Now THIS is Alabama Football! Alabama Football is watching the Bama defense take the pompous mouth of an Ole Miss quarterback and shove him and his words into the end zone for a safety. Hey Bo, it took your Ole Miss offense nearly all four quarters but you finally did find the end zone – your own end zone! Somebody get Daniel Moore on the telephone – we need him to get to work on another “Wrong Way Bo” painting!
You know this is Alabama Football when 103,000 crazed Bama fans are screaming so loud that neither the Ole Miss offense nor the Alabama defense can hear their audible calls. It’s Alabama Football when our burgeoning ground game, working in tandem with a highly effective special teams unit, slowly suffocates their opponent into submission like a boa constrictor around its prey. It’s Alabama Football when Nick Saban’s head is absolutely about to fly right off his neck when he’s screaming at his offense (in a 25-0 blowout) with only 20 seconds left in the game. Yes people, THIS is Alabama Football!
Admittedly, there are still several “opportunities” to clean things up and get better on offense but we really shouldn’t let a little thing like that spoil what was a beautiful fall evening in Tuscaloosa. Saturday night was about as close to perfect as you can get and with the Alabama defense hanging a doughnut on the “high flying” Rebels, that’s about as close to perfection from this game as you could ever want. Now, let’s take a look at my favorite game thus far this season and see why, for me, this game is about as fun as it gets to review…
Alabama on Offense
Let’s face it – we have a ways to go before this group becomes the blocking equivalent of a bulldozer. Heck, at times it looks like they have a long way to go before they are the blocking equivalent of a bumper car. Cyrus Kouandjio, as we’ve stated all season, continues to struggle. He was absolutely woodshedded twice by a defender who absolutely pancaked big Cyrus on his big backside. This is NOT what a first round NFL tackle looks like. Ryan Kelly was blown up a couple of times and even committed a “snap infraction” before he exited with a knee injury that will keep him out for 2-4 weeks. Arie Kouandjio lost his man a couple of times in a simple four man rush. And, as a whole, the line was horrific when asked to pick up Rebel blitzes.
Meanwhile, the Bama wide receivers and tight ends, particularly Brian Vogler, must have had a miserable time in the film room on Sunday as they all missed key blocks on Ole Miss’ second level that would have allowed huge gains in the running game. But, it all got better as the game progressed. Little by little, Alabama made some minor adjustments and soon the running game was literally off and running. I think, as a whole, the running game got better on Saturday and I think it will continue to get better in the upcoming exhibition, er, regular season games on the schedule. Remember, it’s a process…
We Run the Night: Here are a few factoids regarding the changes in the running game from the first half to the second half. In the first half we used a one back, two tight end set on seven running plays. Three of the seven plays actually lost yardage and one “success” was a two yard gain by AJ when he was flushed from the pocket. Not. Good. In the second half, Alabama used this same formation 10 times, gaining 48 yards. To the Lighthouse staff, it appeared that Alabama’s line did much less pulling and much more zone and double team blocking at the point of attack. Ole Miss’ linebackers continually shot thru the openings that were left when the guards pulled so we were smart enough to stopped pulling. This appeared to be a slight adjustment that worked much mo-betta.
Hammer Time: After CJ Mosley broke up a huge fourth down pass inside our 10 yard line, the Bama offense was backed up and AJ was taking snaps near his own end zone. To this point in the second half, Alabama ran plays almost exclusively from a one back, three wide receiver set and, as we noted above, the two tight end sets had little to no success in the first half. So how did we run the ball out of our own end zone? Jalston Fowler, of course. Bama lined up with two tight ends and Fowler across the line of scrimmage and the offensive line began double teaming the Ole Miss line up front. Alabama ran five straight plays from this formation for gains of 4, 5, 5, 10 yards before finally losing four yards due to a another woeful block from Vogler. After this, Alabama only ran one more play from this formation – a 50 yard touchdown run from Drake. The addition of Fowler established the running game and seemed to give life to the regular two tight end formation (noted above).
