Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Western Carolina Catamounts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Saturday night Alabama (10-1) defeated FCS’ Western Carolina Cattamounts (7-5) by a final of 48-14 in a game full of penalties, mental mistakes, turnovers, and countless injuries for a team that didn’t look anything like a No. 1 team in the country, at least for a quarter.

Alabama limped to a 10-7 lead after the first quarter and kept a massively overmatched Western Carolina in the game far longer than they ever should have been. One thing is for sure, Alabama has a ton to work on heading into the Iron Bowl next week, and with a banged up team this type of performance couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The Good

Derrick Henry and Tyren Jones combined for a formidable tandem with TJ Yeldon sitting out the game to rest his injured ankle. Henry rushed for 92 yards and two touchdowns, and Jones had 75 yards and a score. Henry also added a 9-yard TD catch.

With Altee Tenpenny seemingly constantly in Nick Saban’s doghouse and Kenyan Drake’s injury, Jones has emerged as the No. 3 back. He adds more shiftiness and speed to the backfield, but is also remarkably powerful for his size.

Henry had a terrific game until a horrible fumble in the second quarter deep in Alabama territory. He made up for it with a 23-yard score on fourth down later in the half. Tenpenny also looked really good in his carries, as he hits the hole harder possibly than any other back on Alabama’s team.

Young receivers Chris Black and ArDarius Stewart had great games. Stewart continues to become a threat in the passing game for Blake Sims, and Black had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career with a six-catch, 101-yard performance.

Stewart’s emergence in the second half of the season may, however, end unfortunately after he went down with an injury in the second half. It is unclear how serious the injury is, but Saban did say that it could be serious. True freshman Cameron Sims, who has been awesome run blocking this season, also caught his first TD of his career.

Jake Coker had a couple of bad throws in his time in the game but he looked much better this week then he did earlier in the year, which is a huge plus for next season.

JK Scott added kickoff duties to his resume and was great at it with four touchbacks, but he did kick one out of bounds. He didn’t have to punt this week, which is a good thing.

The Bad

The defense was atrocious in the first half, especially in the first quarter, with WCU’s Division II offense having their way with the Tide defense. After really finding his stride in the past few weeks, Cyrus Jones got burned on three straight plays on the first drive alone, including a TD pass. Jones has been the best and most consistent corner for Alabama this year, but he took two massive steps back against WCU.

The pass rush was almost nonexistent until late in the game, which again is just mind-boggling in this type of game. WCU runs a bit of Auburn’s offense, so it is scary to think about how much success Western Carolina had knowing that Auburn has superior talent on the field. Alabama was able to hold WCU’s hybrid triple option/spread option offense in check, but allowed WCU’s quarterback to make far more throws than he ever should have, and it is no question that Nick Marshall is a much better QB for Auburn.

Blake Sims had a bit of a good/bad game. He was efficient and threw for two scores, but receiver ArDarius Stewart found himself wide open in the end zone twice in the first half and Sims didn’t even throw it his way either time.

The referees had a pretty lousy first half. Eddie Jackson forced a fumble on WCU’s first drive and Trey DePriest recovered, but for some reason an official blew a whistle following the fumble. An inadvertent whistle allows the offense to choose whether to redo the play or not in college, but the officials are also instructed to not blow the whistle early during a fumble for just this reason.

Later Trey DePriest was flagged for a late hit on the sideline despite the receiver being in bounds when DePriest made contact. The icing on the cake was WCU’s last score, in which the receiver was clearly bobbling the ball the entire way out of bounds, yet the officials didn’t even bother to review the play for some inexplicable reason.

Adam Griffith sat out this week, due to his repeating back injury, and walk-on freshman Gunnar Raborn handled the field goal and extra point duties. He converted on two short field goals (20 and 28 yards) but then missed an easy 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

The Ugly

Injuries were a nightmare in this game. First, Amari Cooper went down with a scary knee injury in the first quarter and did not return to the game after he limped to the locker room. Saban said that it was a minor injury and will be okay for the Auburn game, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on and was a heart stopping moment.

After that it seemed as though players were dropping like flies. Cooper, A’Shawn Robinson, Jalston Fowler, Leon Brown, Cam Robinson, ArDarius Stewart, and Brian Vogler all left the game with injuries at some point. Fowler returned to the game and Saban said that Cooper, Cam, A’Shawn, and Brown would all be back for the Auburn game, but Stewart and Vogler had potentially more serious injuries.

All of those injuries are something that needs to be monitored headed into the Iron Bowl, but Vogler may be the biggest blow of any injury this season. He isn’t near the threat that OJ Howard is in the passing game, but in the running game he is one of the better blocking tight ends in the country. OJ Howard struggles mightily in the running game so it is more than likely that Brandon Greene will see more time than usual at that spot.

Alabama has taken a few nice steps forward in the turnover game in recent weeks, but took a couple backwards against WCU with two turnovers on offense and not forcing any on defense. Blake Sims’ interception really rests on the receivers shoulders as they ran into each other on their routes leading to the defensive back getting an easy pick.

Final Stats

Bake Sims: 17-25, 222 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 4 carries, -1 yards
Jacob Coker: 12-18, 115 yards, 1 TD

Derrick Henry: 12 carries, 92 yards, 2 TD; 1 catch, 9 yards, 1 TD
Tyren Jones: 11 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, -1 yards
Altee Tenpenny: 11 carries, 64 yards
Jalston Fowler: 5 carries, 30 yards
Buddy Pell: 2 carries, 15 yards

Chris Black: 6 catches, 101 yards
ArDarius Stewart: 5 catches, 51 yards
Robert Foster: 4 catches, 40 yards
Amari Cooper: 3 catches, 46 yards
Cameron Sims: 3 catches, 33 yards, 1 TD
OJ Howard: 2 catches, 33 yards
Malcolm Faciane: 2 catches, 2 yards
Michael Nysewander: 1 catch, 12 yards, 1 TD
Christion Jones: 1 catch, 11 yards

Landon Collins: 7 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss
Trey DePriest: 5 tackles
Reggie Ragland: 4 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss
Xzavier Dickson: 4 tackles
Cyrus Jones: 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup
Jabriel Washington: 2 tackles
Rashaan Evans: 2 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss
Dillon Lee: 2 tackles
Maurice Smith: 2 tackles
Jonathan Allen: 2 tackles, 2 quarterback hurries
Nick Perry: 2 tackles
Geno Smith: 2 tackles
Josh Frazier: 1 tackle, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack
Reuben Foster: 1 tackle
Jarran Reed: 1 tackle
Dee Liner: 1 tackle
Tim Williams: 1 tackle, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack
Robert Foster: 1 tackle
Ryan Anderson: 1 quarterback hurry

Gunnar Raborn: 2/3 FGs; 6/6 XPs
Christion Jones: 3 punt returns, 27 yards
Cyrus Jones: 1 punt return, 5 yards
Landon Collins: 1 kickoff return, 30 yards
Xzavier Dickson: 1 kickoff return, 7 yards
OJ Howard: 1 kickoff return, 5 yards