You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the ole Lone Ranger and you sure as hell shouldn’t send half of your team across the field to get into the faces and mess with the Crimson Tide. From Blackout to Washout to Wipeout, Georgia once again resorted to gimmicks and provocation, and brought a water gun to a gunfight. Bad Dawgs – bad, bad Dawgs.
So the tales of the Tide’s demise have been greatly exaggerated and, while “the dynasty is over” talk dominated the airwaves, Alabama simply went out and reminded everyone that they have a roster that is still chock full of 4 & 5 star athletes on both sides of the ball. Five #1 recruiting classes should tell you that talent isn’t an issue on this team and, when they play focused and angry, they can beat the Dawg out of any team.
Saturday’s monsoon-like weather was a test tailor made for men, and on Saturday, the men were wearing the white jerseys with the crimson helmets. The Tide dominated both lines of scrimmage and played with a confident swagger that we haven’t seen in some time. Meanwhile, after Dabo led Clemson to victory over Notre Dame, I’m officially starting a petition to change “Clemsoning” to “Georgia-ing”. No team annually accomplishes less with more than a Mark Richt coached team and with his guys starting off the game with a juvenile provocation and poking of the Bear is a good reason why. When a wannabe bully starts something with a legitimate bully, the wannabe bully gets his ass kicked and that’s what happened Saturday…
Alabama on Offense
Coming into the game, the question wasn’t “if” Alabama could run on the Georgia defense – the question was whether (weather) or not Lane Kiffin would be content in slamming the ball down the Dawgs’ throat. Well, 47 rushes (to 16 passes) later, Alabama produced their most efficient and dominant offensive game to date. I do not know if it was the weather that dictated the 47 rushes or if it was simply the game plan, but it was certainly the Alabama identity that Nick Saban has been searching for the last two years.
With the running game becoming a focal point for the Georgia defense, predictably the play action passing game opened up. Jake Coker looked extremely confident when play-action passing on first down, hitting Calvin Ridley for 50, 14, and 45 yards, and Ardarius Stewart for 23 yards – all on first and 10 throws. Defensively, Georgia was selling out to stop the run and Alabama selectively took advantage when they chose to do so. Jake Coker isn’t a guy who should be asked to fling it 44 times. However, Coker is a surprisingly athletic QB who can confidently deliver the ball when he has the time to do so. In other words, Saturday’s game plan was the recipe for winning that the Tide needs to follow this season. Bon appetite, SEC!
The Lighthouse staff is once again pressed for time this week (we haven’t even begun reviewing Arkansas for the upcoming W2W4), so we once again have to offer up an abbreviated game review. However, with only 16 throws to evaluate this week the QB review should go fairly quickly!
The breakthrough throw this week was obviously the 45 yard strike for a touchdown to Ridley. The throw was a thing of beauty and finally rewarded Coker for continually throwing the deep ball. However, there were two other throws that were pretty much works of art and I wanted to bring them to your attention here.
The first throw was a 24 yard strike to Richard Mullaney that set up Alabama’s first points of the game. This play was a variation of the same play that Coker completed for 50, 18 and 45 yards and it’s a booger to try and stop. Bama loves throwing the WR screens and Georgia’s Dawgs were in attack mode whenever the screen was shown. On Mullaney’s 24 yard catch, Coker’s eyes flashed right where a wide receiver screen was being shown. This manipulated the linebackers and safeties up towards the line of scrimmage in anticipation of the screen. Once he manipulated the Georgia defense, Coker’s eyes came back to the middle of the field where Mullaney had beaten all-everything Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. Coker threw a perfect strike, gaining early confidence for the throws he made later in the game. But, please note that all of the key throws came off of this wonderful play action.
Coker played an exceptional game, making the right decision just about 100% of the time. And, he continues to surprise defenses with his mobility, running untouched for a touchdown from the Georgia 2. The outside containment bit so hard on Coker’s fake to Henry that the LB (a UAB transfer who now starts for the Dawgs) nearly slipped and fell as Coker flew on by for a touchdown. The staff is finding a variety of different ways to make use of Coker’s skillset and we look for this to continue to expand and get refined throughout the season.
