The Tennessee Game Review

Saturday night in Knoxville reminded me of an old Clint Eastwood flick – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The good was obviously the first quarter of play where Alabama continued to play offense at such a high level that even AJ McCarron would have to approve. Coming off the shellacking of Texas A&M, Alabama’s offense posted 253 yards in the first quarter and stayed in such a high gear that even Dale Earnhardt was like, “damn!” With 12:03 left in the second quarter, Alabama led 27-0 and it seemed Amari Cooper had already eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. Not for the season – for the game!

Then came the bad. Tennessee finally had the good sense to insert the electric Josh Dobbs into the contest (why he hasn’t been the starter from day 1 is beyond me) and suddenly a cake walk became a 27-17 hand wringing affair. The last time Dobbs was seen playing football, he was a 190 lb true freshman who played QB like you’d expect a scrawny true freshman to play. One year later, Dobbs looked like the second coming of a larger Michael Vick (y’all tell Smokey to watch his back) and it was clear the Bama defense wasn’t quite ready for his assaults on the ground or thru the air.

But, as good teams do (and this is a team that is trying to grow into a really good team), Alabama answered the bell when Tennessee closed the gap, marching 76 yards in 13 plays and gobbling up nearly six minutes of clock in the process. Game. Set. Match. Jalston Fowler nearly scored to make it a much more palatable 41-20 margin but he forgot to take the football with him into the end zone.

The ugly was the injury to left tackle Cameron Robinson. Hasn’t it been enough to lose center Ryan Kelly or right tackle Austin Shepherd along the offensive line? Now Alabama is faced with losing their best offensive lineman (by far) at a time when they’ll be needing him the most. Depending on who you trust, Robinson is either out two weeks or two months. Either way, he is a huge, huge loss for an offense that has been starting to find their way over the last couple of weeks. To the good, Leon Brown filled in more than admirably but we’ll discuss that and more in the game review….

Alabama on Offense

Honestly, did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine Blake Sims teaming up with Amari Cooper to set individual game passing records? I mean, yeah, we knew Cooper could do his part but I don’t think anyone other than Blake Sims thought that he could deliver the football like he’s done. Cooper ended up with 9 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns and nearly had a third touchdown catch on a ball that he couldn’t quite pull in with one hand. He was amazing. But while everyone is acknowledging Coop, I think we should quickly credit Sims (and Kiffin) for getting him the ball. For all of the knocks about solely targeting Amari, there was only one ill-advised pass to him on the night. The rest of the time Cooper was pretty open so why not give the ball to the most electrifying wide receiver in college football??? Diversification will surely be necessary at some point but that point was not Saturday night in Knoxville, in my opinion.

Anatomy of a Short Pass and a Long Touchdown: Lane Kiffin has become the architect of the one play drive to open the game. First it was Kenyan Drake streaking down the sidelines for a touchdown against Florida and this week it was Amari Cooper getting free on a short misdirection crossing pass that went for 80 yards. Here’s how it looked:

  • With Alabama aligned with 2 receivers right and two receivers left, Blake Sims provided a strong fake toss left to Yeldon that went with the flow of the offensive line. As the entire world flowed left, Amari Cooper went right, hiding behind the line as they went left.
  • As a secondary target, Chris Black went five yards downfield and then also turned right. Eventually, he got so far right and beyond the flow that he was able to come back and block the only linebacker who had any kind of angle to get to Cooper.
  • Cooper came wide open on the play because the entire defense went with the flow of the offensive line. Also, Brian Vogler and DeAndrew White cleared their area – White with a fly pattern and Vogler with a crossing pattern that also went left. With no one in containment on the edge for the Vols, Cooper was able to quickly get upfield and turn on this 4.3 speed.
  • White provided the last downfield block and the rest was history!
  • FYI – if you go back and watch, you can see Kiffin racing down the sidelines with Cooper. He started running at the Bama 31 and went well past the 50!

Kris Kross: Alabama ran this play at least three different times against Tennessee’s “cloud” coverage. Alabama stayed in a 2×2 set (twins left and twins right) throughout much of the game and on three different occasions they ran a play that had Black and Cooper lined up to the right next to each other. With Black on the inside and Coop on the outside, Black released straight at the safety who was supposed to be providing help on Cooper and this forced the safety to honor Black’s deep route. Amari hesitated, letting Black get out in front and then with the safety occupied, he then broke into a slant pattern. This play was money and converted three first downs. Later, Coop showed the slant route but then shifted (without breaking stride) into a go route for a 41 yard touchdown pass. Sweet.

Wicked Game: It seems when Ardarius Stewart goes in motion there’s going to be a wicked hard hit levied on the defensive end. Stewart runs down the line of scrimmage and, at the snap, then bursts full speed into the unsuspecting DE! BANG!

Get Off of My Cloud: Hey, you, get off of that cloud coverage. If you aren’t rolling zone coverage to Amari Cooper then you are watching him celebrate in the end zone. Thou shalt not guard Coop with one man and expect the safety to be in position to help.

