers. Well, Saban’s perfect Saturday just so happened to include a crisp two-minute drill that resulted in a TD right before the half. It looked as though a penalty would derail the 2 minute attack but a 14 yard first down burst by Lacy made it “game on” once again. Crossers, fantastic protection and a short yardage fourth down play created the perfect result.
Don’t Want No Short Short Man: Alabama still seems to be searching for a short yardage look they like. Bama used a three TE and H-back formation that failed on a third and 1 and, last week, Jesse Williams went the wrong way when he lined up as a FB. This bears more scrutiny going forward as I don’t think they’ve found anything they like in short yardage situations.
Lonely Man on the Corner: Well, there weren’t any lonely men running corner routes this week. After watching Bama WRs get wide open on the corner routes from the slot all season long, the Owls seemed to be perched on these this week. Look for the WRs to fake the corner and go to the post this week to take advantage of defenses overplaying the corner routes.
Moves Like Jagger: Yeah, so did anyone else’s heart jump up in their throat when AJ decided to show off his Jagger-like quickness when he left the cozy confines of the pocket? Good Lordy. To make matters worse, he’d just had his right knee taped and Tyler Watts and Chris Stewart were hypothesizing whether or not they had AJ drop back just to see if he COULD! Next thing you know, there goes AJ rumbling down the field towards the sidelines! ARGH!
Lost Boys: On back to back plays, our All American (and last year’s Outland trophy winner) center Barrett Jones gave up a tackle for loss and a sack. The tackle for loss was a complete whiff and the sack was a poor job in recognizing and picking up an interior blitz. Jones and Steen double teamed one guy, while two other Owls flew past. Additionally, on the second string line, Kellen Williams struggled at times and TE Malcom Faciane was just plain bad.
Shake and Drake Catching On: Anyone notice Cyrus Jones’ high step looked a little similar to Kenyan Drake’s stop and go move? Eddie Lacy utilized it on one of his big runs, as well. And, then, of course Drake himself used it a couple of times with devastating effects again.
50 Ways to Say Goodbye: Phillip Ely and Blake Sims will be on the first Train out of town if they continue to make mistakes like they did Saturday. There may not be fifty ways to say goodbye to them but two reasons to say goodbye to them are to fumble the snap (like Ely did on his first snap from scrimmage) or give up a 15 yard sack like Sims did. Not. Good. But, I think it’s fairly evident that Sims has forged ahead in the backup QB competition as we predicted.
Alabama on Defense
With the Owls limited to only 110 total yards, there really isn’t much to discuss here. The Owl game plan seemed centered on running up the middle and then onto their team buses as quickly as possible. Alabama easily shut down the Owl “attack” and was able to play a ton of folks defensively from the second quarter on. The interior of the Bama starters was stout as they played most of the game in the FAU backfield and the Tide DBs weren’t tested deep a single solitary time. Again, not much happening here. But, what would a review be without at least a few items to cover, right???? Let’s see what we’ve got to talk about defensively…
Monster Mash: Games like FAU allow Coach Saban and Coach Smart the flexibility to utilize some formations and schemes in a wonderful test environment. While Bama spent time in their typical 4-2 look, they spent a ton of time in a sort of 3-3 look with safeties walking up and LBs moving around. The amoeba defense is becoming all the rage in the NFL and it looked as though the Smart Saban duo has been working in the lab to concoct a few more exotic looks and blitzes from the 3-4 formation. From this formation I saw LBs, safeties and corners blitz – I think they brought everyone but Scott Cochran at times.
Dial it UP: One guy who really flashed to me during this game was Quentin Dial. On one play, the 6-6, 304 lb tackle worked up the field and then raced ten yards back down the field to tackle the scrambling QB. Now, the Owl QB doesn’t exactly fly but, still, that kind of hustle from Dial was impressive. On another play, Dial flushed the QB from the pocket and forced a throw away with relentless pressure. Dial has everything it takes to be an absolute beast.
Rubber Band Man: When Brandon Ivory left the game due to an ankle injury, big Darren Lake was forced into the nose tackle position. That’s a big task for a true freshman but the 6’3, 315 lb puppy clearly has the size for it. On one of his first plays, Lake was blown six yards off the line of scrimmage, opening up a lane for the Owl’s longest play of the game (a 20 yard run). Undaunted, Lake bounced back and held his ground for the rest of the drive. Granted, Lake & Co ended up giving up the touchdown, but it was impressive to see Lake learn and adjust on the fly.
Purple Hayes: Like Lake, Tyler Hayes was crushed on the long run and found himself unable to get to the running lane to stuff the play. But, from that point forward, Hayes began to play downhill and he looked really good, like CJ Mosley good, as a nickel LB.
Whu, What Happened Was: On a critical fourth down pass to the TE and then again on the touchdown pass, Tana Patrick was unable to defend his assigned receiver. Also, on the long run, Patrick was easily taken out by the Owl line. It will be a long film study session for Tana Patrick.
Can’t Whip our Fanning: One other youngster who showed up big was LaMichael Fanning. Fanning was exceptional in the interior of the defense and appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
Alabama on Special Teams
Ok, lemme hear ya! I’ve been touting this guy since A-Day so let’s hear it for Cade Foster! Haters? Doubters? There can’t be many of you left these days. I’ve been singing his praises loudly since the Michigan game and all he’s done is get better sense. The best line about Cade’s suddenly enormous leg came from Cecil Hurt when Foster trotted out for a 46 yard field goal. Hurt said, “Sending Foster in for a 46 yard FG is the equivalent of using an elephant gun on a mouse in the kitchen.” Remember whining about all those other teams who had a kicker that could kick the ball into the end zone? Well, now they whine about our guy! Foster – Australian for touchback. Meanwile, Jesse Williams is Australian for “get that weak ass kick outta here” – great block to temporarily preserve the scoreless streak!
It’s funny that we simply haven’t had many kickoff return opportunities this season so it wasn’t surprising (but still worrisome) that we were only able to return the ball to the 15 yard line. To the good, I don’t think our punt return game has ever been in better, pardon the pun, hands. I have complete and total confidence in Christion Jones’ ability to catch the ball – he’s as fluid and natural of a “hands” catcher as we’ve seen in a long time. And, of course, you couldn’t help but be impressed by Dee Hart’s abilities back there as well. What an exciting duo to have!
BTW – the FAU MVP was clearly their punter. Dude punted the ball 8 times for a nearly 50 yard average. Wow – we should see him on Sundays. Meanwhile, Cody Mandell was limited to one 29 yard punt but it was a perfect sand wedge that was downed inside the 10.
As we mentioned in the W2W4, the Owls and teams like the Owls play a vital role in the development of a young football team. Like raw meat to young bear cubs, the Owls, Toppers and Catamounts provide Saban to coach up his four and five-star youngsters in a game-like environment. I say game-like because it isn’t quite SEC-like competition, you know? But, Alabama used the FAU game to work on some new looks, new players and perfect their execution. As for the Owl execution, I’m for it – they offered little in the way of resistance Saturday.
Next up is Ole Miss. While, yes, it’s just the Rebels , they are much improved over last season. We’ll take a look on Friday to see what to watch for with the Ole Miss game but, for now, enjoy the glow of yet another nearly perfect Saturday!!!