Mississippi State Game Review
Welcome to another winning Saturday edition of Alabama football or, as the Lighthouse is calling it – Alabama Groundhog Day. Typically, the media convinces everyone around that “this will be the weekend that Alabama is finally tested.” And, each weekend Alabama comes out of the tunnel and stomps the ever loving life out an overhyped opponent in the first thirty minutes of the game. In each game, Bama has lit up the scoreboard lights in the first half like a pinball machine and, after seeing their shadows, Bama’s victims scurry back into their role of mediocrity. Saturday night was no exception as Mississippi State, another nationally ranked team, came into the game saying “We Believe” but the ‘Dogs left with their tails between their legs with the game all but over at the end of the first half. Honestly, this game was no different than any other game this season as they’ve all been over at halftime:
- Alabama 31 Michigan 7
- Alabama 24 Arkansas 0
- Alabama 27 Ole Miss 7
- Alabama 28 Missouri 7
- Alabama 23 Tennessee 10
- Alabama 24 MississippiState 0
So, once again Alabama seized control of the game early and Dee Milliner and Robert Lester combined to swat away or intercept any chances of State had to make it a contest. With Bama comfortably in control by halftime it was time to begin looking ahead to the next big game on Alabama’s schedule. Of course you know Bama’s next stop is Baton Rouge and, once again, this will be the game that finally tests Alabama. We shall see. But, for now, here’s a look at the dismantling of MississippiState in…..the Notes!
Alabama on Offense
When a supposed contender comes into your house, the best thing you can do is punch them in the mouth as soon as they ring the doorbell and, on Alabama’s first possession, they did just that. Alabama’s offense took the opening kickoff and drove 59 yards for a convincing touchdown, busting the glass jaw of the “We Believe” faithful. Then, after State rallied the troops only to see their field goal attempt get swatted away, Alabama’s offense taught the Bulldogs to behave by driving 80 yards for another touchdown. Two offensive series, two touchdowns. Too bad State fans, but catchy slogans and draping t-shirts on Bear Bryant’s statue doesn’t put points on a scoreboard. We believe you have to bring much more than that if you want to bring down the NFL assembly line at Alabama. Bama’s offense handled the blitzing pressure of the ‘dogs and countered with screens, bombs, runs and haymakers to knock the belief right out of State. Another Saturday, another game over by halftime. Yawn. Next!
My Precious: We’ve stated this over and over again but Alabama simply cannot afford to lose AJ McCarron due to an injury. The first of two scares Saturday night came when AJ slid for a four yard gain. When he got up, AJ motioned to the sidelines that his knee (or knee brace) was messed up and he actually started to call time out. Instead, the staff sent AJ back to the huddle and, naturally, AJ got flushed once again, this time scrambling for seven yards. During the time it took the officials to measure for a first down, the trainers came out and actually removed the brace completely. Thankfully, it never seemed to bother him again – whew. Later, of course, AJ was hit from behind and left the game with a “bruised back.” After watching the tape over and over, his shoulder (and not his back) absorbed 85% of the hit. Hmmm.
Rebel Yel-don: When you sit down and watch the tape, there’s such a difference between Yeldon and Lacy. Yeldon is flashy. He shows tremendous cutting ability, quickness, agility and vision while Lacy is a wrecking ball equipped with a vicious spin move. On the first drive, it was first and 10 from the State 21 when Yeldon took the handoff and started to his right. The play was well blocked but there was one State linebacker who was free. Yeldon started right which influenced the linebacker into the wrong hole and, suddenly, Yeldon did a jump cut and burst past the ‘backer to the left. Veterans oftentimes do not understand how to set up defenders so it’s astounding that this true freshman is so freaking good. “In the midnight hour, we cried more, more, more….”
Walk the Line: Since the bye week, the offensive line has been downright nasty and Saturday night was no exception. With State literally blitzing nearly every play, the Bama OL rarely had a missed assignment and usually were able to get on their blocks fairly easily.