Turn Down Fo What: The Vols might shoulda turned down that “Third Down for What” chant during the game. With that song constantly blaring, it seemed like every other down was third down (believe me, watching the game a second time and enduring this was brutal) but Bama coolly converted 11 of 15 third down opportunities. Overall, Bama is ranked third in the nation on third down conversions (55.7%). Pretty good for a first year starting QB.

He’s Got Legs: And he knows how to use them. Of course I’m talking about Blake Sims who converted three critical first downs with his legs and also ripped off another long touchdown run off the zone read! We likey the running threat from Sims and LOVE the ballsy diving first down run on the most critical of series. With Neyland amped and Lil John blasting, Sims converted a 3rd & 9 with a ridiculous dive. Four plays later, Alabama was up 34-17 and the game was back in hand.

Danger Zone (Read): On that same critical drive, Alabama rand the zone read twice for critical third down conversions, as well. This is becoming more and more prevalent in the game plan…

Whatta Man: What a mighty good man Leon Brown was when he took over the left tackle spot for Cam Robinson. I watched him closely and Brown executed all of his assignments and only once did he fail to get engaged on his man. Brown has struggled at left guard and, earlier in his career, struggled at right tackle. I don’t think he’ll stay at left tackle against LSU but he did a fantastic job once he came in for Cam. On the flip side, Bozeman had his struggles so I think Brown moves back to LG. This week, Shepherd is lining up at LT and Grant Hill is at RT – I think this is what you’ll see against LSU.

Tidebits

  • Once again we were flagged during the hurry up offense as we tried to get people on and off the field. I’ve lost count of the number of times this has happened but it’s at least five.
  • Jalston Fowler was used at tailback because Yeldon left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent foot injury and Tyren Jones had been suspended.
  • That was weird seeing Sims have to get a new arm band for the red zone – hadn’t noticed that before.
  • The OL owned the second level and Vol standout linebacker AJ Johnson all night long.
  • Did you see Derrick Henry run the wheel route? That was interesting. If he’d looked back for the ball, he would have scored.
  • Did you see Amari Cooper lined up at tailback behind Fowler? Hmmmm. The handoff went to Fowler for a third and one conversion but we may see more of this in the future.
  • It looked like Lane tried to dial up a trick play with Yeldon lined up in the wildcat on 3rd and 2. With Christion Jones in motion, the two kind of collided and the play – whatever it was supposed to be – blew up.
  • When you see Amari Cooper head to the sidelines, it’s a 100% chance of a running play.
  • I think the big sack on Sims was supposed to be a screen.
  • Chalk up another false start for OJ Howard.

Alabama on Defense

Well, isn’t this interesting. Before the game, I expected to be heaping tons and tons of praise on the Alabama defense that, thru the first seven games, seemed to be improving. No one boasts as much versatile, quality depth along the defensive line as Alabama does and the linebacker play has improved drastically. And what can you say about a secondary that basically held A&M’s passing attack to about a quarter of their usual output?

But, there was Tennessee moving up and down the field on the Tide’s vaunted defense. To be fair, I don’t think anyone expected to see Josh Dobbs look like he did and it’s a credit to the defense that they adjusted as well as they did. The Vols were running an Auburn-esque attack featuring the threat of a fly sweep followed by a zone read between a very good running back and a surprisingly strong quarterback. With the Vols threatening multiple areas of the defense, the Tide defenders had to quickly adjust to the newfound scheme. On the whole, Alabama could have done a whole lot better in stopping the run (and the pass) and I do think Dobbs and this offense will be a threat from here on out.

I Like to Move It, Move It: Credit Butch Jones and his staff for implementing a solid scheme that made up for their deficiencies on the offensive line and took advantage of their skilled players at running back and receiver. It was actually pretty fun to watch them execute pretty much the same play over and over with pretty good effect.

It’s the End of the World: I have to say, Nick Saban’s defense typically does an outstanding job in containing and holding the edge against these spread attacks so it was a bit shocking to see so many running plays turn the corner. Typically the ends didn’t seem to have containment and the safeties were getting blocked. Bama did play the run infinitely better out of their 3-4 alignment and that’s the group that will see the most time against LSU.

Man in the Middle: A’shawn Robinson played another very strong game and was very disruptive.

Fruit Loop: Jonathan Allen spent a ton of time in the Vol backfield as he continually came free on a stunt or loop with whoever the other tackle was. It was probably his best game as an interior defender, as well.

Swing Dancin’: It also seemed that Alabama did not adjust to the backs swinging out of the backfield at the snap. Sometimes a safety would come up but oftentimes they didn’t, leaving extra space for Jalen Hurd to operate.

Wide Open Spaces: The most troubling part of the defense was their inability to cover or even stay close to the receivers sometimes. There were numerous blown coverages in this game, particularly out of the dreaded bunch formations again. Thankfully, Dobbs overthrew or threw behind open receivers numerous times or else we’d really be wringing our hands today.

Hang Time: In all my life I’ve never seen a fumble that had hang time but now I sure have! Dobbs escaped the pocket but was met with a ferocious hit from Reggie Ragland that sent the ball flying into the upper reaches of Neyland Stadium. When it finally landed, Eddie Jackson scooped it up for a Bama recovery. Man, what a hit!