Oh Yes They Call Him the Streak: After watching the game on TV, I feel badly for those of you who weren’t at the stadium because there is such a significant visible difference when Kenyan “Shake N” Drake gets the football. And, no, this isn’t my homer call to get the backup in there instead of the starter. I’m just telling you that when Drake gets the football, it’s different. It’s just soooo different – and everyone around me agreed with this. The speed with which he takes the handoff is different. The quickness that he assaults the hole with is different. And his vision and cutting ability is different. This doesn’t seem to translate as well on TV but, live, wow. It really does. If he could just stop fumbling…
Let’s Hear It For the Boy: Mega props go out this week to our boy “Breaking” Chad Lindsey. Mr Lindsey had the unenviable chore of sticking his finger in the dike while starting center Ryan Kelly limped off to the sidelines. But, Lindsey did more than just plug the hole – he seemingly transformed his linemates from a bunch of mutes into an overly corn-fed cast of Glee. The communication on the offensive line did seem to be demonstrably different but we also feel the schematic change in the blocking helped as much as anything. Either way, Lindsey certainly did far more than just get us thru the game and he never got blown back into the backfield as other centers have this season. Instead of the series finale, this may be just the season premier for Breaking Chad. Just sayin…
Mr Jones and Me: Instead of Counting Crows, this season we are Counting Catches by Mr Jones. This Christion is winning the crusades to become Alabama’s number one receiver this season and he currently leads the team in catches (17) and yards (210). Whodathunkthat????
Rebel Yeldon: TJ Yeldon is explosive! Last week coming off a suspension, his first carry went for blistering 38 yards. This week his first carry in the second half was a back breaker that went for 68 yards and a touchdown! A gorgeous combination of blocks by Arie K, Anthony Steen and Mr Lindsey allowed Yeldon to burst into the secondary with only one man to beat. Evidently Eddie Lacy passed down his “B Button” abilities to Yeldon because one spin move later and he was in the end zone. With the Rebel Yell, we cried more, more, more!
Short People Got No Reason: After pointing out last week that AJ threw well short of the third down marker numerous times, we expected to see a little something different this week and I think we did. While the play-by-play logs will tell you he threw short of the sticks numerous times, there really was only one time where he threw short for no apparent reason. Here’s a log of the third down throws that were thrown short and why…
- 3rd & 11 at OM 17: With plenty of time in the pocket, AJ fired a quick pass to Bell for 6 yards? This was the only one I questioned but a logical rebuttal would be that he didn’t want to make a mistake in the red zone. He threw this very quickly, though.
- 3rd & 11 at UA 16: This was a wide receiver screen to White. Vogler missed a key block so White picked up only one yard. This was a conservative call but made sense given the fact that we were on our own 16.
- 3rd & 11 at UA 37: The blitz was not picked up and AJ did a great job just to get the pass off to Norwood for 10 yards.
- 3rd & 9 at OM 35: Steen misses a block and AJ dumped the ball off to Drake for a 1 yard gain.
- 3rd & 23 at UA 37: AJ completed a crosser to Amari for 12 yards. This was the right call given the yards needed for a first down and the fact that we were winning by two scores.
- 3rd and 9 at OM 49: OM blitzed and McCarron was lucky to just get a pass (incomplete) off. Fowler was left blocking two guys while Shepherd and Steen should have fanned out to help. Instead, they were left blocking no one. Poor communication.
- 3rd & 6 at OM 45: OM blitzed again and, again, two Bama linemen (Arie K and Lindsey) weren’t blocking anyone while other guys were completely overloaded. Poor communication.
Time Keeps On Slippin: While I love the way we run our 2 minute offense, there were some uncharacteristic gaffes along the way to a 9-0 lead at halftime. It started when Alabama was forced to burn a timeout (the play right after Ole Miss used a timeout) because they were unaware of the play clock coming out of the Rebels’ timeout. Later, Alabama was forced to burn their second timeout of the drive when Austin Shepherd committed an unpardonable false start that would have resulted in a 10 second run-off had we not burned our second wasted timeout of the drive. I’ve never seen a Bama offense make these kinds of mistakes before.
I’ve Got Two Minutes to Paradise: I’ve got to move on as there’s so much good stuff to cover in the defensive section but I have to mention this – I still LOVE Alabama’s two minute drill, despite what I just wrote about burning the timeouts – that was an aberration. I watch a lot of football and teams on every level waste a ridiculous amount of time moving their wide receivers around from one formation to the next. They’ll get a first down and precious seconds will expire while the quarterback patiently waits for his five wide receivers to shift into the next fancy formation. Instead of wasting precious seconds watching the receivers meander from left to right or right to left, Bama’s crew runs back to the same spot they were on and simply runs the next play. It’s always the same two receivers to the left and the same two to the right. This saves a ridiculous amount of time and, oh yeah, and they run pretty solid plays, too. Pay attention to this next time – it’s fun to watch!
