The game of the year so far in college football has come to an end and as many media hype-sters and football fans predicted, it was the Tide who left Kyle field with the win. What people didn’t expect is the manner in which Alabama won and what it took to get there. A 49-42 win (or loss for that matter) is certainly a rare occurrence under Coach Saban as the Tide are accustomed to fielding a defense that bends slightly but never breaks. Alabama spotted the Aggies 14 points while looking like a possible replay of last season and then they put a stop to the idea of history repeating itself with a 35 point run that went through almost three quarters.
TIDE OFFENSE: As we reported on the Tooth, there were several reasons for the Bama offensive line’s performance in week one and the concern with that group was way overblown in the media. Alabama fielded an O-line worthy of being regarded as a top ten unit nationally and a group that did just about anything they wanted to do with the Aggies defense. McCarron was kept off the ground all day long and the Tide running backs were given plenty of room to run when it counted.
Alabama’s running game also stepped up their production from the first game due in part to the offensive line play. Jalston Fowler looked like a different player than the guy who played in game one. Following a serious knee injury,
Fowler catches TD pass off play action to seal the game
surgery and a tough rehab process, “Nudie” was apprehensive in his first game action and rightfully so. Getting the first game under his belt, taking the hits and punishment from the defense and feeling the speed of the game after a full year off was just what he needed to step out of the shadow of his injury and back onto the path he was on before he got hurt. “Nudie” is surprisingly underrated for his size and natural ability but he’ll get his due as long as the stays healthy and he’ll provide a HUGE boost for Yeldon.
Yeldon is probably the best back in the nation for controlling time of possession and eating up the clock while keeping those chains moving. TJ just chops away at defenses like a lumberjack and he runs as tough as anyone. He doesn’t provide that game breaking ability as of right now though and if it’s there he isn’t showing it. That type of production works for our offensive system when the pass game is clicking but this Bama offense has relied on RB’s who could grind out those tough yards and break open the game from anywhere on the field when given big holes to run through. Kenyan Drake didn’t get the carries that I thought he would but the few carries he did get showed a runner with better explosion and speed than any other Tide RB. Expect his work load to increase if TJ can’t provide any runs longer than 10-15 yards and he keeps struggling with ball security, getting personal fouls and not displaying the vision he was beginning to display at the end of last year.
AJ’s poise and the passing game was a thing of beauty looking at it as a whole body of work. McCarron has struggled at times with his leadership approach with receivers and linemen. We saw him get frustrated in game one and yelling at a few linemen but this week he was encouraging those guys while talking to them, helping them in a calm manner and he seems to have been received a lot better with that approach. Keeping his emotions in check throughout the year and trying to be positive and helpful with his teammates will put his game on another level. AJ and Coop seem to have some sort of communication issue as McCarron is having a tough time getting catchable passes to Coop on a regular basis; that has to be fixed going forward.
Kenny Bell showed the speed he relied on for so long has returned after a broken leg and rehab last year. Norwood showed up again providing timely, clutch catches that he has become known for over the last few years. Don’t look
OJ Howard reels in a pass from McCarron
now but slowly the offensive freshman of the year honors could be tight end OJ Howard’s to lose if he continues on the curve he is on now. Howard came in as a freak athlete at 6’6″ tall and running a 4.5-40 and we all wondered how long it would take him to learn how to block and read protections. Well, his mental jump from game 1 to game 2 is surprising, even for a kid as talented as Howard. He should be completely comfortable with his assignments by mid season and AJ is already showing trust in the young star which leads many to believe he will be a major weapon this season.
TIDE DEFENSE: CJ Mosely is on his way to becoming the best all around linebacker in the Saban era at Alabama. Think about that statement for a minute, this guy is not just an good player, there is no weakness in his game. Mosely plays the run and pass equally well, he plays with unmatched effort and he is even a special teams standout. Most senior starting linebackers aren’t running down the field on kickoffs in the 4th quarter of hard fought games in 100 degree heat and being the first guy down the field making the tackle. Hats off to CJ….once again.
The defensive line played exceptionally well too, even though you need to understand the game and the scheme they were coached to play in order to appreciate what they did. I reluctantly browsed through the message boards as usual and saw several posts bashing our defensive line. If you believe they played badly, then you are tipping your hand regarding your knowledge of the game, or lack thereof. Following game one the O-line didn’t deserve the bashing and this week it’s the D-line that is being wrongfully criticized. Those guys played against the best scat-back QB there is and kept him from killing them with his feet the whole game, mission accomplished. Their job was not to rush the passer, their job was to hold the point of attack and slowly push the pocket into him without creating huge lanes for him to run through. I was pleased and impressed with the patience those guys showed because many times they could have rushed up the field untouched but they stayed disciplined and held the edge forcing him back inside to the pile. Freshman AShawn Robinson gets an honorable mention for his play and for the level of talent/maturity he showed in a game this big for such a young player.
The Bama secondary had a very bi-polar day filled with high’s and low’s, inconsistency, loss of focus at times and intense focus at times. The Tide surprisingly had a year where they didn’t recruit cornerbacks like maybe they should have and it has come back to haunt them a little bit this year. Fulton was caught in a mismatch with a tall receiver and for whatever reason it looked as though he abandoned his technique and he never looked like he was playing the ball. Cyrus Jones came in and did a better job of focusing and playing the ball but he was still overmatched physically and being a first year cornerback showed some as well. Safety play was really good, from HaHa’s hustling to cover over half the field at times to Vinnie’s heads up interception and return that group really held the defensive backfield together.
Alabama came out of this game with an overall impressive performance given the circumstances. The Tide haven’t found themselves in many shootouts over the last few years and I wasn’t sure how they would handle it so hat’s off to those guys. Allowing that 3 touchdown lead to disappear just can’t happen regularly but it will undoubtedly give Saban and staff enough teaching points to keep this team working hard to improve.
STOCK UP: O-line, The offensive line found it’s groove and have begun to execute at a high level, keeping that momentum going will keep keep this offense churning. OJ Howard, The Tide offense is at it’s best with a receiving threat at tight end who can also effectively block so he doesn’t have to leave the field and OJ looks like the prototype. McCarron, Not so much for his record passing day but for the way he handled interacting with his teammates when mistakes were made. If he becomes that type of leader, his game elevates to new heights. Jalston Fowler, being unsure and hesitant about yourself following injury is tough to deal with but Fowler snapped out of it after only one bad game and despite plenty of numbers at running back, the Tide offense needs his experience this year. D-line, This defensive line did exactly what they were supposed to do and they did it rotating in several freshmen and first year players. CJ Mosely, ……… There just isn’t much more that can be said about this guy, ultimate competitor
STOCK DOWN: Cornerbacks, It’s hard to totally fault the corners for the passes that were connected on while Manziel was running around all over the place but A&M receivers straight up beat our corners on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s time to see if the freshmen corners are up to the challenge, maybe the competition will push the starters to step it up. TJ Yeldon, we have a ton of fans who will likely disagree with this but it has to be said. TJ did a solid job of wearing down the A&M defense but no explosive plays, an untimely fumble in a game this big and a personal foul is not what our #1 running back should be defined by.
stay tuned to the Tooth blog for up to date news and analysis and keep the conversations going on the tooth forums, where they’re talkin’ Bama football all day every day. Roll Tide ! ! !