Hang Time Part Deaux: I had no idea Trey DePriest had that kind of vertical but he joined the paratrooper’s club when he inexplicably fell for a Dobbs pump fake at the line of scrimmage.

Tidebits

  • I told you guys Peterman was horrible. He lived up to my expectations. J
  • Cyrus Jones recorded the first Bama interception from a Tide corner but had an otherwise forgettable game. He was beaten thru the air, he committed another pass interference penalty and he did a poor job in run support and tackling, as well.
  • With Dobbs bringing a jolt of energy to the entire team by converting first down after first down, for the first time in a long time it seemed Alabama’s defense was affected by the pace of play. Twice Alabama wasn’t even set at the snap of the ball as players were running onto the field.
  • How Jarrick Williams allowed that pass to get to Marquez North is just beyond me. He turned perfectly, tracked the ball beautifully and had his man completely screened off!
  • For all of their difficulties, the Tide seemed to own first and second down throughout most of the night. The Vols had less than four yards to go on third down only five out of 28 times they faced third down.

Alabama on Special Teams

  • Congrats to JK “Great” Scott who is now second in the nation in net punting. Scotty is givin’ ‘er all he’s got – amazing!
  • The game started with another pretty long kick return. Giving up long kick returns is starting to be a trend.
  • I’m sure no one outside of the end zone seats ever expected to get a football kicked their way but Adam Griffith’s first extra point try was waaaaaaaaay left. Never seen that bad of an extra point try…

Final Thoughts  

At the end of the day, Alabama put together their best road performance of the season. For the first time on the road, Amari Cooper and Blake Sims were able to hook up as they’ve done at home and the running game pounded out 183 hard earned yards.   Nothing is ever perfect though and after playing mistake free ball against the Aggies, the Tide returned to their gift giving ways by committing two turnovers and a few offensive penalties. Overall, it was a good performance but it’s still not that dominant four quarters that we’ve come to expect.

Defensively I thought the Tide adjusted relatively well given the circumstances. Josh Dobbs had not played all year and many thought he would actually redshirt this year. I don’t think anyone suspected that the Tennessee offense could look this good and this versatile this season. However, the defensive line continued to play well and the preparation against this type of attack should pay off when Bama faces the likes of Mississippi State and Auburn.

While some are saying the Alabama dynasty is over, I think we all need to consider what a good friend of mine told me today – for the seventh straight season as the calendar turns to November Alabama is once again smack dab in the middle of the national title conversation. That’s pretty dang impressive if you ask me.  Sounds kinda like a dynasty.  Big hurdles remain but Alabama’s playoff and title hopes rest in their own hands. At this point in the season, that’s all you can ask for.

Advertisements

W2W4 – Alabama vs Tennessee

The W2W4 is back with a look at the fabled third, er, fourth Saturday in October.  Yes, we are featuring yet another riveting game against the construction/hunting/prisoner orange clad Vols from Knoxville.  I do love the fact that they can come straight off the work site, the side of the road and their hunting camps and never have to change their clothes.  While their clothing and song choices are mind numbingly repetitive, their football team is showing a few signs of getting out of the rut they have been in since 2009.  In ’09, you may remember that Lane Kiffin stalked the Vol sidelines and as much as Tennessee fans hate to hear it, that was their last winning season.  But Butch Jones is slowly changing things in Knoxville…

On Saturday (when the commentators aren’t talking about and showing Lane Kiffin) you’ll notice that the Vol defense plays really, really hard.  They are young, aggressive and talented.  Coach Jones has them playing with a passion that hasn’t been seen in Tennessee in quite some time.  Sure, the better talent that Jones has recruited helps but he has them playing tenaciously this season.  That’s a good thing, too, because you’ll get to see them an awful lot Saturday night because their offense is brutally bad.

When you change out all five of your offensive linemen as Tennessee had to do this season, bad things are going to happen – and they are happening nearly every single snap to their poor QB, Justin Worley.  This season Worley has played the part of the piñata while his woeful offensive line has been handing sticks to every defensive end and tackle they’ve come across, especially lately.  While you can’t spell Vols without an OL, lately this group has been in charge of the ‘teers on the face of Worley as 18 of their 30 sacks have come in just their last three games.  UT-Chattanooga sacked Worley five times and Ole Miss got to him seven times last week, the last of which knocked him out of the game.  In fact, there is some question this week as to whether or not Worley will suit up.  If I were him, I wouldn’t…and here’s why in our W2W4 this week!

Alabama on Offense

The only drama in this game will be determining whether or not the Tide’s offensive mojo finally decided to the team on the road trip this week.  In earlier trips to Fayetteville and Oxford, the Alabama offensive swag decided to stay at home and knock down a few Crazy Buckets and Alabama Slammers while the Tide offense did anything but roll on down the road.  We do think the Ole Miss defense was outstanding but we also think the Vols D should present a tougher challenge for Alabama’s O than Arkansas did.  So, it’s once again hard for us to tell what we’ll get with this offensive box of chocolates.

