The Alabama Crimson Tide almost pitched a shutout to the Colorado State Rams in front of the home crowd for the first time this season in a 31-6 win at Bryant Denny stadium. It was week four of the 2013 college football season and the Alabama Crimson Tide were gearing up to play their first home game of the season against Colorado State; led by new head coach and former Tide Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain. The rare schedule setup for the Tide appeared to be something that could have been a burden or a gift, depending on how the players and staff dealt with the early time off. With the Tide having so many new starters along the Offensive Line and the early mis-communication issues they experienced in week one, the extra prep time looks to have been more of a positive than a negative. The unusual week off after just one game was a hot topic in the airwaves but it really didn’t appear to have affected the team much at all in a positive or negative way. One of the more interesting developments going into the game was the information we received here at The Tooth that a few young players would see the field a lot for the first time, including three cornerbacks, and they proved more game ready than maybe some onlookers might have otherwise thought. .
The Alabama defense only yielding 6 points will go a long way in restoring the overall defensive rating nationally and the opportunity for them to shut down the Rams with so many new faces on defense is encouraging to say the least. The Tide gave up 279 total yards to the Rams offense which isn’t too bad but considering that 228 of those yards came through the air says the Tide still has a few kinks to work out with coverage personnel. True freshman cornerback Eddie Jackson out of Ft. lauderdale, Florida got the nod as he played the most reps at the outside corner spot as was reported here on the Tooth in the pre-game post. Freshman corner Mo Smith from Texas also made his debut with a solid performance for the most part but he had some noticeable errors as to be expected. For a cornerback group made up of backup players across the board, they bent at times but never got beat for the big play and that has to make Saban a little more confident about the future of that group. For me the most telling development came when freshman Eddie Jackson came to the sideline giving way to starter John Fulton and Fulton gave up a number of big plays to his receiver. If anything immediate comes of Saban playing so many new cornerbacks, it could possibly be a change from Fulton to youngster Jackson…..we’ll certainly need to keep an eye on this possibility.
T.V. Commentator Matt Millen took the time to point out a few different times that Bama doesn’t really have a pass rush and to my dismay, I was forced to agree with his assessment unfortunately. I thought for sure this week would be a great chance for this D-Line to pin their ears back and come out of their shell a little bit but it wasn’t to be. Bama’s defensive line has been exceptional against the run and have provided enough pressure to flush the QB out and get him uncomfortable but they aren’t harassing opposing QB’s from the line or the linebacker spots. Quarterback pressure is a huge part of affecting the offense and the Tide will have a harder road to a perfect season if they can’t find someone who can cause some trouble for opposing quarterbacks.
Once again the Tide offensive line finds themselves in the crosshairs with some fans and media types because of the dismal rushing total of 66 yards and once again I find myself defending them to an extent. They did play down to the competition a little bit on Saturday but the running backs didn’t do much of anything to help them out and for a position grouping with so much depth, the RB’s have been underwhelming. Perhaps we have become spoiled since Glen Coffee ripped off huge run after huge run in 2008, Ingram and Trent did the same in 09’/10′, Trent/Lacy in 11′, and last year Lacy/Yeldon carried the team many times. So far this season, Yeldon just hasn’t been as productive as many people projected him to be and Drake isn’t getting enough carries to make a big impact. I have to believe however that Saban will eventually get the ball in Drake’s hands more if this continues, especially with the meat of the SEC schedule quickly approaching. Whatever the solution is for the Tide run game, it will certainly be a pleasant addition to an offense that is missing its trademark explosive running game.
The receiver unit was much like the cornerback position with several starters/major contributors not playing to rest up for a big SEC game next week. Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood, two of the Tide’s top receivers, were not active and gave way to D. White and K. Bell who both had their best games of the season thus far. Christion Jones was outstanding from his slot position reeling in 9 catches for 90 yards. As we were told here at The Tooth last week following the A&M game, Freshman tight end OJ Howard was targeted by staff to be given more opportunities and plays in the passing game in the coming weeks and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Howard, an Alabama native, is a rare athletic specimen who is showing how much of a mismatch he can be for defenders and is on track make a huge impact on this Tide offense. McCarron also had a really solid game on paper when he was focused in but he had a few mental lapses with some bad decisions that just make you scratch your head. Alabama was not effective finishing drives and were especially bad on third down, having ten chances to convert a third down play and only converting on TWO of them. That will most definitely need to be remedied before the Ole Miss game next weekend.
The overall performance Saturday was effective, although not very convincing, and the team lacked intensity and focus at times. The offense was sloppy and by large didn’t dominate the Rams defense the way Alabama has in the last few years. Alabama certainly had it’s offensive talent on display at receiver but they didn’t look like the complete package with a lackluster performance running the ball. The defense actually fared well overall considering the starting cornerbacks didn’t play most of the game giving way to the backups. The young corners not allowing a passing touchdown was very encouraging considering the number of yards Texas A&M passed for just last week. Run defense was once again very strong but the pass rush really needs to be more effective in the coming weeks if this group is going to be the type of defense that’re capable of being.
My player of the game has to be Kenyan Drake with his rushing TD and blocked punt resulting in a touchdown scoop & score by Dillon Lee. Drake was one of the few players who appeared to be hungry on the field and the energy he played with was very refreshing to see. Drake has the look of a star just waiting for the opportunity to shine.