Alabama on Defense
Where do you start when you begin breaking down the defense? Well, the first place you have to start is with the fact that, believe it or not, Ole Miss’ offense is very, very good. No, really! Over time (and perhaps this coming Saturday), you’ll see that defending the Rebels’ offense isn’t nearly as easy as Alabama made it seem. While Alabama clearly had some help with their game planning from former Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Tyler Sisky (who is now happily employed by Nick Saban as the head of student relations and recruiting), the Bama players still had to execute…and by execute, we mean take the life out of the Ole Miss offense. Mission accomplished! But, how did this happen?
Before the game, we wrote in our defensive preview that in order to stop the Ole Miss offense, Alabama had to stop the Ole Miss running game. We also mentioned stopping these spread running games has never ever been a problem for Saban and Smart and they once again proved this on Saturday night. Here’s how…
It’s the End of the World As We Know It: Alabama won this game with the play from their defensive ends. Whichever side the back lined up on, the defensive end on the opposite side was responsible for getting upfield but also flaring outside so that when Bo Wallace read the end, all he’d see was a mass of humanity blocking the outside running game. With the outside run taken away, all he was left with was an option to give it to the tiny Jeff Scott and see if he could bulldoze his way thru or he had to take it himself. Usually, the ever-so-slow-afoot Wallace was forced to keep it himself and the fact that he had more carries (12) than their game breaking RB Scott (8 carries) tells you all you need to know.
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: The atmosphere in Bryant Denny was absolutely electric and the vibe transformed the field into a crescendo of noise. Amidst the noise, Ole Miss and Alabama fought a wildly entertaining battle of audibles. It probably took me over 10 minutes to break this play down and it’s easily my favorite play to study from this season. Oh, and I should mention that the result of the play was a time out – the ball was never snapped! Here’s my best attempt at describing it and I’ll diagram this later this week in a pictorial breakdown, as well. This was awesome:
- With the Rebels facing 2nd & 7 from the Bama 15, the Tide showed a blitz as Mosley, Clinton-Dix and DePriest all flew up to the line of scrimmage. Bama was bringing the house.
- Wallace panicked and, under the extreme crowd noise, he audibled to a play that would beat the blitz.
- When Wallace audibled, Mosley and the entire secondary started pumping their hands in the air. Just as suddenly as Bama showed blitz, they backed out of it with every single player in the secondary communicating to the other players to verify they knew the call had changed.
- True freshman (more on him later) Eddie Jackson realized that, after we backed out of the blitz, the slot receiver wasn’t covered and he then motioned to Jarrick Williams to come over to cover his man. Williams shifted over and verified his position with Vinnie Sunseri.
- Meanwhile, Landon Collins was pointing to Sunseri as he slid into the other slot position. At the same time, Mosley was checking with Clinton-Dix, verifying the call.
- Lastly, just before the play clock expired, Sunseri was pointing and stomping his feet which was evidently a coverage call, as well. Jackson acknowledged and finally they were all set.
Folks, this all happened in the span of about 20 seconds and with the roar of the crowd it was nearly impossible for either team to make their checks at the line of scrimmage. If you still have the game, go back to the 13:33 mark and watch the chaos ensue. It was an awesome chess game that went along all night long. Check. Mate.
Eddie and the Cruisers: Eddie! I want to talk to you, Eddie! Eddie Jackson, you…da….man!!!!!! What a start for our true freshman corner, eh? He broke up a few passes…he intercepted one…he played solid man-to-man coverage….and he did this all after getting prematurely ejected! How’s that for a debut? I loved the coverage of him standing on the sidelines as he awaited his fate. He looked calm. He looked at ease. He looked…seasoned. And once they announced that he wasn’t ejected, he slammed down his helmet and raced out onto the field to take back his corner spot. Love this kid and I can’t wait to follow him throughout his time on campus. He appears to be the difference maker in the secondary for the 2013 team.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder: By the way, prior to his commitment to Alabama Eddie Jackson was listed a 3-star defensive back by just about every recruiting service in the country. At the time, Alabama was pursuing 5-star defensive back Vonn Bell but once they got Jackson’s commitment, they stopped recruiting Bell. They believed in Jackson that much. That should tell you everything you need to know about our staff’s ability to evaluate players.
Greatest American Hero: Who doesn’t love CJ Mosley after this game? The only thing missing from his Superman performance was a cape because the dude did everything you could ask of him and more. One of my favorite plays I’ll ever remember will be the fourth down pass that he swatted away near the Bama goal line. The play itself was routine but the fact that it was coming only seconds after he was pile driven into the ground looooong after the whistle blew is what makes the play so special. To hear Trey DePriest tell it, Mosley went loco after the mauling (and, honestly, the entire stadium did because it was the most obvious flagrant and very personal foul ever committed). How he was able to keep his wits about him and actually play his coverage and do his job is amazing. Mosley is a once in a generation type of defender and it’s no wonder Nick Saban is so giddy when he talks about him.
