Bama vs Washington – a Peachy Game Review

This week’s schedule is all out of whack for the Bama Lighthouse so please excuse the lateness of the Washington game review. Like Bill Belichick, we’ve moved on to Clemson with studies of their games against NC State, Pittsburgh, Va Tech and Ohio State on the menu for our viewing pleasure. As a result, the W2W4 should come out on Sunday around 7PM.

However, there are quite a few notes that we need to get out there from the Washington game review and, if you’ve got the time then we’ve got the goods for you. This week’s review is in classic bullet point style – we’ve no time to waste since we’ve got so many games to study. And, like you, I’m anxious to read what I have to say about the upcoming national championship game…

But today’s topic is the Washington game. Of course, before we can get to the Washington game review, we are obligated to spend a good bit of time discussing the firing (spare me the “it was a mutual parting” BS) of Lane Kiffin and the official hiring of Steve Sarkisian.

The Lane Train Has Left the Station – Is that Good or Bad?

I’ve heard from so many of you guys regarding Kiffin’s departure. Many of you guys see the Kiffin firing and the Sarkisian hiring as a tremendous upgrade that should instantly breathe life into a lifeless offense. I honestly don’t see how that can be possible. Here’s why…

First, the offense is the offense…is the offense. Sark will run the same plays Kiffin did with the same personnel groupings. Folks, the Bama offense is the Bama offense. More importantly, Sark cannot block for Korren Kirven, who had an abysmal game against Washington. Sark cannot force Jalen Hurts to work his progressions and throw the ball to open receivers. Hurts has reverted into a one read and scramble quarterback and one edition of “Sark Week” isn’t going to cure that. We’ve been telling you in this space for quite some time that Hurts has been regressing as a passer. He’s completely stopped working his progressions and you are now seeing how bad that can be. Sark will need an entire offseason to coach this out of Hurts.

When is the last time Steve Sarkisian was even an offensive coordinator? If you answered 2008 then you would be correct. There’s a rhythm and a flow to calling plays. There’s a communication that is taking place with the guys in the booth that helps determine the next play and determine the plays after that. Then, once Sark has determined the play, there’s the communication from Sark to the guys holding the boards that has to take place. These things are the things that should not be taken for granted and these are things that could make it even more difficult to get to the line of scrimmage and run a play before the play clock expires.

Lastly, and most importantly, Kiffin and Hurts have been “married” for over a year and along the way they developed a non-verbal communication pattern that all married couples enjoy. You all know what your wife/husband is thinking with just a simple look or a glance from them. Kiffin knew when to push Hurts and when to back off. He knew when to cajole and he knew when to console his true freshman QB. For better or for worse, Kiffin was the “wubbie” or “blankey” for Hurts all season and now the comforting voice that has been there all season is gone. Everyone inexplicably assumes that Hurts can now just quickly remarry and get it on with Sark without missing a beat. Relationships just don’t work that way. Like it or not, Hurts will have a new voice in his ear and it’s not the voice that made him the SEC offensive player of the year.

To the good, whatever Kiffin’s tendencies were that Clemson discovered are now completely worthless and there is an advantage to be gained there. Clemson has no analytics to know what Sark will call on 3&4. And it sounds as though a formerly divided coaching staff will now be a united staff after Kiffin’s dismissal and there’s a tremendous benefit to having a cohesive staff. Players know when there is discord amongst the coaching staff and now with everyone pulling in the same direction (with no unnecessary distractions) then perhaps the Tide offense can roll onward.

Whatever the issues, at the end of the day Saban saw no other alternative but to fire Kiffin and promote Sark. It was not a decision Saban made lightly but a decision he had no other choice but to make. And now we’ll all hold our breath to see what impact this decision will have on the Bama offense.

Ok, enough of that. On to the Washington review…

Alabama on Offense 

Ugh. Fugly. That’s the word we use around the Lighthouse’s home office and that’s the word we use to describe the Tide’s offense against the Huskies. Fugly. We warned that UW had a top defense and that passing windows simply would not be available and, lo and behold, on the first pass of the game we were proven right. Thankfully, Bo Scarborough also proved us right. We told you he would be the weapon that would slayed the Washington Huskies and he most certainly was.

On the night, there were numerous fugly things that changing coordinators likely cannot solve. False starts. Delays of game. Holding. Formation penalties. Piss poor blocking. Piss poor passing attempts. These were the things that tried men’s souls and these are the things that Sark will be trying to clean up this week. Here’s what we saw…

Quarterback

  • Hurts was late on his throw to OJ Howard that was nearly picked. Buddah Baker baited (say that three times fast) Hurts into throwing the corner route to Howard and, had Hurts actually READ the coverage, he could have easily dumped the ball down to Stewart for a nice gainer. We’ve been telling you that Hurts has regressed as a passer and this was on clear display against UW.
  • Coming into the game, UW defenders said that Hurts would look at his first read and first read only and then would scamper if the read wasn’t there. On the Howard throw that was nearly picked, he stared Howard down which allowed Baker to flee his zone responsibility and nearly pick off the pass.
  • Several deep shots were dialed up for Hurts but, each time, he would drop back and stare at the receiver for a moment only to panic and run. This failing is NOT on Kiffin and is not something a new OC can fix with magic fairy dust.
  • On one play action pass attempt Dieter ran a slant out of the slot and was covered tightly. As Hurts stared in this direction, further out wide left Calvin Ridley was also running a slant and he was wide open. Hurts held the ball and took a bad sack.
  • Kiffin tried to out-think the room by calling for a play action pass off the same formation that has blasted out 27 yards on the previous two rushing plays. This resulted in the intentional grounding that took the Tide out of scoring position.
  • Washington started blitzing their safety with big success in the second quarter and Hurts was unable to identify it. If I noticed it, Clemson DC Brent Venables probably saw it, too.
  • On 3&6 and 3&7 Kiffin’s play sheet evidently called for anything other than Hurts throwing a pass. They did not trust Hurts to throw the ball.
  • With 8 mins to go in the game, Kiffin “smartly” dialed up two passes in three plays, running off a mere 52 seconds off the clock with a 24-7 lead. Inexcusable.

