It was a revelation, a revelation that came to Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace last week during preparations for the showdown with SEC West foe Alabama, in Bryant Denny Stadium. A combination of the Rebel offense averaging 38 points per game, watching film of Johnny Manziel have a record setting day against Bama and studying a Tide secondary with new faces and a few weaknesses led the Ole Miss signal caller to say they will put up points on Bama, “Alabama doesn’t exactly have first round corners” he said and the Rebel receivers are “way better than A&M’s group”. Wallace was feeling very good about the direction of his offense when he made those bold statements but it consequently fueled the already smoldering fire in the pit of the stomach of each & every Bama defender, leading to the Tide’s first shutout on the year and a 25-0 win at home against the Rebels which subsequently squashed Wallace’s prospects at pursuing a fortune telling job if football doesn’t work out. The ill-advised predictions of Wallace were just what the doctor ordered for a Tide defense looking to establish it’s identity and unite following an unorganized outing in the A&M game a couple weeks back……..
Alabama Offensive Takeaways – The Tide running game is starting to make strides but still has some adjusting to do. For the most part, the runners and blocking was much better on this day against a young but very talented Ole Miss defensive front 7 and even after starting Center Ryan Kelly went down in the 2nd quarter, Alabama didn’t miss a beat. Ryan’s replacement center and offensive line swing man Chad Lindsey came in fired up and playing very confident football rather than being timid and over cautious.
The more Kenyan Drake gets involved in the offense, the more big plays from the run game become possible, even probable. He’s no bruiser but is tough enough to grind out yards and his explosiveness & speed make him dangerous from anywhere on the field at any given time. Yeldon had another fumble that luckily came right back to him at a crucial moment during a drive deep into Rebel territory (hopefully we’re not seeing a trend develop here) but he was able to put it behind him and pop off the longest run of his career with a 68 yd touchdown scamper. It is looking more and more like this Tide rushing attack will be at it’s most effective with Yeldon & Drake splitting carries 50/50 in order to really keep defenses off balance. Fowler was limited in his opportunities and that should be changed as well if the production on the ground is going to be complete.
No touchdown passes and only 180 yards total through the air was the story of the Tide passing game with every Bama receiver playing and available, the air attack was really expected to be more productive. Ole Miss may have been reading the HOUNDZTOOTH pre-game where we noted that they simply couldn’t matchup in man coverage with the Tide receivers becuse they played 2 high safeties all game long simply taking away anything over 15 yards downfield and limiting the potential for big pass plays. Christion Jones led the Tide once again in receiving with 61 yds on just 5 catches and Norwood finished behind him with 40 yds of his own.
Even though McCarron went 25 for 32 passing, he only averaged 5.6 yards per pass and didn’t quite get to 200 yards passing with a timid 180 yard effort. AJ was efficient with the ball though, despite an interception that didn’t subsequently lead to any momentum for the Rebels and he did a good job at the line of scrimmage calling the run plays. Freshman tight end OJ Howard didn’t show up in the passing game like he had the opportunity to based on the defense Ole Miss runs but his blocking is getting much more effective and that will only help him become a complete player. Cooper didn’t have the impressive effort against the Rebels that he did last year posting only 3 catches for 28 yards and he really hasn’t had that big game that everyone has been looking for. Coop and AJ just don’t seem to be on the same page which isn’t great news this late in the season and while they can get enough production from the receiving corps as a whole, having a dominating presence at receiver will be a huge help as the Tide get deeper into post-season play.
Alabama Defensive Takeaways – Talent, discipline, competitiveness, relentlessness, communication, understanding your job and executing the plays are all necessary ingredients in having a successful defense and the Crimson Tide finally exhibited all of the aforementioned traits in the same game against the Rebel offense. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace served up a platter of momentum for the Tide defenders to feast on with his pregame comments, although the outcome would have been the same had he held his tongue. This defense was primed for a dominant game as they were unhappy with themselves following the previous few games in which they just didn’t look united and hungry. Not much changed in the way of personnel to lead the Tide back into dominating the defensive side of the ball other than a new starting freshman cornerback by way of Eddie Jackson of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. Jackson was a do it all athlete for his high school and didn’t play solely cornerback so his quick study at the position along with his athleticism leads us to believe he has a shot at being one of the best Bama has had if he continues on his current curve.
CJ Mosely and HaHa aren’t outspoken and are more introverted, preferring to let their play do the talking but that just wasn’t cutting it so they opened up last week and put everyone on notice in a players meeting. The message was simple, this is who we are and if you aren’t 100% dedicated to this team and doing things the right way, move out of the way for someone who is. Mosely spent his entire career being as talented as any player on the field and he still wasn’t the official starter yet he never whined or complained about it, he simply went out and played his role as best he could. Early in the year there were just too many players kind of worried about the wrong things like rotations and game reps instead of execution and playing to their potential. Those issues can cripple a team or they can fall by the wayside at the hands of senior leadership who just won’t allow it to kill their season.
As a collective effort, the defense showed up and played a 60 minute ball game and looked like a group of guys determined to create a dominant identity. From the freshmen who have earned a steady spot in the D-line rotation to the corner who started his first game as an Alabama player, they played together and for each other and that is what makes a team special. Of course we’re looking at just one game but it was enough to answer the question about whether or not this group of guys has the “IT” factor and I believe they can now begin to move forward.
**Food For Thought Saban is known and lauded for his relentless efforts in making sure all backup players are prepared to take the field in case an injury occurs and it paid off when the starting Center went down and his replacement didn’t miss a beat. That leaves many people a bit confused when it comes to the backup QB position. With Alabama leaning on their pro-style offense, who exactly is being prepared to be the next QB up? Sims comes in the games when they’re out of reach but he isn’t being prepared to run a pro-style offense, he is running the read-option and he isn’t being prepped to pass the ball in game situations. Saban always says “there is no substitute for playing in a real game” …..who is being prepared to be the next passing QB
Drop back in with me here on the Tooth this coming Thursday to take a close look at the Georgia State vs Alabama game ….. ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!