Alabama vs ULM Game Review

It was never pretty but it then again it was never going to be any kind of beautiful masterpiece.  A sandwich game between Ole Miss and Georgia produced a predictably lethargic performance from the offense (perhaps the play calling was just a little off due to another “late night at the office” for Lane Kiffin).  Defensively, Alabama benefited from the “Make Love Not War-hawks” offensive attack which provided the Tide defense with an opportunity to work out their aggressions (similarly to what Deontay Wilder must do to a listless punching bag).

Perhaps the biggest positive of this game being on the schedule was that it provided struggling Adam Griffith with a couple of opportunities to get himself straightened out and, thankfully, he delivered.  Griffith knocked home two very well struck kicks and he now goes into the Georgia game having converted an unimaginable three kicks in a row!  We aren’t calling this three kick stretch a Duck Dynasty by any means but the boys from Monroe, Louisiana were the perfect cure all for the Bama defense and the kicking game.  Let’s take a look at a few things that stood out on Saturday…

Alabama on Offense

All eyes turned to Jake Coker Saturday as he finally assumed the role of unquestioned leader at the quarterback position.  His performance against Ole Miss netted Coker all of the first team reps this week and ULM provided him with the perfect opportunity to try out his new crown and scepter in a practice game type of environment.  The results were scattered, smothered, chunked and diced, as were a few of his throws, but Coker was also betrayed by six drops, which Saban referenced in his post game comments.  Yep, no more Waffling for Saban – he’s finally backing Coker.  Overall, the game provided Coker with much needed reps with his line and his receivers as he now begins preparing for the meaty bits of the schedule.

Oh Line – The offensive line will get much of the blame this week for the Tide’s uneven performance against the Warhawks.  Ross Pierschbacher missed the first block of the game and we were off and running.  On the next play, OJ Howard missed a blitz pickup on the edge and suddenly the Tide was behind the chains.  Kelly and Taylor struggled once again this week with Taylor looking particularly bad on several occasions.  Taylor was called for offsides and missed three different blitz pickups.  Not good.  Look for more reps from Mr Bozeman against Georgia.

One is the Lonliest:  Whenever you see a bunch formation to one side and one lone receiver to the other side, there’s about a 90% chance that Coker will throw to the lone receiver.  It’s nearly automatic.

Ridley Me This:  Calvin Ridley had some ups and downs during the game and that’s probably what we should expect from a true freshman wide receiver.  Ridley scored his first collegiate touchdown but he also dropped an easy second career touchdown.  But, it’s apparent the staff wants the ball in this kids hands and who could blame them?  On the second drive of the game, Coker hit Ridley on the same zone read play action that Bateman hit Howard on last week and missed Drake on later in the game.

You’re My Boy, Blue:  If it’s a crucial third down, look for #16 to be the targeted receiver.  Coker seems to trust Mullaney and he looks for him any time he needs to complete a critical pass.

Who Are You:  What is Alabama’s offensive identity?  Bama is a team that throws the ball on 3rd&2 or 3rd&3.  That’s who we are.

Backin’ Black:  Remember Chris Black?  He showed up Saturday and he showed what a veteran receiver can bring to the offense.   Twice, Black cut his route off when he recognized a blitz, thereby making himself a wide open target.  Nice to be Back in Black…

F.U.:  I mean, is there any other way to interpret Bama getting called for an ineligible receiver downfield?  Worse yet, the line is allowed to be 3 yards down field and they were about 2.5.  I think the officials wanted to send a message to the Tide staff about ineligible receivers downfield.

Tidebits

  • Coker used a ton of audibles at the line of scrimmage this week. That’s essential as he begins to get comfortable with either getting the Tide into a good play or out of a bad play.
  • Mullaney lined up at fullback in one formation and they slipped him out for a corner pass which Coker just missed. Interesting design.
  • Kiffin called essentially the same running play off the left side of the Bama line six consecutive times before giving the ball to Henry for a 2 yard touchdown run on fourth down.
  • I’d really like to see Ardarius Stewart attack the deep balls that are underthrown. I get it – the balls have been underthrown.  However, he’s not nearly being physical enough.
  • Coker looks pretty good when he throws out routes and when he rolls right and throws on the move.
  • Coker doesn’t look good when he throws the football while being hit in the chest.
  • There are still plays being run where the line looks disjointed. It’s like the snap takes place but the lineman are unaware of the snap count.  Also, we ran a play where Drake just stood there in the pistol behind Coker and did nothing.  He didn’t block.  Didn’t go out for a pass. Didn’t run a play action fake.    Weird.
  • Alabama looked pretty good in the pistol when they ran to the left.
  • Late in the first half, Drake had to go out and Harris came in on a critical fourth down. Harris, the true freshman running back, didn’t pick up a blitz and Bama failed to convert the fourth down.
  • Loved the call to throw a play action pass to Nysewander out of the backfield!