To the good, this season the Tennessee defense has spent a ton of time on the field and, courtesy of their offense, they’ve received worse abuse than a concussed Michigan quarterback.  In fact, the second half of the Ole Miss game saw them wilt like an old pumpkin left out to rot.  Florida, Ole Miss and Georgia had a lot of success running the ball down ole Smokey’s throat so if worse comes to worse the Tide should be able to ride the legs of Yeldon and Henry and let them tote the Great Pumpkins into the end zone.

Passing Fancy:  The Vols will come into the game with the 2nd ranked pass defense in the league, thanks in large part to their 6’1 corner, Cam Sutton.  Sutton is a playmaker and has been impressive to date, locking up Laquan Treadwell with little to no trouble last week.  Similar to Vernon Hargreaves, look for Sutton to be Amari Cooper’s shadow for much of the ball game.  However, again, similar to Hargreaves, look for Coop to win the vast majority of their one on one matchups.  Not because Sutton is bad but because Coop is just that good.

Little Deuce Coupe:  With Sutton locking Treadwell down last week, Ole Miss had to resort to their second option against the Tennessee secondary.  Look for DeAndrew White to be involved this week. Just a hunch.

Another One Bites the Dust:  Naturally, about the time Alabama’s offensive line was starting to gel they suffered yet another injury, this time to big Austin Shepherd at right tackle.  Shepherd has really been a force at right tackle for the last year or so, so this is a big loss.  Grant Hill came in when Shep went down last week (after Hill was held out of practice for two weeks due to illness) and did an admirable job.  His conditioning may not be all that and, since Dominick Jackson continues to inflict mass casualties when he’s in there, I think you’ll see the both of them at right tackle Saturday night.  They should have their hands full with Derek Barnett (6’3, 267) who recorded 3 sacks against OM last week.  FYI – Barnett is second in the SEC with 9.5 tackles for loss.

Guess Who’s Back:  But, as one man falls another man rises.  Center Ryan Kelly will be back in the starting lineup this week which can only be good news.  However, we hereby applaud the yeoman efforts of Bradley Bozeman who did a solid job while he was in there!

All About that Bass:  Last week I noted that Jalston Fowler and Brian Vogler were in the lineup together quite a bit.  We’ve speculated that OJ Howard’s reps would diminish if he continued missing blocks and holding and apparently Lane Kiffin agreed.  Look for these two (Fowler and Vogler) to be involved quite a bit once again as Alabama will seek to destroy the will of the Tennessee defense.  Their defensive line is young, beaten up and has been on the field much of this season.  Last week they packed it in against Ole Miss so look for Alabama to attempt to escort them to the bus and send them back to their dorms early.

Ready to Run:  I really liked what I saw in the running game out of Blake Sims last week.  He improvised on his touchdown run but he also ran the zone read and, gasp, even rolled left on a keeper.  I keep thinking that his role in the running game will expand but, as you saw, that shoulder is still something of a concern.  Either way, this week he really needs to show that he has the ability to get ‘er done on the road.

Other thoughts…

I think the offense really misses Kenyan Drake.  From what we heard prior to the season, Drake was going to play the Reggie Bush role in the offense by getting him out in space and I think we got a taste of that plan against Florida.  It looks like the offensive staff is still adjusting a little bit to that loss but I really liked the outside runs and screens to Yeldon and Henry that we saw last week.  Last year against the Vols, the outside runs were gold so look for that to continue this week.  Also, this season Georgia rushed for 289 yards, UT gave up 180 rushing yards to Ole Miss last week, and even Florida went over 150 yards, as well.  We likey the ground and pound game in this one.

Last thought – think Kiffin will pull out a trick play this week?  We think yes…

 

Alabama on Defense

Frankly put, the Vols are pretty vile on offense.  They are last in rushing, 12th in total yards and they are 7th in passing.  The reason for their ineptitude is having to depend on a young, inexperienced offensive line – most of whom are playing injured.  This week should feature their fourth different starting combination along the line so this young line hasn’t even had an opportunity to gel.  As a result, they’ve given up 30 sacks which is ranked, you guessed it, last in the SEC.

Thin Orange Line:  According to the Vols’ Rivals beat writer (Wes Rucker, who is a fabulous follow on twitter), Tennessee is basically playing five guards and centers along the line because they don’t have a big man who has the length and athleticism required to play tackle.  Last week, former walk-on Jacob Gilliam had to fill in at right tackle and he’s even playing on a torn ACL…and he looked like it – Gilliam gave up a couple of bad blow by sacks, including a strip sack.  True freshman Coleman Thomas tried valiantly to suffer thru a high ankle sprain last week before he was finally forced to leave the contest.  So, as you can see, they’ve got issues.

Cry Me a River:  Speaking of issues, the poor guy standing behind that makeshift line has had a really, really rough go of it.  QB Justin Worley was knocked out of the Georgia game with a left arm injury and then was knocked out of the Ole Miss game with a right arm injury.  Basically, Worley is the Black Knight in “The Holy Grail” where all that is left for him to do is bleed on us or bite our kneecaps off.  Credit Worley for coming back into the Georgia game and nearly leading a comeback but by this point he’s been battered, smothered, covered and chunked so much that he looked shell-shocked against the Ole Miss pass rush.  Can’t say I blame him either.