Offensive Line

  • Seven penalties on the Bama offense included false starts, delays of game, formation and holding penalties. There were actually two or three other false starts that should have been called but weren’t. Throughout much of Saturday’s contest it looked like Bama’s first game rather than their 14th . Plays were slow getting into the huddle. There was no urgency to get to the line or get the snap off. And the line looked discombobulated and out of sync on numerous occasions. Even the wide receivers were lost at times, not even knowing what the play was right before the snap.
  • Speaking of the line, Ross Pierschbacher and Korren Kirven likely had a miserable day in the film room following the game. UW’s 300 pounders absolutely worked these guys on numerous occasions. Kirven, in particular, was very bad. If you still have the game, watch what happened to him on the 4&1 on Bama’s last possession. Brutal.
  • Tempo was a huge plus for Alabama – particularly with repeated runs. While Washington’s line boasted three 300 pounders, they weren’t exactly in the kind of shape to withstand the Tide’s tempo. This was a critical piece of the limited success the Tide offense had.
  • Cam Robinson really played his ass off. Every big run was to Cam’s side.

Running Backs

  • Scarborough had been a bit player for the entire season but, as we predicted in the W2W4, big Bo was the #1 option in the running game and he was awesome sauce.
  • The number of missed tackles Bo forces is just insane. It’s not fair to be that big, that fast and that nimble.
  • The best thing to happen to the Tide was to get backed up on their own 2 yard line after Browning’s punt. This forced the Tide to hammer the ball off the goal line with the running game and resulted in Bo Scarborough taking over. The offensive play of the game occurred on 3&9 at the Bama 3 yard line. Kiffin called for a counter play that allowed Pierschbacher and Robinson to block down from the left side while Kirven and Howard pulled from the right as lead blockers. The initial push of Pierschbacher and Robinson pinned one side of the running lane leaving Kirven with a perfect angle to block out the defensive end. Howard’s lead block on the linebacker provided the final opening for big Bo to rumble 13 yards for a critical first down.
  • Three plays later, Bo completed perhaps the run of the season. Once again big Cam caved in the left side of the line but the hole closed quickly as two UW defenders hit Bo squarely, seemingly knocking him down. However, Scarborough righted himself with one arm and quickly burst past a completely unaware Ridley (who thought the play was over). Bo then deftly side stepped a safety and then the race was on. Bo raced to the UW 28 where he picked up a block by Ardarius Stewart who hustled his butt off to get there. Bo cut back inside and picked up one final hustling block by…Gehrig “Sprockets” Dieter scoring a pivotal and awesome touchdown for the Tide. In all, Bo showed speed, power, vision, balance, wiggle and heart on his way to a 68 yard run masterpiece that saw him avoid seven different tackles along the way.

Receivers

  • Speaking of Howard, as we stated in the W2W4 (y’all still read those, right?) he was the #1 receiver for Hurts against the Huskies. I really liked the way they used him out of the backfield – nifty little design that allowed him to get wide open.
  • Gehrig Dieter is one bad ass blocking machine. Dieter enjoyed his best game for the Tide with several key blocks that led to huge gainers. When he first arrived on campus he was a pass catcher only so to watch him evolve as a blocker has been a beautiful thing to see. He had critical blocks on both Bama offensive TDs.
  • After a false start created a 3&6 from the UW 24, the Tide had to burn a timeout as they couldn’t get a play called and snapped before taking a delay of game. After having time to think about it, Kiffin called for a wide receiver (Stewart) to run a sweep from the shotgun position. Um? There was a lane there for Stewart and, if he were, you know, a running back, he would have likely seen it. But, not having ever read blocks from that angle/position, Stewart misread the blocks and gained one measly yard. That one is on Kiffin.

Alabama on Defense

What can you say about the Bama defense? Are they the best of all time? Well, save for one lone drive, the #4 offense in the country was completely and totally shut down by this amazing group of defenders. Coming into the game, Browning averaged a ridiculous 9.3 yards per ATTEMPT but Alabama’s defense limited him to just 3.95 yards per attempt Saturday. A team that averaged 200 yards rushing ended up with just 44 rushing yards. It was a dominating effort. Here are a few things we saw when we re-watched the game…

Strategy

  • Interestingly, Alabama flanked Ronnie Harrison over the slot and moved Rueben Foster out to check the tight end who was flanked out wide. This vacated the entire middle of the defense and Browning took advantage by running for a big first down early in the game. Bama kept someone in the middle after this.
  • I’m surprised Peterson didn’t try to speed up the tempo of his offense.
  • I’m surprised Peterson didn’t dial up ANY trick plays.
  • In the second half, Pruitt dialed up a few fun blitzes using Anderson to drop into zone coverage. Pre-snap, Anderson showed blitz up the A gap but at the snap, he dropped into the zone that either Tony Brown or Averett had vacated when they blitzed. This was always to Tim Williams’ side, allowing him to work in one on one situations.
  • Wonder if the Championship Game refs will be looking for Anderson to clap his hands in an effort to cause an early snap again?
  • The Husky receivers did not run down the field on running plays so the Bama DBs could read run and come up to provide run support.

