Alabama Football: Lessons from Crimson Tide shutout of Mike Leach

Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football: A one-sided battle provided lessons about the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Mississippi Bulldogs.

On Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama football defense did what no team had ever done to Mike Leach. In 18-plus seasons as a head coach, no Mike Leach team had ever been shutout.  Given Leach’s career reputation as an offensive Guru, the goose-egg in the 41-0 Crimson Tide victory may not be historic for Leach but it could be historic for the Crimson Tide.

Maybe it should be written as historic with an asterisk. That is because the 2020 Mississippi State offense is awful.  Against Kentucky, the Bulldogs scored, but the offense did not in the 24-2 loss. State’s offense is weak, but the Alabama Crimson Tide defense is better than it was three games ago. MSU ‘awful’ and Crimson Tide ‘better’ are accurate. Paired against each other, it is hard to define what percentage to assign to each.

Others can better explain the Bulldogs’ situation. We’ll leave it as Mike Leach has much work to do and positive results are far away. In terms of the maligned Alabama football defense, it has now performed well in three straight games. Clearly seen on Saturday night was improved tackling, both from technique and effort.

The Crimson Tide defense played so well, it might now be safe for Pete Golding to travel around Tuscaloosa without a bodyguard. Before too much praise is sent Golding’s way, it should be noted the Tide defense against the Bulldogs was not a new scheme.

Mississippi State lit up LSU with 699 yards of offense in both team’s openers. The following week, Arkansas Defensive Coordinator, Barry Odom came up with a basically 3-8, zone defense. The result was 400 yards by the Bulldogs but only 14 points. Every SEC coach made note of the Razorbacks getting quarterback pressure with the three-man rush.

Life has been hard for Mike Leach since. Kentucky held them to 297 yards and Mike Elko’s Aggies defense held the Bulldogs to 217 yards. In the shutout Saturday night, the Bulldogs gained 21 yards in the first quarter. A business-like Crimson Tide offense opened at a 17-0 lead. In the second quarter, the Tide stretched the lead to 27-0, while Leach’s offense tallied a first-half production of 38 yards.

Mississippi State went into the game allowing the SEC’s fewest average yards-per-game. The Alabama football offense was powerful and efficient throughout the game.   Steve Sarkisian’s Tide offense ran 73 plays while gaining 499 yards.

Nick Saban praised his team after the game. He acknowledged tackling high had been a focus in game preparation. As was evident by his late-game ranting, Saban was not pleased with his team’s 10 penalties. During the game, freshman, Tim Smith, and others got an earful of incensed Saban.

The Crimson Tide team was dinged up going into the game. It got more dings against the Bulldogs. The Alabama football off-week is much needed.

dark. Next. Defense stepping up in a post-Waddle world

It is time to start thinking beyond the SEC. Alabama football is unquestionably the best team in the SEC. It might be the best team in college football.