Trumpets:  The Pride of the Southland band will have a chance pick up their trumpets and blow “Rocky Top” a few times if their offensive line can give Worley some time.  True freshman Jalen Hurd is a long, tall (6’3, 227) running back who is pretty good out in space.  They like to check it down and swing it to this big Hurd.  Down the field, the Vols do have some mismatch opportunities with tall receivers like Marquez North (6’4), Jason Croom (6’5) and Josh Malone (6’3) so if Worley has some time look for him to air it out to these big uns.

Final Thoughts

The UT receivers do not average many yards per catch because they simply do not have time to run any deep routes.  They could definitely do some damage down the field but after giving up 30 sacks both the offensive coordinator and Justin Worley understand that they need to get the ball out in a hurry.  Their line has also progressively gotten worse at establishing the running game over the last few weeks, hitting a season low of ZERO yards rushing against Ole Miss last week.  Seriously, their offensive line is bad.

On the flip side, Alabama recorded a Saban high six sacks against A&M last week and it appears the defensive staff is letting these greyhounds play “sic em”.  The edge rushers should have a field day Saturday night.

Conclusion

The 2014 Vols feature a pretty solid defense that’s unfortunately (for them) paired with a terribly inept offensive attack.  The Tennessee defense has dammed the tide throughout much of the year but, as they did against Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss, sooner or later they should falter under pressure.  And, if Worley can’t go this week, Nathan Peterman will be called into service and, well, let’s just say there’s a reason Worley is the starter.  This could get ugly.  Our bet is that this game plays out in a similar fashion to the Ole Miss game from last week – Tennessee will keep it interesting for a couple of quarters but sooner or later all of their issues will catch up to them.  The vibe of the Bama team was infectious last week and the doctor says it’s contagious and it can be spread during a high Tide.  The Tide should be high this week and we don’t see Tennessee being able to hold on….

Final Score:  Alabama 30           Tennessee 6

Texas A&M Game Review

In life, I think we all want to be appreciated for the work that we do.  Honestly, sometimes a well-placed “atta boy” can be as meaningful as a raise or a promotion.  You know, sometimes a boss can go to the whip too often.  A jockey might get a little more juice out of the horse with a couple of well-timed smacks but if he just keeps whacking away then the horse probably won’t give him the results he desires.

The jockey for the Alabama football team is Nick Saban (please, no short jokes, ok?) and after the Tide put forth a woeful performance against Arkansas (coming on the heels of the Ole Miss loss), there were a couple of ways Saban could go in addressing the team.  After consecutive games of turnovers, penalties and overall mundane play who would have blamed Coach Saban if he’d lined up the team and administered AJ McCarron spankings down the line.  Instead, Saban sensed that his team needed something else so he went on an all-out blitzkrieg against the fans, the media and anyone else who had the audacity to knock his team’s performance.  Saban embraced the team and the Gene Stallings philosophy that the fun is in the winning!  Right now I’d say no one is having more fun playing football than this Crimson Tide team!

So in honor of the Tide’s play this weekend, we at the Lighthouse would like to celebrate the victory with a Jump Around edition of the review – so let’s jump up, jump up and get down with this week’s litany of fun!

Alabama on Offense

The 2014 “Box of Chocolates” edition of the Crimson Tide offense continued but this week we chucked the old nasty Whitman’s Samplers and we went straight for the Godiva chocolates, baby!  This week we got ahold of that delicious, smooth, luxurious, creamy chocolate that is so freaking good you want it to melt in your mouth and in your hands and anywhere else you can get to.  Yeah.  You know.  Sinfully good chocolate.  But with some sprinkles.  Tight ends lined up as tight ends…and wide receivers.  Fullbacks lined up as fullbacks, tight ends, wide receivers and H-backs.  I formations.  Two tight end formations.  Empty sets with five wide receivers.  All from the same personnel grouping.  Hmm – since Lane runs more of a West Coast offense, perhaps we should say it was a Ghirardelli box of chocolates.  Either way, Saturday’s offense was just as sweet!

Last week we stated that Blake Sims needed to run more and use his God-given ability in order to transform this bland attack into something more exotic (a truffle, maybe?).  A zone read (Or was it? – more on this in a sec) and 43 amazing yards later, Sims put Bama up 24-0 with a run that was nothing short of spectacular.  Oh, and later Kiffin actually called a play where Blake Sims’ bootleg went to his left!!!!  Y’all think he’s reading the blog?  Meanwhile, TJ Yeldon was dipping, ducking, spinning and shifting his way to 114 yards on only 13 carries!  Any time you can leave ole Verne speechless then you are immediately my hero and between the exploits of Yeldon, Sims and Cooper I think we all enjoyed this CBS telecast the most!  Uh, WOW!  MY!  WOW!  OY!  I think summed up the Tide’s attack nicely!