Alabama on Defense

As we stated in the W2W4, ULM’s plan on Saturday was to keep the clock moving and get out of Tuscaloosa as quickly as possible.  In fact, the Warhawks got out of Bryant-Denny even faster than Lane Kiffin does after a loss!  So, it wasn’t surprising that Alabama’s defense completely and totally dominated every category known to man – after accounting for six sacks, Alabama held ULM to 92 total yards of offense!  92 total yards!  The Tide secondary even rebounded after a dreadful performance against Ole Miss and recorded a couple of picks!  And, with only one missed tackle on the day, the Tide’s defense reminded us all of why they were so ballyhooed at the beginning of the season.  There really wasn’t a lot to dissect during the game but here are a few goodies that stood out to us.

Defensive Line

We love, love, love putting Deshawn Hand and Ryan Anderson at defensive end.  About the only thing we loved more than that was seeing Rashaan Evans and Tim Williams at defensive end.  All four of these guys enveloped the pocket from the outside and that helped the Tide amass six sacks on the day.  The speed and power from these guys is pretty amazing and we are left wondering what they could have contributed against the Ole Miss Rebels last week.

There was a significant change in the way the ends played the ULM spread this week.  Instead of having the ends crash down, this week they all stayed outside in an effort to contain the edge runs.  This worked beautifully as the QB read the end and kept the ball the majority of the time, resulting in negligible gains (Denzell Devall played his best game yet).  This was MUCH better than last week.

Lastly, the line was just completely and totally dominant all day long.  This is what it should look like when you have NFL first rounders playing against FBS competition – at times you almost felt sorry for the Warhawks.  Almost.  Multiple times the Tide ran games and stunts that allowed the defensive ends to come free up the middle.  And, as with the first three games, the Tide’s line spiked down more balls than Misty May and Keri Walsh….

Linebackers

The flow of the linebackers seemed better this week as Foster and Ragland seemed to be more involved in making plays against Louisiana-Monroe.  Both Foster and Ronnie Harrison blew up screen passes, which was really nice to see.  We did see a play where ULM went with an empty backfield, forcing Reggie Ragland into 1 on 1 coverage against a back.   Look for that to be used against us later in the year.

Secondary

Well, hello there Ronnie Harrison!  The true freshman was forced into action when Maurice Smith went out last week and he’s excelled in his dime role against the spread.  First he walloped a poor, unsuspecting Hawk and then he picked off a pass later in the game.  Nicely done, #15!

Overall, the secondary was much, much better this week both in coverage and in run support.  Run support seemed to be a point of emphasis for the corners this week as that was an aspect of their game that was severely lacking last week against the Rebels.  Also, the secondary flocked towards any wide receiver screens and they defended that play the best they have all season.

Tidebits

  • Can we have an afternoon where Williams and Evans just rush the passer all day?  I think we have two Myles Garretts on the team if we could just get them on the field.
  • Hand played a really strong game after Jonathan Allen went out (with what looked to be a shoulder that popped out of place).
  • Tide linemen are recognizing the cut blocks by the tackles and are staying on their feet and getting their hands in the air time and time again. Cut blocks are meant to take the ends to the ground in order to open up a quick throwing lane.  By staying on their feet, the ends are getting to a few of these passes.

Alabama on Special Teams

For the first time this year, you can’t say anything negative about Adam Griffith and boy was that good to see.  Griffith’s resurgence will be the key to winning (or losing) a few games this season so seeing him get back to striking the ball confidently was nice to see.  Also, JK Scott boomed a 52 yarder – of course he was 52 yards away from the end zone so he only netted 32 yards but, still…

The one concern we had on Saturday was Bama’s inability to spring a return.  Both the punt return and the kick return game has been sub-par this season and with all of the talent that is on the roster, you would expect much better results.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t pretty but it was pretty necessary – the Tide needed an opponent they could manhandle defensively while they continue to work out the kinks offensively.  Mission accomplished.

Now Bama prepares for Georgia in what should be a fascinating game between the Hedges.  For the first time since 2009, Vegas does not consider Alabama to be the favorite team – Georgia is now a 2.5 point favorite over the Tide.  However, the nation seems to have prematurely buried the Tide in a watery grave and we think the stories of Bama’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Georgia plays an offensive style that Alabama’s defense is built to annihilate.  In the end, the game will be decided by the quarterback that makes the most plays.  Right now, Georgia fans probably feel about the same as Alabama fans do about their quarterback situation but at least Jake Coker has one shootout under his belt.  Greyson Lambert?  Not so much.  Man, we can’t wait for Saturday to get here…

For more Alabama commentary, you can follow me on Twitter – @lneck25

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