Defensive Line

  • Early on, what Dalvin Tomlinson was doing to the Huskies right guard was enough to call PETA onto the scene. Washington’s entire blocking scheme had to change in order to allow their center to help their right guard as much as possible. Credit Todd Blackledge for calling attention to this mismatch.
  • Washington tight ends simply could not block Allen or Anderson.
  • In the games I watched leading up to this game, Washington’s offensive line consistently blocked the second level of the defenses they faced. Alabama’s defensive line didn’t allow this. Their ability to stack the Husky OL at the line prohibited their ability to get to the Tide linebackers.
  • Jonathan Allen had a helluva play that flew under the radar a bit. On a stunt inside, Allen saw that the right guard chose to run downfield rather than pick him up on the pass rush. Allen instinctively looked into the backfield to see Browning throwing a screen to Gaskin, who was hiding behind the guard. Allen tackled him for a loss instantly. Savvy move and read by Allen. As if size, strength and speed isn’t enough – he has a tremendous football IQ, too.
  • Ryan Anderson’s interception was just so outstanding. First off, remember, he’s a defensive end, ok? Second, his job was to rush the passer but peel off if the back flared out for a pass. His ability on the play to rush the passer, re-route in mid stride and pick up the back, the route and the ball was amazing. And then the “get off me bitch” slap of the running back was Marcel Dareus-esque!

Linebackers

  • Reuben Foster blew a coverage on Gaskin, as did Rashaan Evans. Ryan Anderson blew a coverage on the H-back once. Look for Leggett and Gallman to be utilized in the passing game in an effort to take advantage of this.
  • Tim Williams is fast off the edge. Rashaan Evans is faster.
  • Rashaan Evans came up from his LB position and absolutely STONED a pulling guard. This completely disrupted the running play….and the guard’s equilibrium!

Defensive Backs

  • Anthony Averett played the game of his life. What you saw was him dominating in pass coverage but what you likely didn’t see is how hard Averett came up in run support on the edges. In a word, he was outstanding and was Alabama’s best corner once again on this night. Washington was confident and driving for the second possession in a row when Averett ripped the ball out to cause a fumble – a game changing moment. Later, he even recorded a sack!
  • Marlon Humphrey was bested with a double move for Washington’s lone touchdown. Look for Clemson to dial up about a dozen double moves Monday night. Watson will have the ability to extend the plays and allow his receivers to work on longer patterns.
  • Tony Brown probably played his best game in a crimson jersey. He blew up a bubble screen, played tight coverage throughout the game (giving up two passes) and he absolutey TRUCKED Gaskin when he tried to provide some pass protection, resulting in a huge sack. His physicality was shocking!
  • John Ross was not the same player after Ronnie Harrison ear-holed him with a vicious hit on a slant in the second quarter.

Special Teams

  • Ross is an exceptional kick off returner so tackling him inside the 20 yard line on three separate occasions showed extraordinary coverage by Alabama’s special teams.
  • Do not discount the field goal that Adam Griffith stroked in the 2nd After the Georgia Dome was such a house of horrors for him against Florida, it was great to see him drill that kick with confidence.
  • Perhaps the MVP of the game should have been JK Scott since he boomed 8 punts for a 45.9 yard average, including four punts that landed inside the 20. Bama dominated field position and it was no small reason that Washington’s offense was bottled up.
  • Can someone please explain to me why deploying TWO punt returners would have been a bad idea? And for the love of God, Trevon, catch the ball instead of running away from it! If he continues to give up 10, 20 and 30 yards of field position by letting the ball bounce then I don’t see how he retains his starting punt returner status.

Final Thoughts

The Tide coaching staff knew early on that the Washington offense did not have what it takes to score against Alabama’s vaunted defense. With that knowledge in hand, they also knew the only way Bama could lose the game would be to repeatedly hand the ball over to the Huskies.   So, the Tide brain trust invoked an offensive game plan that would make even Gene Stallings say, “Men, if I had my druthers, I might open it up a bit.”

So, take consolation in the fact that Alabama didn’t have to do anything more than run the ball and generate more than 7 points to win the game. But, take notice of the fact that the offensive line, quarterbacks and offensive coaching staff struggled in a way that we haven’t seen a Tide offense struggle since Mike Shula was at the helm. Perhaps Sark can pull just the right strings to tighten things up…and say the right things to get his true freshman QB to loosen up and play to his capabilities.

Time will tell. And time is something Sarkisian doesn’t happen have to make any significant changes to the Tide’s attack.

Advertisements

Alabama versus LSU Game Review

Going into the game against LSU, we felt one thing was for certain – Alabama’s offense wouldn’t be able to throw the ball effectively against LSU. Jalen Hurts’ continued regression as a passer combined with LSU’s outstanding coverage foretold of problems in the passing game. We weren’t wrong about this.

We also said that Jalen Hurts would rush for over 100 yards and would be the best weapon the Tide would have Saturday night. We weren’t wrong about this, either.