Patience is NOT a Virtue:  Saban won the toss and elected to kick A&M’s ass from the opening bell.  Hey Kevin – give me the ball and let me show you were we are going to stick this thing all day long!

One on One, I Wanna Play that Game Tonight:  Dear Mr Sumlin, you might want to put more than one person on Amari Cooper.  I’m just sayin.  I think Hall & Oates would have looked better out there in coverage.  What the Aggies’ defensive coordinator did to their poor corners is akin to child abuse because he continually put them in situations where they could not succeed.  Coming into the game we said Ole Miss and Arkansas played a ton of zone with a lot of success against us but evidently the Aggies are too busy building stadiums and coming up with catchy slogans to watch film.  Danielson showed it better than I ever could but suffice it to say that Amari is waaaaaay too talented to cover man to man (or child to man as the case may be).

Shorty Get Loose:  One more point on Coop.  After a glorious punt return by Christion Jones, Kiffin went for the jugular again by lining up Cooper in the slot where he was once again isolated man to man.  Lining him up in the slot allowed him to fake a hard inside slant, leaving him plenty of room to then fade outside for an easy six.  Lining him up outside eliminates this route and confines him next to the sidelines a little too much.  But lining him up in the slot – easy pickins.  If you are the defender, pack it up, pack it in.

Abracadabra:  Oh, I couldn’t wait to tell you guys about this one!  On the Sims run, please go back and watch the bottom of the screen where Fowler and Cam Sims were lined up as twin wide receivers.  At the snap, Fowler moved to take out Sims’ man because the play was actually a wide receiver screen!  Sims actually talked about this post game but the call was for a screen!  Instead of running the screen, Sims said he screwed up and ran a zone read, keeping the ball for what was a sensational touchdown run!  Please, please go back and watch this play again.  But his running skills – wow.  WOW.  OH WOW!  The first juke off the zone read left three Aggies in the dust.  Next, he bounced outside and made #18 look like a fool.  At full speed he made a slicky cutback move that left Verne and the A&M defender gasping for air.  Afterwards they showed Lane on the sidelines and he didn’t look very happy – now you know why…

Let It Go:  When Sims runs the ball it opens up the rest of the offense.  Numerous times the outside defensive end was left unblocked (on purpose) but he refused to slide down and make a tackle on the running back because he had to stay home and honor the threat of Sims running.  Oh, and Sims happens to be really good at running.  Now, I hope you all saw him wince when he landed on that shoulder again.  We don’t wanna go all “I told you so” but, yeah, we told you so.  Sims’s shoulder isn’t 100%.  So….

Punk You’d Better Back Up:  Sorry – just working in some Jump Around lyrics.  Anyway, so I jotted down in my notes that they were allowing Sims to run more (or maybe Sims was deciding to run more) and that must mean they were quietly developing more confidence in Coker.  As soon as I jotted this down, Gary Danielson (love him – best in the biz at breaking games down) confirmed that Coker looked really good in practice on Thursday and the staff was now believing in him.  I thought Coker played well – that dart to Flournoy-Smith was sublime – and his emergence could/should allow Sims to just cut it loose.

Rebel Yeldon:  I’m sure TJ Yeldon has statistically had better performances but, to me, none were as ridiculous as this one because several times he left me screaming MORE, MORE, MORE!  The first wow moment came on a check down that seemingly took forever.  Sims finally spotted Yeldon alone on the sidelines where, without any room to operate, he proceeded to de-pants two Aggies with a shake that Sherman Williams would be proud of.  On the same drive, he took a toss left and instinctively cut it back inside where there was a gaping hole.  Smoooooth.  But one of my favorite plays of the game was a slant route pass to a well-defended Yeldon who was lined up outside as a receiver.  He caught the ball nine yards down the field with an Aggie draped on his back.  Ten more piggyback yards later he was finally brought down.  On that same drive, Yeldon took a handoff right and patiently pressed the hole until Bozeman (who played extremely well) and Brown (his best game) formed a small crease for Yeldon to slide thru.  To everyone’s surprise, Yeldon was able to wait and then he suddenly burst into the secondary, pantsing yet another jockless A&M defender.  Thirty yards later, Alabama was at the four yard line and ready to go up 17-0.  And then there was the run where his spin move left two Aggies running into one another….he was amazing!

Let’s Hear it for the Boys:  Coming into the game, we mentioned that the Aggie defenders appeared lifeless in their last two outings so it really wasn’t a shock that they appeared to mail it in on Saturday.  But, with that being said, there were several offensive lineman who gave superlative efforts.  On Yeldon’s first TD run, Arie Kouandjio wiped out three A&M defenders with a brutal down block.  Bradley Bozeman not only played well but, at times, dominated – particularly on the goal line 4th and 1 touchdown run.  But, wow, Leon Brown played the game of his life.  He was agile.  He was hostile.  He was mobile.  They worked great as a team, too.  On the TD pass to Coop that made it 38-0, A&M stemmed their line (late shift) and showed blitz.  Immediately, Bozeman, Kouandjio and Brown started waving their arms to communicate to each other who to block.  They easily picked up the blitz and allowed Sims to make the throw.  The interior of the line could not have played much better in this game.