Takin’ What They’re Givin: With MSU blitzing on almost every play, Alabama found two different ways to attack them. The first and most obvious way was to screen them and that’s exactly how Phillip Ely threw his first career touchdown pass. The Dogs blitzed and Lacy was able to make a nice catch and then walked in from 27 yards out. But, the most interesting weakness the Tide staff found in the State blitzes was their inability to cover the tight end. Michael Williams set a career high with 5 catches and was utilized in the passing game like never before by simply running a quick out route off the line. Great scouting and scheming by the Tide staff!
Mano y Mano: With State’s top corner nursing a knee injury, the Tide staff decided to test him early. Kenny Bell ran a post route on Johnthan Banks and blew past him for a 57 yard TD. It was man to man and Banks just got beat. Later, Banks blew another assignment as Michael Williams blew past him for a wide open 9 yard TD pass. Not a good night for Mr Banks.
I Mean I Missed Again: With State blitzing so much, it really put pressure on our two tackles who, at times, have had issues with pass blocking. Both DJ Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio each whiffed on blocks which allowed AJ to be sacked twice. Both plays were classic whiffs and this scares me with LSU’s ends lining up against them this week.
One, Two, Three, Kick: As dominant as Bama appeared on the field and on the scoreboard, Alabama was held to three straight three and outs which hasn’t happened since 2010.
Spread ‘Em: Has anyone successfully stopped the little zone read option between Kenyan Drake and Blake Sims? And, once again, they had Ely out on the field lined up as a wide receiver. I still sense that there is a trick play out of this formation but, honestly, why resort to trickery when no one is able to stop the zone read option? Sims and Drake make a lot of hay with this play…
Anatomy of a 30 Yard Run: On a classic zone running play, Yeldon stretched right along with the line. As Barrett Jones pushed his man to his right, Chance Warmack was up field blocking the linebacker pushing him to the right as well. When Cyrus Kouandjio cut his man to the ground, this opened a gaping cutback lane which Yeldon happily cut into. TJ eluded the first defender and the second State defender got rubbed out by the umpire. Then it was off to the races. Towards the end of the run, Yeldon did a little stagger step move (Shake n Drake, baby) that netted another 10 yards and completed another amazing Rebel Yeldon run.
Alabama on Defense
You know the State faithful were questioning how strongly they “believed” when Dee Milliner blocked a field goal after an impressive MSU drive. But, the death blow was when State marched over 95 yards to the Bama 1 yard line only to be turned away with no points once again. It’s tough to get off the mat when you’ve driven the ball over 95 yards and used up 8:23 on the clock and you still have a big fat zero to show for it. The first string Bama defense gave up two significant drives but each ended with MSU walking back to their sidelines as they continued looking for points. Good times…
Ha Ha Not Laughing: Wow. On Mississippi State’s first possession, Saban absolutely eviscerated Ha Ha Clinton Dix during a timeout. While watching the replay, even our dog ran for cover from the Clinton-Dix carnage as both Saban and Smart blistered Ha Ha for a couple of gaffes! Most will focus on the blown coverage where HCD took a poor angle and allowed a 31 yard completion. But, earlier in the drive, Ha Ha whiffed on a tackle and struggled with a short coverage in zone. Both Smart and Saban were furious and both nearly simultaneously screamed at Clinton-Dix to “wake the F up!”
One Hit to the Body: From State’s first offensive play of the game, Bama’s plan was to treat Tyler Russell like their own personal piñata. Trey Depriest blitzed in and nailed Russell on his first play of the game and he was unmercifully blitzed, pressured and knocked down the rest of the night. On third and 8 from the Bama 14, Saban blitzed the house as Perry, Lester and Mosley all converged on Russell. The pressure forced an incompletion and set up Dee Milliner’s blocked field goal. Bama blitzed much more in this game than I’ve seen them do before – Mosley, Depriest, Lester, Sunseri and Perry were all utilized in the blitz game.