Well, hello there Derrick Henry! He ran around and thru defenders throughout the afternoon, making the heavy downpour of rain mixed with his own thunder nearly unbearable. Henry obviously had a huge game but his best runs were the types of runs he’s not exactly known for. We all know when he gets a head of steam then he’s a wrecking ball but Saturday he showed a keen ability to bounce to the outside and turn the corner against one of the faster defenses he’ll face. He’s had a few great games but, to us, this was Henry’s best performance as a Crimson Tider.
Meanwhile, an APB has been put out for Kenyan Drake. For the second time this season, Bama’s secret weapon remained a secret. The rain obviously hampered Drake’s ability to turn the corner and basically neutralized his ability to make plays so we hope drier weather will bring about the lightning to the Tide’s Derrick Henry thunder.
We’ve been hard on the Bama pass catchers this season because they haven’t shown much consistency when catching the football. Naturally, on the worst possible day to catch a pass, they operated at 100% efficiency. Mullaney, Stewart and Ridley are showing much more consistency and that may be a product of getting the vast majority of the reps these days due to attrition. This helps develop their timing with Coker and it helps grow their confidence in themselves. On Saturday, they played a nearly perfect game and gave Bama fans a renewed confidence in the passing game.
Gary Danielson telestrated Derrick Henry’s 30 yard touchdown jaunt perfectly and it showed the dominant form that the Tide’s line can become. Everyone on the line locked in on their man and controlled them at the point of impact, allowing Henry a wide lane that he could easily run thru. Quite honestly, there were still far too many penalties on the line and there were a few blocking breakdowns once again but this was certainly their best effort to date. The line certainly does deserve credit for holding up and protecting the pocket on the play action passes which allowed Coker the time to wait for the long routes to develop. Overall, not a perfect performance but it was definitely progress.
Alabama on Defense
What can you say about the Alabama defense? Yes, Nick Chubb got his 100+ yard game but by the time he broke off his 83 yard touchdown, the game was all but over. Kirby Smart once again had his defensive ends flattening out and containing the edge and this kept Chubb hemmed in between the tackles. In the games we reviewed for the W2W4, Chubb’s biggest gainers were on plays that started up the middle and then bounced to the outside but with Bama’s ends shutting this down, Chubb’s only option was to run into the teeth of the Tide’s defense.
Meanwhile, Georgia QB Grayson Lambert played as though he was scared to death. Nearly everything he threw was underneath and he held the ball entirely too long which allowed the Bama pass rush to eventually get there. The Alabama defense mixed up their zone blitzes throughout the game and they showed far more imagination during this game than they have in a very long time. With the Tide not having to worry about containing the QB, Smart and Saban aggressively mixed blitzes and coverages at will. It was a fun game to review as the Tide would show six rushers and rush six, then show six and rush four and then show six and rush a totally unexpected four.
Our absolute favorite blitz actually came from a three man front. I’ll post a Vine on this but basically Bama’s left defensive end lined up over the center, shifting the nose tackle over the Georgia left tackle. Tim Williams, Bama’s best pass rusher, aligned outside of the left tackle – nearly across from the slot receiver. At the snap, the Dawgs’ tackle had to kick outside to lock up on Williams. This left Georgia’s left guard isolated on Jarren Reed, which mean both the tackle and the guard on the left side were occupied. With Williams arcing around the end, this left a huge lane for nickel corner Mincah Fitzpatrick to waltz in and make a huge sack. This was so freaking cool…
Saturday was Exhibit A as to why the Tide’s d-line is not only considered the best college line in the country, but many consider it rife with first round NFL talent. The Georgia offense allowed Bama’s line to man up in a phone booth and it let them get physical at the point of attack. Instead of being attacked laterally (300 lb men don’t excel at running sideline to sideline) like a spread offense operates, Georgia simply comes downhill and expects to overpower defenses in the trenches. Well, that might work against the likes of Vandy, Kentucky and Georgia Tech but it’s an epic failure against Alabama.
Once again, Gary Danielson did an excellent job showing the “two gap” technique that Bama employs. As we’ve discussed in this space many, many times, Alabama’s defensive linemen are asked to fire off the ball and lock out their arms, thereby knocking the offensive line back and allowing the Tide defenders to control both the left shoulder and right shoulder of the offensive lineman (thereby controlling two gaps). This tactic is outstanding against the run but it generates next to zero pass rush – this is why Bama annually struggles to generate sacks. Anyway, beasties like A’shawn Robinson, Jarren Reed and Daron Payne completely and totally dominated their two gaps at the line of scrimmage all day long and Georgia had nowhere to run to….and nowhere to hide.