Let’s face it – the W2W4 was pretty spot on in breaking down Alabama’s offense against LSU’s defense and we know there were more than a few of you cussing us when it was tied 0-0 with 13:30 left to go in the fourth quarter.  Prior to the game, the Lighthouse switchboard operators heard from many of you who told us that Alabama would “crush” LSU and that the Lighthouse was out of their mind for even thinking this would be a close game.

We feel vindicated since we were all on the edge of our seats until late in the fourth quarter. We knew this would be a very challenging game for the Tide.

What we didn’t know is how truly dominant the Alabama defensive front seven would be. Gone were defensive stalwarts like A’shawn Robinson, Jarren Reed, Reggie Ragland and DJ Pettway. Gone, too, was starting safety Eddie Jackson. In their place were lighter, faster players who were better suited to defend the spread offenses than the power I formation of the LSU Tigers.

We didn’t know that it didn’t matter. However, now we know. We got the message. No further questions, your honor.

Credit Jeremy Pruitt for masterminding a completely and totally dominant defensive effort that shut out the Tigers and shut up the naysayers. Roll Freaking Tide, people!

Here’s what we saw when we finally got a chance to watch the game on film…

Alabama on Offense

As predicted, the Alabama offense struggled mightily to put any points on the board against LSU for the majority of the game. Coming into the game, we felt that the Bama passing game (and Jalen Hurts in particular) had been regressing over the past few ballgames and we felt LSU’s secondary would not be the “pick me up bouquet” that Kiffin’s aerial attack needed.

However, we felt strongly that there were yards to be gained on the ground if Hurts decided to keep the ball on the zone read and, thankfully, that’s exactly how things played out.

Anatomy of a Game Winning Drive (12 plays, 90 yards): The turning point of the game occurred when the Bama defense turned back the Tigers after they recovered Hurts’ egregious fumble. Only two of the 12 plays of the drive were passes but one of them may have been the biggest offensive play of the game. Here’s how the drive went down:

  • Miller Forristall was on the receiving end of a 22 yard completion that converted a 2&15 and moved the Tide out of the shadow of their own goal post. It was the one and only time during the game Alabama forced LSU to blow a coverage. Bama faked a screen to both sides of the field while Forristall slipped out into the flat for a huge momentum shifting play.
  • Bo Scarborough and Hurts combined to pick up 10 yards and LSU’s late hit out of bounds pushed the Tide near midfield.
  • With the Tigers reeling, Hurts then kept the ball on a zone read and suddenly Bama was at LSU’s 41 yard line, marking only the third time the Tide had entered Tiger territory.
  • Facing a critical 4&1 at the LSU 32, the end of the quarter allowed Kiffin & Co time to conjure up the call of the game. Bama hurried to the line of scrimmage with an overloaded bunch formation to the wide side (left) of the field. Before LSU could adjust, Hurts had pitched the ball to big Bo and Bama had numbers on the edge. Mack Wilson and Cam Robinson had huge blocks and then Bo’s burst bolted him past the Tiger pursuit. It was a HUGE call in the game and perfectly executed.
  • With all of that momentum, Bama still faced a long 3&9 at the LSU 21. Hurts sprinted right but immediately saw open field and cut the ball back inside in a mad dash to the goal line. One defender was completely shaken out of his boots leaving All SEC linebacker Kendall Beckwith as the last man who had a chance to stop Hurts from the game winning touchdown. But, Hurts is just too good in the open field and he ran thru the arm tackle and into the end zone.

Uneasy Feeling: You get the idea that all of the confidence that Hurts has had in the pocket has completely disappeared. On the fumble, Hurts had plenty of room and the pocket held up beautifully. But, he panicked and fumbled the ball away. His downfield throws have been worse and worse each week, resulting in an abundance of short throws. LSU’s corners and safeties were squatting on these throws and blew up five screen passes and their linemen batted down two others. This is why we felt uneasy coming into the game – Alabama must find a way to drive the ball down the field with the passing game.

Bo Knows: Well, if you had to pick a coming out party for Mr Scarborough, the LSU game may as well have been it. Bo carried the ball 11 times (just one fewer than Harris) and led all running backs with a 4.7 yard per carry average. But, when it was nut cutting time, Bo was THE man. On the touchdown drive, Bo carried the ball five times for 22 yards, including the critical 4th down carry. On the field goal drive, he carried the ball four more times for 13 yards, easily becoming the “go to” back in the final stanza.

Tidebits

  • Cam Robinson was seen pulling from his left tackle position and leading Damien Harris up the middle on a nice gainer. Later, Robinson teamed with OJ Howard to open up a nice hole for Harris which allowed the Tide to get off the goal line.
  • Speaking of the goal line, the first half saw Alabama backed up against their own end zone quite a bit. Bama drives started on their own 14, 32, 12, 2, 9, and 5 yard line.
  • In the second half, the field position completely flipped in favor of Alabama. Bama drives started at their own 40, 46, 42, 10, and 43 (and the LSU 35 yard line after they turned the ball over on downs at the end of the game).
  • Trevon Diggs is going to be a helluva player for Alabama. That catch he made on the sidelines was sweet.
  • Lester Cotton had a bad day in the film room on Sunday. We counted three missed blocks – I’m sure there were more.
  • In the first half, Alabama drove the ball to the LSU 24 where Kiffin dialed up three straight incomplete passes that led to a missed FG.
  • Alabama rarely stretched the field so it was nice to see the first play of the second half was a perfectly thrown bomb to Ardarius Stewart.
  • When you are on the road in a 0-0 game, always kick the field goal. Always. Three points was enough to win that ball game. Kick it.
  • Jalen Hurts is so good with the ball in his hands. He obviously had a great run for the touchdown but his conversion on a quarterback draw on 3&15 was a thing of beauty. Saban would have been happy with a four yard gain and a middle of the field attempt at a FG but, instead, Hurts scampered for a huge gain and burned another three minutes off the clock in doing so.
  • In getting turned away at the goal line, Alabama continues to struggle inside the five yard line. We have no idea what the play call was supposed to be but it was very clear that they did not run the play they wanted to on fourth and one.