What Comes Around Goes Around: Hey Bo, wanna run that mouth of yours a little more? No? I didn’t think so. After speaking poorly of the Tide’s defense, poor Bo found himself backed up on his own one yard line with a bunch of angry Tide defenders in his face. Bo ran the “read” option and somehow decided that running into Jeoffrey Pagan and Mosley was the right read. WRONG. Thanks for the two points, Bo! After seeing the Rebels’ senior misread the play, it’s now painfully obvious why Mississippi is always last in literacy…
A-Ha: On the critical third down that preceded Mosley’s heroics, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made a heroic play of his own. Honestly, how he did it is beyond me. As Wallace flared a pass out to the man Ha Ha was covering, the running back slipped out of the backfield and leveled him while the pass was in the air. Undaunted, Ha Ha contorted around the block and swatted away the pass setting up the crucial fourth down play.
A-Ha Ha: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible play that Ha Ha made in coming from about 20 yards away to stuff Laquon Treadwell on a fourth down carry. Treadwell had the corner but Clinton-Dix flashed onto the screen and sent Treadwell into a somersault that left him short of the first down. Sweet!
In Two Deep: The front six of the Alabama defense stuffed the Rebels’ running game without the need of an extra safety to come down and help. This allowed Alabama stay in a two deep coverage for the majority of the game which led to a lovely mix of different coverages and blitzes which clearly confused the Ole Miss quarterback. Kudos go out to Brandon Ivory, Jeoffrey Pagan and A’shawn Robinson who all worked hard to control the middle. That A’shawn kid has been awesome this season, hasn’t he?
And a Child Shall Lead Them: We’d like to take a moment to recognize true freshmen Eddie Jackson, A’shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and Maurice Smith on defense. For such a stacked team, it’s amazing to me how many true freshmen are contributing on defense this season.
Alabama on Special Teams
Foster, Australian For Field Goals: After a shaky game against ColoradoState where his first two attempts of the season were either wide left or completely mis-hit, Saban’s faith in Cade came up spades against the Rebels. Foster nailed all three of his field goals including a magnificent blast from 53 yards out. Bama field goals are so easy, even a Cade-man can do it…
Don’t Fence Me In: We spent all of last year bragging on Cody Mandell so it’s high time we acknowledged him again. Mandell blasted five punts for a 46.2 average and put three of them inside the 20. When Landon Collins saved the ball on the one yard line, Mandell raced down to high-five his main man – pretty cool to see. Kid is having some fun back there as a punter. Oh, and let’s not forget his leaping grab of a high snap that nearly resulted in a safety! Nicely done!
Yessa Mazza: Speaking of the high snap, have you noticed that Alabama hasn’t missed a beat since Carson Tinker left? Credit must go to true freshman Cole Mazza – he’s made sure the beat goes on for the Bama special teams.
I apologize for the epic nature of this post but, wow, there was so much to cover. The only thing we didn’t cover was Hugh Freeze, so here’s a quick hitter on him. There’s a reason why the teams who have been there and done that have success in these huge games. There’s a reason the underdog typically fails just as there’s a reason the teams at the top typically stay at the top.
Despite their strong words, Hugh Freeze and his Rebels felt, no – they knew, they were no match for Alabama and, as a result, they quickly went away from the things that made them successful up until this point. Sure, Freeze went for it on fourth down four separate times and, yes, he’s admitted he’d like a do-over on those. But, Ole Miss is a running team and they abandoned their running game far too quickly. Their quarterback had 12 carries while Jeff Scott, their featured running back who averaged well over 100 yards per game, got EIGHT carries. EIGHT! And by abandoning their running game, they also threw away their entire play action passing game that had been so successful. Heck, they even had wide receivers carrying the ball on fourth and one and they had wide receivers throwing passes. Was this a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures? We say no because most of these decisions were made while the game still was hanging in the balance. They simply weren’t good decisions.
So here’s a tip for Alabama’s upcoming opponents. Until you and your team truly believe you can beat Alabama, you won’t. So save your breath, ok? Instead of running your mouth or advertising black outs, white outs or red outs, just work on your game instead. Alabama will be here waiting for you – and they aren’t going away anytime soon.
You can follow me on Twitter @lneck25. Roll Tide!