Alabama Football: What Went Wrong In The Sugar Bowl Loss?


It’s not the ending that Alabama football fans wanted. Thursday’s 42-35 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes put an end to the Tide’s 2014 season.

First things are first. You have to get credit to the Buckeyes. They are an extremely good team with a great coach. They came in with a great game plan and sometimes, the team you are facing is the better one.  I also think Cardale Jones can take off the label as a “third string quarterback” and take the “starter” name. Jones made his second career start, completing 18 passes on 35 attempts for 234 yards with one interception and one touchdown.

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One thing the Tide prides itself on doing is stopping the run game. In the Sugar Bowl, that didn’t happen. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott had a phenomenal game, rushing for 230 yards while averaging over 11 yards a carry. Jones added 89 to the Buckeyes’ total.

The Tide seemed to be lost at times on defense and defensive back Nick Perry said after the game that they had communication issues.  Add that with injuries to safety Landon Collins and linebacker Reggie Ragland during the game as well as Denzel Devall playing somewhat hurt, it’s a recipe for disaster. You can’t just place the blame on the Tide defense without giving credit to Ohio State. They were physical up front and gave the running backs the lanes they needed to get the yards.

Another weakness the Tide has had at times this season is containingthe edge and against Ohio State was no different. “Defensively we were just trying to be on the same page and on every given play and down, they broke out on some big plays on us and we just couldn’t contain the edge at points”, Collins said. Collins added that the Buckeyes did what the Tide practiced for but that they just didn’t execute and Ohio State made the big plays.

The secondary had some issues during the game as well. The defense could not get off of the field on third down all night it seemed. Ohio State quarterback Jones completed four passes on third and long. On the night, Ohio State went 10-for-18 on third down conversions. “It was all about us”, Perry said adding, “We weren’t communicating well on some of the third downs and they were able to capitalize on them”. On other side, the Tide couldn’t convert on third down, going 2-for-13.

During the first half of the game, Alabama was having success running the ball to the side opposite of Joey Bosa. Tide running back Derrick Henry averaged over seven yards per carry, coming just short of 100 yards. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin drifted away from the running game until later in the second half. That’s one decision that I didn’t understand. To be honest, this game didn’t seem like a typical Lane Kiffin offense. Even the post game folks on ESPN acknowledged that. Wide receiver Amari Cooper was held well below his standard with only 71 yards in receptions.

Coach Saban noted in the post-game press conference that he wanted to take more shots down the field early in the game. “I was kind of anxious to see us take more shots down the field. I don’t think we, maybe, did that enough early in the game. And they did a nice job. But we did a little better job in the second half when we went no huddle, we played faster and did better, and I think there’s obviously a lot of things that we wish we would have done differently to attack their defense”, Saban said.

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims didn’t have as good of a game as he is accustomed to but it wasn’t a terrible effort either. Sims finished the night completing 22 passes on 36 attempts for 237 yards with two touchdowns with three interceptions, with one of those interceptions being a pick-six. After the game in a move you would expect from Sims, he tried to shoulder the blame. ““I take full responsibility for everything that happened tonight. It was no other person’s fault but mine”, Sims said. As you have already read, the blame doesn’t fall on one person. You win as a team and lose as team.

Sims’ team mates were quick to defend. “After the game that’s our quarterback. We always tell him let’s make history. He did a fantastic job at what he’s been doing. He played his heart out. As the quarterback we look up to him, and, man, all hands down to him. I love my quarterback to death”, Collins said.

All in all, it was a great season. I predicted a few losses at the beginning of the season and the team surpassed my expectation to give Saban his seventh ten-win season in row. Sometimes, it’s not all about the wins and losses but more so about the people on the team and what they become. Coach Saban said it best after the game.

“But I think there’s a lot of winners on this team. And I don’t think you necessarily have to get a trophy to be a winner. And I do think that there’s a lot of guys on this team, two of them (Collins and Sims)  sitting right up here with me right now, and many, many more in that locker room, that have been winners all year and did a fantastic job for our team.”