Alabama on Defense

What can you say about a defensive unit that held LSU to 125 yards and six total first downs. After Leonard Fournette rushed 16 times for 284 (!) yards against Ole Miss he ran into a crimson wall once again on Saturday night. 17 carries netted just 35 yards and Fournette, like the rest of the LSU offense, had no answers for the onslaught of the Tide defenders.

The LSU Tigers dominated the first half field position, starting drives twice in Alabama territory and once more near midfield. Each time the Tigers entered the Alabama side of the field, Jeremy Pruitt answered with blitzes, sacks and a gap sound defense that gave LSU very little to work with.

Coming into the game, the fear was that the Alabama offense would struggle (it did), would turn the ball over (it did – twice) and would put the Bama defense in precarious situations. Additionally, we were concerned that the Tide’s depth would be tested if they were left out there for long periods of time.

Instead, Alabama gave up just six first downs and limited the Tigers to 1:25 of possession in the fourth quarter. That’s astounding. Here’s what we saw when we flipped on the tape – it was a dominant effort.

Thwarted: Here’s what happened once LSU entered Alabama territory in the first half:

  • Ball on the Alabama 33: Anderson & Williams sack Etling and Harrison blocks a FG
  • Ball on the Alabama 48: Fournette loses 5, Etling sacked by Allen and then again by Evans.
  • Ball on the Alabama 42: Harrison makes a great tackle to hold Chark to a 2 yard gain on 3&7.
  • Ball on the Alabama 47: Turnover on downs – four plays netted five yards.

Thwarted Again: The turning point of the game occurred in the second half when LSU recovered a Hurts fumble at the Alabama 42. The crowd was in a frenzy and the Tigers had momentum – that is until their offense tried to convert Hurts’ turnover into points. A delay of game turned a 3&3 into a 3&8 and then Dalvin Tomlinson sacked Etling for an 11 yard loss. On the ensuing possession, the Tide marched 90 yards for the game winning score and thus the game was essentially won. This was the last time the Tigers entered Bama territory.

Skittish: Alabama’s defense authoritatively came out of the gate and pressured Etling from the very first drive of the game. From that point forward Etling was skittish and was seen looking downfield and then bailing from the pocket a number of times. In addition, he missed wide open receivers and even bounced a short pass that would have converted a first down. Pressure can mean a number of things. A pass rush. The magnitude of the game. Or the realization that the entire game rests on your shoulders.   Danny Etling was not prepared for this in the least.

Stud Corners: When you turn on the tape, you can see Marlon Humphrey throwing himself into pulling guards and, by doing so, forcing the play back inside. We even saw Tony Brown do this with reckless abandon. The corners would see the run coming and would pass off their WR to the safety so that they could play edge containment.

Downhill: As we paused the tape slightly before Fournette took the handoff, you could see that Alabama’s linebackers were already coming downhill in anticipation of the running play. They delayed ever so slightly so it wasn’t a run blitz. Something appeared to be tipping them off that the play was a run and they knew exactly where to go every time.

How Do They Do It?: On a Fournette I formation running play, it’s typically defended like this…

  • Bama lines up with seven or eight in the box.
  • At the snap, the defensive line jams their hands into the pads of the offensive line. This prohibits the OL from getting out to block the linebackers. This also allows the Bama linemen to play two different gaps which makes it very difficult for Fournette to find a crease.
  • The linebackers are anticipating run and they typically run right to where the play is designed to go. Because the DL is doing their job, the backers are usually running free to the football.
  • An underrated part of Alabama’s plan to defend the run is the corners. In this game, Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett and Tony Brown were called upon to pinch in and play containment – this meant taking on pulling guards.
  • The edge containment is crucial. On one play, Ryan Anderson had edge containment responsibility. He stood up the tight end, quickly shook free and then eliminated the fullback, all before #7 got to the line of scrimmage.
  • Pruitt blitzed the A gaps with his linebackers with great effect, as well. This created a six on six at the line of scrimmage which, again, allowed the other linebacker and safeties to freely roam and make tackles. On one of these, Reuben Foster lined up over the center, made a swim move to quickly get by him and made the tackle on Fournette at the line of scrimmage. Wow.