Back to the Future:  Ok, so I’m one of these sick, twisted people who enjoys watching the second string line play so Saturday was mighty good to me.   While I still don’t understand why they took the redshirt off JC Hassenauer I have to admit he was outstanding – he got to the second level and secured his block on nearly every single play and he could not be shed.  As always, I was impressed with Dominick Jackson – he’s a heat seeking missile off the line of scrimmage and when he makes contact, it ain’t purdy.  A couple of times he relocated at least two Aggie defenders against their will.  Grant Hill did pretty well subbing in for Shepherd but he didn’t stand out to me as much as the other two.  And poor Issac Luatua.  Wow.  The film room shall not be kind to him.

Growing Pains:  You know, I thought Coker did a pretty good job when he was in there.  As usual, he held the ball a little long and paid for it with a painful looking whiplash sack (courtesy of a Luatua whiff) but overall he looked better.  On the touchdown throw he was everything you’d want out of a QB.  With the pocket collapsing, he climbed up the pocket and kept his eyes downfield the entire time.  This allowed him to see the tight end come open and Coker delivered a strike to the corner of the end zone.  Mo betta.  And the seed he threw on the run to Ardarius Stewart on the run….wow.  But, perhaps my favorite play was when Coker finally realized it’s actually a good play to throw it out-of-bounds.  As Gary Danielson was squealing “throw it away” on the telecast, I laughed because I’ve done the same thing numerous times.  This time, though, Coker (after a lovely pirouette) finally did the right thing.  Mo betta, agian.

Tidebits

I’m sure the truth is somewhere between the offense that showed up against Ole Miss and the one that played against A&M but it’s exciting to see what it can be.  More than anything, this group needed to have some success, gain some confidence and have some fun.  Check.  Check.  And CHECK!  Meanwhile, heads should be rolling in College Station today because the plan was poor, the execution poorer and the effort was listless.  Frankly, I think they gave up early and often.  On the screen pass to Henry that went for a touchdown, Bama caught A&M in a blitz and Henry was out the gate with no white jerseys to be seen.  Go back and watch but instead of tackling Henry, an Aggie defender (#31) actually just stuck his leg out in a weak attempt to trip up Henry.  A “business decision” to be sure, but a gutless, heartless, weak ass attempt nonetheless.

Alabama on Defense

This defense was everything we hoped it would be and have hoped it would be for a very long time.  Six sacks by the front four meant that Bama rarely had to blitz and even when they did blitz they backed a defensive end into coverage.  So, the Tide defenders showed man but played zone.  They showed blitz but played coverage.  Showed coverage and brought a zone blitz.  I think Saban and Smart had a ball watching their schemes confuse and humiliate the Aggie offense.  So much for the hauntings of a HUNH spread passing attack, eh?  This was abuse from the first snap.  Speaking of, A&M’s vaunted offense didn’t even take a snap in Alabama territory until mid-way thru the third quarter.  To quote Verne, “Wow.  WOW.  OH WOW!”

Don’t be Cruel:  You knew it would be a long day for A&M when even the sideline commentator was aligned against the Aggies.  Allie LaForce’s twitter handle is @AlaForce.  She may be a force to be reckoned with, as well…  J  Sorry – I had to include this b/c it just made me laugh…

Here Comes the Boom:  In our W2W4 we mentioned how the stunts and loops by Ole Miss found their way home several times so it was no surprise that Alabama implemented the same schemes.  It was fun watching ridiculous athletes like Ryan Anderson, Xzavier Dickson, Jonathan Allen and a host of others get to use their exceptional skill sets to get up field and become an Aggie Wrecking Crew.  For the longest time I’ve felt that the d-line has been asked to simply push the pocket and play run first.  In this game it appeared they just let the thoroughbreds run – and run they did…right to the quarterback!  Six sacks?  WOW!  OH WOW!

When I Move You Move:  Four weeks ago, it was Ludacris to think that Trey DePriest could hold his own in single coverage but this week he was a different story.  While the Tide implemented combination coverages, DePriest seemed to be assigned to the backs underneath.  On one interesting play, A&M motioned their back out of the backfield and DePriest flew out of the box to the sidelines to shadow him – to a quarterback, this would typically identify the defense as man to man.  However, while DePriest was locked up in man on the back, the rest of the team appeared to be playing a matchup zone.  They did this time and time again, befuddling the Aggie offense to no end.  Man, this was fun to watch!

Zone Dog:  On one of my favorite blitzes, the Tide lined up showing a four man front and with DePriest showing blitz.  The Aggies made their line call to shift for the blitz.  At the snap, Dickson (lined up at DE) and DePriest dropped into coverage and Maurice Smith came blitzing in off the slot!  He had a free run and disrupted the play – another win for the Tide D…

Sic Em:  When Rashaan Evans and Tim Williams are on the field, it’s one heckuva pass rush!  Evans loves to use an “outside-in” move where he speed rushes outside and then ducks inside the tackle.  The tackle has to honor the speed rush and Evans, as a true freshman, already knows when to take advantage.  As for Williams – he’s just awesome coming off the edge.  Best speed rusher we’ve had in a while.

