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!

 

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