Tidebits

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick was rarely asked to come down in run support. The one tackle we saw him try to make, he missed. Ronnie Harrison was the in-the-box safety and he was outstanding in run support.
  • Alabama dominated field position in the second half. In the second half, LSU started drives on their own 25, 6, 3, 2 and 33 yard lines. They did start one drive at Bama’s 42 after the Hurts fumble.
  • We’ve been bragging on Anthony Averett’s cover skills since the spring. He has not disappointed and his ability to start at corner is what allows Pruit the flexibility to move Fitzpatrick back to safety.
  • Three of Alabama’s five sacks came on third down.
  • LSU’s “revamped offense” ran the ball 8 times on first down and passed the ball 8 times on first down, as well. LSU was 4 of 8 when passing on first down (out of 24 throws) with one interception and a sack.
  • Fournette had one and only one chance to break into the open field but Shon Dion-Hamilton somehow brought #7 down with an arm tackle before he broke loose.
  • LSU’s offense wasn’t helped by getting out of the huddle with just five seconds on the play clock.
  • Not sure why LSU was flagged for delay of game instead of an egregious false start. I mean, five yards is five yards but what the heck were the refs watching there?

Alabama on Special Teams

The Lighthouse honestly should devote much more time to special teams this week but the staff has been running on fumes for a while. With that being said, here are the items that stood out to us in special teams this week…

  • JK Scott BOMBED a 66 yard punt to flip field position in favor of Alabama. Overall, he had a 51.6 average (HOLY!) on five punts. Dayum!
  • Anyone notice where Keaton Anderson lined up in the punt formation before he made the tackle at the LSU 2? He was actually lined up in the backfield as the signal caller and personal protector of JK Scott. Anderson left at the snap and was the first man down field to make the tackle – I’ve never seen a personal protector beat the gunners to the ball!
  • We told you in the W2W4 that we would be holding our breath if the game came down to field goals. Thankfully, it did not.
  • Trevon Diggs is a stud and he’ll break a return before the year is over but….let’s start with catching that silly ball, Trevon…

Parting Thoughts

Alabama has now won on the road 15 times when playing a top 25 team – that’s the most in the country since 2007. This season, the Tide has successfully run a gauntlet that prior to the season seemed unthinkable. Road wins at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Tennessee and at LSU are what puts Alabama atop the rankings in all of college football and have been the hallmark of Nick Saban teams since he’s arrived.

Saturday night, Alabama showed once again why they are head and shoulders above the rest of the college football world. Even when they struggle to find a way to score, their defense comes up time and time again with big plays. Alabama is always bigger, always stronger and always better coached than their opponents and Saturday reminded us why we should never, ever pick against the Tide.

If you had told us that Alabama would only score 10 points, would turn the ball over twice in their own territory, would turn the ball over on downs at the one yard line and would miss a field goal, I would have told you that LSU would win that ballgame.

But they didn’t. And the Tide merrily keeps Rollin’ right along….

 

Alabama vs Tennessee Game Review

There are beatdowns and then there are Beatdowns, and on Saturday we witnessed a Beatdown of epic proportions. The Third Saturday in Rock-tober saw Alabama crush the Vols by winning 49-10. But, frankly, the game was never even that close. With eight starters out, the Vols came into the game beaten down and then were summarily beaten down by the Tide’s running game and a relentless Bama defense.

Insults to injuries. No mas. No lo contendre.

We here at the Bama Lighthouse believe that old school football still wins and that begins and ends in the trenches. We’ve said many times that you can have all the “pretties” you want at wide receiver, running back and quarterback but if you don’t have an offensive line then all the pretties in the world won’t matter. From Tennessee’s first offensive series of the game, it was evident that their patchwork offensive line would be no match for Bama’s beasties up front. As we say at the house, from Tennessee’s perspective it was “fugly.”

On the other side of the ball, Bama’s ever improving offensive line completely and totally dominated Tennessee on the ground. Three Bama ballcarriers nearly went for 100 yards with Jalen Hurts gaining 132, Bo Scarborough with 109 and Damien Harris with 94 yards rushing. There are so many stats that show Bama’s true dominance in this game but perhaps the most telling is that Bo Scarborough gained his 109 yards on only FIVE carries. My God – imagine if he’d played the whole game!

Bama outgained the Vols 594 to 163. Heck, the Tide’s defense and special teams outscored the Vols all by themselves. The beatings were so bad that both teams were playing their backup QBs for the final 11 minutes of the game. How did it happen? Well, look no further than the line of scrimmage…

Alabama on Defense

We are switching things up a little bit this week and giving praise to a group that seemed to be a little bit maligned after the Arkansas win. Going into the Arkansas game, we stated that Austin Allen was the best true QB we’d seen this year in the SEC and after the Hogs’ victory over Ole Miss we feel pretty good about that statement. But instead of giving Allen credit for getting beaten and battered but still passing for 400 yards, the Tide defense was taken to task for allowing the Hogs to move the football. This week, the Tide defense reminded folks that they can win a game all by themselves if they want to. Josh Dobbs came into the game leading the conference with 20 touchdowns yet he was completely eliminated from having an impact in this game.

The 2016 Bama defense is beautifully constructed to handle the zone reads and run pass option plays of today’s spread offenses. Bama still continues to control the edges but they do so with a lot more speed and athleticism than the days of Courtney Upshaw. Meanwhile, the Tide’s linebackers are exceptionally fast and can move from sideline to sideline as fast as any back can get to the edge. As they say, speed kills and on Saturday it killed the Vols.

