The scoreboard didn’t really tell the story of Alabama’s 31-6 victory over outmatched Colorado State this week, much like the opening win over Virginia Tech. Alabama struggled on offense, especially in the running game and on third downs. Defensively they struggled against the pass, with the screen game being a particular problem. A win is a win, but there is a lot of improvement needed by the top-ranked Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball.
Special teams once again was fantastic, as it has been all year. Except for one penalty (late in the game for having two players on the field with the same number) and Cade Foster’s missed field goal, it was a great game for the specialists.
Punter Cody Mandell had a great game again, with an average of 45 yards per punt including one inside the 20, and two touchbacks.
Christion Jones was solid in the return game, averaging nearly seven yards per punt return and 23 yards per kickoff return.
Kenyan Drake blocked a punt early in the game that linebacker Dillon Lee scooped up and returned for Alabama’s third special teams touchdown.
Cade Foster missed his first field goal of the year, but then connected on the second.
Landon Collins was excellent on special teams as well, including one huge hit on a punt return. Collins was probably the best player on defense last night. Collins has really started to settle in at the money position and was excellent. He ended the game with four tackles and a team-high three pass breakups.
Alabama cleaned up the penalties tonight, going from 11 last week to just two last night.
The offensive line was not good, and run blocking was really bad against Colorado State. Rams nose guard Calvin Tonga blew up Alabama center Ryan Kelly multiple times, pushing him into the backfield and wrecking run plays.
Alabama ended the game with just 66 rushing yards on 21 carries, and a week after allowing AJ McCarron to go untouched, he was sacked twice by CSU.
All-American guard Anthony Steen sat out due to a head injury suffered last week, but even fellow All-American Cyrus Kouandjio struggled at times. Kouandjio was beat to the edge on one play by CSU linebacker Aaron Davis, leading to a big hit on tailback Kenyon Drake, and was beaten on a sack later in the game.
The Alabama offensive line has struggled with physical defensive lines thus far this season, and next week things won’t get much easier, as Ole Miss fields a very young, but very physical defensive line.
Pass defense was a struggle again this week. Alabama played, by my count, six different players at cornerback. Bradley Sylve, Eddie Jackson, John Fulton, Geno Smith, Cyrus Jones and Maurice Smith rotated in at different times at cornerback and star.
“We played about five guys at corner and just kind of rotated ‘em in there,” Saban said after the game, “with the idea that we’re gonna see if somebody can play the position with any kind of consistency and do their assignment and do their job.”
Freshman Eddie Jackson and Bradley Sylve got their first career starts last night. It’s unclear whether Saban was sending a message to veterans like Geno Smith and John Fulton that no job is safe, or that he doesn’t trust any of the corners, including the veterans. None of them particularly played well and at times looked lost and confused. That’s understandable for young players, but is something that will need to be corrected in a hurry.
Defense against the screen pass was horrible. CSU probably threw a dozen different screens and they worked more times than not against a defense that has traditionally been very good against screens. That really boils down to discipline, which Saban has been preaching for the past two weeks. Ole Miss comes into town next week, and employs the screen pass extensively.
Alabama’s third-down conversion rate was abysmal. The Tide offense converted just two of 10 third downs against CSU, and didn’t convert one until late in the fourth quarter. Alabama regularly failed on third-and-short, running routes underneath the first down marker and being unable to break tackles. The lack of a consistent running game kept Alabama in second- and third-and-long all night.
It’s pretty clear Alabama has a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time, as another explosive offense with big receivers and a mobile quarterback comes to Tuscaloosa next week.
Lack of intensity and energy was one of the more frustrating aspects of the game. No one seemed to be playing with any kind of intensity on either side of the ball. Coming off an emotional game like last week, a let down is possible, but not allowing it to completely drain your team is going to be something Alabama fights all season. The team must get fired up for every game, because every single week they will get the opponent’s best shot.
AJ McCarron: 20-26, 258 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Blake Sims: 1-1, 14 yards, 1 TD
TJ Yeldon: 7 carries, 49 yards
Jalston Fowler: 5 carries, 10 yards
Altee Tenpenny: 2 carries, 7 yards
Derrick Henry: 1 carry, 4 yards
Kenyan Drake: 3 carries, 3 yards, 1 TD
Christion Jones: 9 catches, 90 yards
OJ Howard: 3 catches, 38 yards
DeAndrew White: 2 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD
Kenny Belly: 2 catches, 21 yards
Brian Vogler: 2 catches, 13 yards
Kenyan Drake: 1 catch, 22 yards
Chris Black: 1 catch, 14 yards, 1 TD
TJ Yeldon: 1 catch, 9 yards
CJ Mosley: 9 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hurries
John Fulton: 6 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss
Trey DePriest: 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Vinnie Sunseri: 5 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry
Ed Stinson: 5 tackles
Adrian Hubbard: 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry
Landon Collins: 4 tackles, 3 pass breakups
Brandon Ivory: 4 tackles
HaHa Clinton-Dix: 4 tackles
Maurice Smith: 4 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup
Christion Jones: 2 tackles
Bradley Sylve: 2 tackles
Reggie Ragland: 2 tackles
Jeofrrey Pagan: 2 tackles
Altee Tenpenny: 1 tackle
Reuben Foster: 1 tackle
Darren Lake: 1 tackle
Geno Smith: 1 tackle
Xzavier Dickson: 1 tackle, 1 quarterback hurry
A’Shawn Robinson: 1 tackle, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack
Kenny Bell: 1 tackle
Denzel Devall: 1 tackle
Kenyan Drake: 1 blocked punt
Dillon Lee: 1 blocked punt return, 15 yards, 1 TD
Cody Mandell: 5 punts, 45.0 yards per punt, long: 53 yards
Cade Foster: 1/2 FGs, long: 46 yards, 3/3 XPs
Adam Griffith: 1/1 XPs
Christion Jones: 4 punt returns, 26 yards; 2 kickoff returns, 46 yards
DeAndrew White: 1 kickoff return, 14 yards
Kenyan Drake: 1 punt return, 19 yards