Denzel in Distress: Over the last few weeks, Denzel Devall’s playing time has been increasing and he showed us all why Saturday night. Devall’s calling card is his pass rushing ability and he crushed Russell for a sack early in the game. But, Devall really held the edge well against the run and is looking like a complete player at the Jack/DE position. Very, very impressive for yet another true freshman!
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast: For the second week in a row, a quick muddle huddle had success against Alabama. This week, MSU rushed to the line of scrimmage on third and short and caught Bama while their defense was trying to get aligned. Look for LSU to do this more than once.
Battle of the Bulge: Something the Lighthouse staff picked up on this week was the amount of snaps that Quinton Dial played at defensive end. Between Jesse Williams, Damion Square, the emergence of Brandon Ivory and Quentin Dial, Bama can really throw a ton of beef whenever they need to go toe to toe with a big offensive line. Say, maybe, LSU?
Alabama on Special Teams
With Alabama struggling mightily in the kicking game over the last two weeks, it was imperative that they put together a good performance this week and Alabama didn’t disappoint. There were no botched snaps, no missed kicks, no muffed punts and no kickoff returns for touchdowns. Although the Tide gave up three more significant kickoff returns, they also caused three fumbles and two turnovers while covering kickoffs and punts. Meanwhile, Cody Mandel busted out the whoopin’ stick by punting for a 42.2 yard average including three punts inside the 20 yard line (he narrowly missed a fourth when the ball barely crossed the goal line as two Tide defenders tried in vain to keep it in play.
Walk Like a Man: In other articles, we’ve applauded Christion Jones’ versatility but this week Jones outdid himself. When Jones came into Alabama’s fall camp from high school, many felt that he would be playing safety for the Crimson Tide but, once he had the ball in his hands, he was immediately targeted for the offense. We know Jones has returned kicks and punts in the past and this week he caught a ridiculous reception (getting both feet down) at the sidelines, he carried the ball for a first down and then he showed his hitting skills when he dislodged two fumbles while covering kickoffs. Christion Jones is a man (even if he isn’t 40).
No Soup For You: When I picture Dee Milliner’s blocked field goal, I’m picturing Dikembe Mutombo and his famous finger wag! NO SOUP FOR YOU! Alabama began the game by quickly marching down the field and scoring a touchdown. The Bulldogs then countered with a nice drive of their own but, when it stalled, they lined up to kick a counterpunching field goal. According to Milliner, Bama saw something in the MSU protection scheme and he blocked two kicks in practice while practicing exploiting this flaw. Credit Dee and the coaching staff for sucking the life and the belief out of FailState when he swatted the first quarter field goal.
Anticipation: As Johnthan Banks was frantically telling his MSU teammates to get away from a short punt, one poor soul didn’t hear the warnings. The ball hit the ground and bounded into the air towards an unsuspecting ‘Dog and, instead of jumping into the air to snag the bounding ball, Robert Lester patiently waited and let the ball make contact with back of the State defender. Lester’s patience was rewarded when he grabbed the ricochet off the back of the unsuspecting MSU player and snagged the resulting turnover. Awesome heads up play by the veteran safety.
Another day, another holler. Whether it’s been Wolverines, Hogs, Black Bears, Tigers or a couple of Dogs – all have been quickly dispatched with little sweat but lots of hollers. Alabama’s recent schedule has been a steady climb up the difficulty meter but this week it’s the real deal. LSU has looked horrible at times but has somehow remained in the hunt for the SEC West title – this game is once again for all the marbles and a trip back to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. It’s amazing to think that Saban has only won one SEC title during his time at Alabama so this is a chance that you know he’s savoring. The LSU game will once again be an outright war in the trenches and you can expect these two to both be exceptionally physical. GAME. ON! How will it all shake out? We’ll tell you on Friday in the W2W4!