Lastly, the Crimson Tide secondary features five guys who could all play corner if they had to and that makes the throwing windows become very, very constricted.   When you couple their cover skills in with the fact that they only had to cover their receiver for about two seconds, it makes for a long, long day for Josh Dobbs. And it was a long, long day for him…

Tim Williams: This game was over when Tennessee found it impossible to block Tim Williams. Everyone respects his speed around the edge so when a tackle sprints out to protect the edge, Williams smartly and quickly knifes inside to knock down the QB. Williams has also added a bull rush to his repertoire, giving him a ton of tools in his tool box that allows him to go to work in deconstructing an offense. If you want a good time, just watch 56 work over an offensive tackle. He’s a game changer.

Shon Dion-Hamilton: Reuben Foster gets all of the pub but SDH has had a terrific season as the “other” linebacker. Tennessee loves to get the ball out to their backs in the passing game but Foster and Hamilton eliminated any and all yards after catch. Hamilton came up with a huge tackle for loss against Jalen Hurd, diagnosing the play quickly and flying into the backfield to upend the big back.

Defensive Tackles: Another unsung pair of Crimson Tide defenders is Da’Ron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson. This dynamic duo continues to control the middle of the line and this allows the Tide linebackers and safeties to fly to the football and make tackles. Tennessee had no answers for this pair as they often disrupted the pocket, forcing early and erratic throws.

Stack N Shed: No one stacks and sheds like Alabama’s defenders. Each play is a freaking clinic on how to jam your hands into your opponent (stack) and then disengage (shed) to make a tackle. Ryan Anderson is so good at this but, honestly, they all are. This is coaching, pure and simple, and no one does it like Bama.

Tight Coverage: As Gary Danielson pointed out, the Tide’s fast and furious pass rush allowed their secondary to come up and play very tight against the UT receivers. Bama’s corners and safeties were playing the sticks all afternoon long in anticipation of a quick throw.

Pick Six: It’s insane the number of touchdowns the Alabama defense has scored. Insane. This week’s version saw Reuben Foster take an inside rush designed to pick off the center, which allowed Jonathan Allen to have a free rush up the middle. However, Fosters rush was so powerful, it took him and the center right into Jalen Hurd’s path and it resulted in an ill advised screen pass getting thrown to Ronnie Harrison and the Tide’s easiest touchdown of the season.

Hit of the Day: I’m in no way, shape or form saying that this made ANY difference in the outcome of the game, however I do wonder how much of an impact Keith Holcombe’s hit on Alvin Kamara had on his ability to make plays.

Tidebits

  • Jeremy Pruitt had fun calling plays during this game. One thing we saw was Alabama line up very strongly to the weak side of the UT line and then blitz into the strong side with Fitzpatrick and others. Clever.  He blitzed fearlessly Saturday.
  • Anthony Averett had perhaps his best game of the season. He was challenged twice on jump balls and each time he defended the play perfectly. He is a little “handsy” and “grabby” so you could see a pass interference in his future.
  • After having 314 yards after catch last week against Texas A&M, Tennessee maybe had 10 to 20 yards against Alabama. The coverage was stifling.
  • Alabama employed a three man rush and still got a sack. Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams raced each other around the edges and met up at Dobbs’ midsection.
  • How about Ryan Anderson with a pass break up on Alvin Kamara? On one play it appeared he was spying Dobbs, as well. What a versatile player Anderson is…
  • Josh Frazier and Da’shawn Hand showed up several times this week, as did Christian Miller. Bama’s depth is just silly and it’s getting sillier with each rep these guys get.
  • I thought Alabama employed several run blitzes on first down. The Vols seemed reluctant to put the ball in the air and Pruitt jumped on this with several blitzes designed to stuff the run.
  • At halftime, Tennessee had run 33 plays and gained 41 yards. INCREDIBLE!
  • There was a coverage bust in the Bama secondary that Gary Danielson pointed out. On the play, Tennessee motioned to trips (three wide receivers on one side) and Foster, Averett and Jackson messed up the coverage.
  • Look out folks, Rashaan Evans is starting to figure things out at linebacker. He shot a couple of gaps and played very, very well at his new position – much, much better by him.

Alabama on Offense

Mercy. When you break down the offense’s performance, I guess you pretty much have to begin with 438 yards of RUSHING, right? When three backs go for 94 yards or more, that’s pretty significant, right?

Credit has to go all across the board for this kind of effort. Obviously, the line continues to gel together and has become one damn fine unit of this damn fine team. However, when there are so many yards gained on the perimeter of the defense, you have to start throwing out kudos to the receivers’ blocks, as well. Ridley, Stewart, Dieter and Diggs all had huge blocks that helped pave the way for those 438 yards rushing. Heck, even Jalen Hurts got out there and had a key block on Ardarius Stewart’s touchdown run off of a double reverse!

Bama’s front line dominated Tennessee to the point that Bo Scarborough could rush for 109 yards on only five carries. That’s just silly, people. From a rushing standpoint, this was obviously Alabama’s best game of the season, the decade and perhaps the century!

As good as Jalen Hurts was at running the ball, he struggled throwing the ball down the field so it wasn’t even close to his best game as a passer. Along with the two turnovers he committed, he missed several wide open receivers and even thru something that looked like an end over end pass. WTH?

This is What You Came For: Prior to the season, we went on and on about how Stewart eclipsed Ridley’s production in the last three games of the season last year and Stewart has done nothing to dispel the notion that he’s every bit as good or better. One area that Stewart most certainly is a LOT better than Ridley is on the fly sweep. Stewart is a former high school quarterback and appears much more confident with the ball in his hands. His cuts, vision and strength are far superior to Ridley’s on the fly/jet sweeps. His touchdown run on the reverse was a nice example of his speed, vision and patience as a runner. Stewart is a dynamic playmaker and it’s great to have him back in the lineup.