Shoutouts have to go out to Payne, Reed and Robinson across the front. In particular, Payne, a true freshman, played like a full grown man. Georgia had no answer for him as their line was continuously knocked backwards one or two yards deep into their own backfield by Payne throughout the game.
Quite honestly, the defensive line did most of the heavy lifting on Saturday which meant the Tide linebackers could simply plug holes all afternoon long. When you think back to the game, ask yourself how many times Reuben Foster, Reggie Ragland or Shaun Dion-Hamilton were isolated in a one on one matchup with Chubb or Sony Michel. After reviewing the tape, I can tell you it happened maybe twice – and that’s because the defensive line was so darn dominant.
The best linebacker play we saw came from Shaun Dion-Hamilton and Denzell Devall. On a 3rd & 1, Devall (lined up at defensive end) blew thru the block of the Dawg’s tight end, quickly forcing Chubb back inside towards the pursuit. Dion-Hamilton was the backside linebacker on the play and he found his way thru the scrum to make a solo tackle on Chubb, dropping him for a yard loss. Pretty dang sweet…
Wow, what a game by the Tide’s defensive backs, eh? Picks by Humphrey, Jackson and Harrison made for a pretty impressive performance by the defensive backfield. Factor in the sack and blocked punt by Minkah Fitzpatrick and the consistent run support on the flanks by Cyrus Jones and it was a pretty complete game. Yes, Geno Matias-Smith took a really bad angle on Chubb’s touchdown run but he also had a couple of key tackles, as well. Overall, this was the best game the defensive backs have played as a unit and we hope this is something they can build on.
The blocked punt by Fitzpatrick was kind of like stealing candy or a football from a baby. Georgia’s line aligned with wide gaps which allowed Fitzpatrick with a free run at the punter. The scheme asks for the three remaining blockers or “personal protectors” to pick up any free runners and deflect them to the outside. The problem for Georgia came when the outside protector was called upon to block someone who came free up the middle and this allowed Fitzpatrick to get the block. I’ve never seen a block where the dude had to slow down to get the ball but that was the case on this one. This play broke the game open and on the next Alabama possession, Coker hit Ridley for a 45 yard TD and what was a 10-3 game quickly turned into a 24-3 rout.
There were a few other positive moments for the special teams. I no longer hold my breath when Cyrus Jones catches a punt. I still have nightmares about Jones catching punts in the rain at Arkansas last year but this year there’s a quiet certainty that he’ll make the catch. He’s come close to busting loose on a couple so it’s only a matter of time before he makes a huge play in the return game.
Meanwhile, Adam Griffith knocked another field goal home so it appears that the crisis that is the Bama place kicker situation has been averted for the moment. However, JK Scott is still MIA this season.
Based on what we saw from Alabama this season compared with the film review of Georgia, this game did not appear to set up well for the Tide. Georgia’s blitzing defense was exactly the style of defense the Bama line had struggled with this season. The short passing game of the Dawgs isolated their backs on linebackers which should have been a huge advantage for Georgia.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to the kickoff. Georgia got cute. Georgia tried to bully the Tide with childish intimidation tactics – a classic Mark Richt trademark. If the Dawgs didn’t have Bama’s attention before the game, they certainly did after the shenanigans that happened before the game even kicked off. Thank you, Georgia.
Alabama was sleep walking against Ole Miss (and with an 8:15 kickoff, who could blame them) but Georgia’s antics got the Tide’s full attention. You can’t bully a bully when you are not a bully and if history has taught us anything, a Richt team is anything but a bully. Bama totally and completely owned both lines of scrimmage and they manned up when the weather and the situation demanded it. Across the field, there was simply way too much “bull” in the dogs.
Note to the world: The Tide dynasty is anything but over and the Alabama players and coaching staff want to make damn sure that Georgia and everyone else in the SEC is keenly aware. This is going to be a really fun stretch run this season so to use Avery Johnson’s catch phrase, you better “Buckle Up!”