Stick Em:  This was an interesting wrinkle – Reggie Ragland lined up as a defensive end numerous times throughout the game.  This allowed Bama to show a 4-1 look as well as a 3-2 look and even a 3-3 look without changing the personnel on the field.  On his ridiculous interception, the former high school tight end lined up at defensive end and worked a stunt back inside.  There, he was stuffed by the guard so, instead of continuing the rush, Ragland recognized the situation and dropped back slightly with his eyes focused on watching the Aggie QB.  Next thing you know, ole Reggie is going all JJ Watt on us with an awesome interception!  Incredible play…

House of Pain:  Did you see the sidelines erupt when Ragland made that play?  That was so freaking awesome to see.  After being maligned for their performance in Fayetteville, the benches were alive with the sounds of the music of big hits and big plays.  Whether it was Ragland’s pick, Foster’s bone crunching hits, sacks or big offensive plays, the players were jumping around, laughing and having fun the entire game.  Of course my favorite clip was when they were all jumping around to “Jump Around”, and collectively they made Bryant-Denny become a House of Pain for the Aggies.

Buddy Lee:  I still like Dillon Lee in pass coverage – he showed well once again.

Bang Bang:  The first bang is for the hit that Reuben Foster inflicts on the opposition.  The next bang is for the pain he inflicts on himself.  It was awesome to see him as a heat seeking missile on special teams but it’s disturbing to see him ding himself up with a simple tackle on the QB.  This segment should also mention that Jarrick Williams was completely upended (bang) but still managed to make a tackle from the seat of his pants (BANG!).

Tidebits

I think the fact that Kenny Hill isn’t exactly a scrambler helped to defend the Aggies passing game.  In the past, the Tide wasted one player on defense as a spy so he couldn’t help get pressure or play coverage.  But, this year, all hands were available to either rush or play coverage.  However, the real difference in this year’s performance was the defensive line.  Sure, six sacks kind of tells its own story but there are hidden stories in there as well.  Pressures.  Flushes.  Hits.  Even when Hill had time he never looked down the field because he didn’t look comfortable.  Instead of attacking the shorter Bama corners with deep shots, Hill opted for short crossing routes and check downs throughout the game.  I think I remember one deep shot that was well overthrown and that’s about it for the downfield attack.  Coming in, the Aggies’ defense was deplorable and we talked about how bad they looked in previous games.  Our concern was that Hill was still throwing for over 300 yards in those games.  386 yards and 4 TDs against Arkansas.  365 and 4 TDs against Mississippi State.  401 and 2 TDs against Ole Miss.  Folks, that’s getting it done on offense.  But, against Alabama Hill just threw for just 138 yards and a pick thru the air.  Please take a moment to digest how impressive that is.  138 yards passing and a doughnut on the scoreboard – OH WOW!  BTW – wasn’t it good to see that Alabama had been working on defending the bunch formation?  A&M used it so much that they apparently had nothing else in the playbook.

Alabama on Special Teams

It’s nice when JK Scott isn’t the player of the game on special teams (or for the entire team as he was last week), eh?  Even though Christion Jones was bobbling the punt before he took off, it was really, really nice to see him pop one for 47 yards.  Aside from the offense, no one on the team needed a confidence booster as badly as Jones did.

We talked about Reuben Foster puttin’ on the hits but our shout out goes to JK Scott and Geno Smith who combined to bring down the Aggies’ Trey Williams after a 75 yard kickoff return.  Had they not combined to bring him down, that doughnut would have been a seven.  How important is that?  Well, if Alabama is in the conversation for the four playoff spots, psychologically that doughnut will look a whole lot more impressive to the committee than a crooked number.  Could be a huge play down the road…

Final Thoughts

I’ve used this story before but it seems appropriate to reference it again today.  Any time Wade Boggs would go into a hitting slump he’d simply run down to a bar and pick out the ugliest chick in the place for a little “relaxation” and she would be dubbed as The Slump Buster.  On Saturday, the Aggies were certainly the ugliest chick in the place and every facet of the Alabama team that had been in a slump took turns being the best unit on the field.  Slump busted.  And while a lot of that had to do with Alabama’s superior talent, as Gary Danielson stated, no one is THAT good.  Basically, A&M took this one lying down.

But you know what?  Maybe Alabama IS that good when they feel like their coach believes in them.  Maybe they can be that good when there’s some positive energy and a “jump around” attitude on the team.  After the Florida game, I told you guys that I talked to a walk-on who said this year’s team had far more leadership than the 2013 version and I think you are seeing that before your very eyes.  I’ll wait here patiently for AJ McCarron to come out and applaud the leaders on this year’s team…

Sure, the win itself was really, really impressive.  But, what was more impressive to me was the spirit on the sidelines that poured out onto the field time and time again after a big play.  Smiles, hugs, handshakes and rump shakes all around!

JUMP AROUND!  JUMP AROUND!  JUMP UP, JUMP UP AND GET DOWN!