You Can Do Magic: Jalen Hurts can do magical things with the ball in his hands. His ball fakes and deception fooled the CBS cameras more than once and the poor Tennessee linebackers are still looking for the ball. Hurts rode one mesh point with Harris so long it looked like they were going steady for about three steps. But, now with numerous repetitions together, Hurts smoothly pulled the ball and strolled into the end zone for a touchdown. Kiddo is smoooooth and is currently running the zone reads about as well as anyone (of any age) can!

Serenity Now: Jalen Hurts is the calmest dude I’ve seen in the pocket this year. With chaos all around him, he calmly stepped up into the pocket and maneuvered his way until he could find a receiver. Sure, that calmness probably resulted in a batted ball that turned into a pick but there was far more good than bad. Love the way he keeps his composure and continues to scan the field.

Better Man: As good as Hurts was on the ground, he had several struggles thru the air. Honestly, I’m not sure we’ve quite seen his best yet. Hurts’ miscues were a fumble, a pick and at least four passes where you wondered if he got hit or something on the release. Jalen himself would tell you he could do so much better…and he’s pretty dang good already, right?

Tidebits

  • If you go back and look, it was evident that Hurts’ running could be an issue for the Vols. On Alabama’s first drive they were facing 3rd & 2 and Hurts ran the zone read keeper wide to the right. Tennessee was completely outnumbered on the edge but a botched block cut down Bama’s pulling blockers and the play lost five yards. It was one Vol on three blockers and Bama realized this and exploited it throughout the game.
  • The threat of the fly sweep allowed Alabama to outnumber the Vols on the edge on numerous occasions. One or both of the UT linebackers would move to the strong side of the formation and then Bama would simply hand it to their back going in the opposite direction. This happened all night long and UT never could adjust. Again, they struggled to pick up where the ball was and that’s a credit to Hurts.
  • One one incompletion, it appeared Joshua Jacobs was supposed to go out for a screen pass but, instead, stayed in to block. The line allowed the rush to come on in and Hurts had no choice but to smartly throw the ball away.
  • Once again there was a series in the game where I noted we had abandoned the run again. Once it became 14-7, Bama went back to Ramming and Jamming the football down Smokey’s throat.
  • Each time Tennessee scored, Alabama scored on the very next possession.
  • Miller Forristall is a force at TE. He showed extremely well as a blocker and he’s got terrific hands. Love. This. Kid.
  • On Hurts’ 45 yard run, Jonah Williams had a down block on the end that wiped out both Tennessee linebackers. There was no pursuit of happiness for those two Vols.
  • My notes call out Diggs, Stewart and Howard for several great blocks but the best block goes to Gehrig Dieter. On Stewarts touchdown run, Dieter engaged with his block for 13 yards down the field, starting at the hashmark and ending when he deposited the UT defender out of bounds! AMAZING!
  • I thought it was interesting that Saban mentioned that Scarborough would have an expanded role and then Bo actually started the game on Saturday. Still, he only had five carries…but damn, he fast!
  • You know, Alabama just wanted to run the clock out and get to halftime but the UT defense was so bad the Tide ended up with a short field goal attempt!
  • The toughest hit Hurts took was when he fell down coming off the team bus.
  • Hey – was that OJ Howard catching a pass? SWEET!

Alabama on Special Teams

Eddie Jackson is so freaking smooth as a punt returner – he’s been a terrific addition to the punt return team. On his return, Jackson took a little jab step and then allowed two UT defenders to run into one another. Derrick Gore cleaned the clock of one of the defenders while Jacobs took out another. That left two great big offensive tackles trying to chase Jackson and only the punter to beat. I’ve never seen two big uglies cover punts – not sure what they are doing there at Tennessee but it ain’t working.

JK Scott quietly had a 50 yard punt average on the day and he continued to allow Alabama to dominate field position this season.

The only knock was the missed field goal by Adam Griffith – sigh.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, this was not a competitive game. Tennessee was outclassed on both lines of scrimmage and, as a result, they were taken out back to the outhouse where Big Al deposited 10 straight “victories” on Smokey’s head.

Jalen Hurts has obviously added a huge threat in the running game and his ability to read it out perfectly on nearly every play is probably undervalued. Also undervalued is his ball fakes and deception – multiple defenders are getting lost in the fakes and that is allowing the Tide to outnumber the defenders on the flanks. Meanwhile, the receivers and tight ends are kicking some serious ass on the edges. Right now, the rushing offense is a thing of beauty. There will eventually be a day when Hurts will have to prove he can win a game with his arm but that day shouldn’t be this week.

And then there’s the defense. I’ve never, ever seen a defense generate this much scoring! Nine straight games of scoring a non-offensive touchdown is ridiculous. The fact that they have scored as many touchdowns as they have allowed is even more ridiculous. Bama’s defense & special teams scoring alone would have beaten USC, Kent State, Kentucky and Tennessee! Credit Jeremy Pruitt for blitzing without remorse as that is creating some huge scoring opportunities for the Tide.

Up next is Texas A&M. At first blush, the Aggies look very overrated. Put it this way – they appear to be equal to the Vols. Vegas has installed Bama as a 17 point favorite – I’m not sure that’s gonna be enough.