CRIMSON CONCLUSIONS: Alabama vs. MTSU

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Sep 12, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Kenyan Drake (17) reacts after he scores a touchdown against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
 
Saturday afternoon the second ranked Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 37-10 in the Tide’s home opener. Led by a ball hawking defense and a second straight three touchdown performance from Derrick Henry Alabama extends their record to 2-0
 
Tide Forcing Turnovers 
 

Last season one of the defenses biggest weakness was forcing turnovers and against MTSU the Alabama defense forced four turnovers including 3 fumbles. On the very first offensive drive for MTSU freshman corner Marlon Humphrey ripped the ball free from the receiver and Geno Smith recovered. Eddie Jackson and Reggie Ragland also forced fumbles which Jarran Reed and Jackson recovered. Cyrus Jones also had a highlight reel leaping interception in the first half. The defense only allowed a total of 99 yards in the second half after MTSU gained 176 in the first. The defense seemed a bit on their heels in the first half against MTSU up tempo offense but settled in and was dominant. The Blue Raiders longest play of the game was 21 yards and their longest run was nine gaining just 86 total rushing yards with 2.8 yards per carry. The defense was able to knock around Blue Raider quarterback Brent Stockstill but never managed to sack him.

Quarterbacks Picture of Inconsistency 

Alabama’s second game was night a great one for the two Tide quarterbacks. Coker managed 214 yards and another score but also had a horrible interception on one of the most awful deep pass attempts I’ve ever seen. Cooper Bateman threw for 98 yards and a touchdown as well but also had a horrible interception which was returned 77 yards (almost as much as MTSU’s offense gained the entire game). Coker will have a 69 yard pass to his credit but it was a little shovel pass to Drake which Drake took the 69 yards. Every deep pass he has attempted has either been horribly overthrown or horribly under thrown. This is a massive hitch in Coker’s game which must be fixed. Bateman on the other hand was just way too inconsistent. The drive where he threw his interception was the best example of that. Bateman threw a beautiful 31 yard pass to tight end Ty Smith but then just two plays later threw an interception right to the MTSU defender. Most of the throws from both quarterbacks have been short passes to try and get their play makers in space, but at some point they are going to have to make throws down the field as defenses will more and more begin to stack the box to stop Henry and Drake.


Running Backs Carrying the Offense 

Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake combined for 227 yards and four touchdowns in the game, but the most impressive thing to me about the two backs has been their unselfishness. Both have been excellent blockers and on Drake’s two biggest plays Henry had key blocks. One of the plays that Kiffin seems to be going to with Drake has been the little shovel pass, which is more of a pitch to Drake but goes to the QB as a pass, in which Drake had to his two biggest plays of the game including a 61 yard gallop to the three yard line. Derrick Henry scored three rushing touchdowns for the second straight game and also ran for 96 yards, most of which came in the second half. The offensive line was pushed around a bit in the first half and Henry was forced to dodge tacklers in the backfield which is a far cry from the dominating performance they had against Wisconsin. The line will need to improve in their consistency as teams will look to stack the box, even more so, moving forward.


 
OJ Howard Becoming a Weapon 

Tight end OJ Howard is becoming a true weapon for Alabama and a great safety valve for his quarterbacks. Howard had one of the best plays of his Alabama career with an awesome 42 yard catch and run in the first half, and put together one of his more complete performances as a blocker and receiver. Howard should be one of Alabama’s best playmakers and if he can become the weapon that everyone believes he can be it will make this offense even more versatile.


Kicking is a Huge Problem 

Adam Griffith has attempted four field goals this season and has missed all four of them. His two attempts against MTSU were probably his two worst of the year. He missed a 24 yard field goal at the end of the first half when Coker had driven the offense down near the goal line. It was truly pathetic to see the kicker miss what was in essence an extra point. Griffith then attempted a 49 yard field goal in the second and was a good 5 yards short on the kick. I know that Saban has said publicly that he is not concerned with his kickers issues but it is officially panic time in regards to the kicker position. If Adam Griffith continues to kick for Alabama, in my opinion, he WILL cost the Tide a game at some point. At what point to you decide it is time to go somewhere else rather than hurt your team by continuing to go to Griffith again?

Alabama will look to gain revenge next week as they play host to 17th ranked Ole Miss Rebels, who defeated Alabama last season. The game will be at 8:15 PM (central) on ESPN.
 

FINAL STATS 

PASSING 

Jake Coker: 15-26, 214 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 1 carry 5 yards

Cooper Bateman: 11-17, 98 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 2 carries, 6 yards

RUSHING 

Derrick Henry: 18 carries, 96 yards, 3 TD

Kenyan Drake: 6 carries, 40 yards; 5 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD

Damien Harris: 8 carries, 55 yards; 1 catch, 8 yards

Ronnie Clark: 2 carries, 9 yards

Derrick Gore: 2 carries, 9 yards

RECEIVING 

ArDarius Stewart: 6 catches, 21 yards

OJ Howard: 4 catches, 68 yards

Robert Foster: 4 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD

Calvin Ridley: 4 catches, 37 yards

Ty Flournoy-Smith: 1 catch, 31 yards

Richard Mullaney: 1 catch, 7 yards

DEFENSE 

Reggie Ragland: 7.5 TKL, 1.0 TFL, 1 FF

Denzel Devall: 5 TKL, 1.0 TFL

Marlon Humphrey: 4 TKL, 1 FF, 1 PBU

A’Shawn Robinson: 4 TKL, 1.0 TFL, 1 QBH

Jarran Reed: 4 TKL, 1 FR, 1 PBU, 1 QBH

Geno Matias-Smith: 4 TKL, 1 FR

Reuben Foster: 3.5 TKL, 2 PBU

Cyrus Jones: 3 TKL, 1 INT

Eddie Jackson: 2.5 TKL, 1 FF, 1 FR

Shaun Dion Hamilton: 2 TKL

Tony Brown: 2 TKL

Maurice Smith: 2 TKL

Minkah Fitzpatrick: 2 TKL, 1 PBU

Dalvin Tomlinson: 2 TKL

Ronnie Harrison: 1.5 TKL, 1 blocked punt, 1 safety

Keith Holcombe: 1.5 TKL

Tim Williams: 1 TKL

Damien Harris: 1 TKL

DJ Pettway: 1 TKL

Jonathan Allen: 1 TKL, 1 QBH

Cole Mazza: 0.5 TKL

Ryan Anderson: 0.5 TKL, 1 QBH

Michael Nysewander: 0.5 TKL

Darren Lake: 1 PBU

Daron Payne: 1 QBH

SPECIAL TEAMS 

JK Scott: 5 punts, 40.2 YPP, long: 44 yards

Adam Griffith: 0-2 FGs, 5-5 XPs

Kenyan Drake: 3 KOR, 71  yards

Richard Mullaney: 1 KOR, 16 yards; 1 PR, 22 yards

Cyrus Jones: 1 PR, 5 yards

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