Alabama Football: Southern Miss an opportunity for Tide rushing attack

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

So far in 2021, Alabama Football is not in the top half of the FBS in running the ball. The Alabama Crimson Tide average of 3.96 yards-per-carry is better than just 46 FBS teams. Last season, the Crimson Tide rushed for a respectable 5.0 yards-per-carry.

The average yard stat is a good barometer but not as important as efficiency in short-yardage situations. It matters not how a third or fourth and short situation is converted. But in tight contests between top teams, being successful in running for two yards or less can determine a game’s outcome.

On Saturday against Florida, the Tide’s 3rd quarter touchdown drive had a critical 4th-and-1 at the three-yard line. Brian Robinson Jr. converted the first down and scored the touchdown. The success of that critical play pushed the Crimson Tide lead to 28-16 and blunted Florida’s momentum that had begun in the second quarter.

Championship quality teams make those kinds of plays. Throughout the preseason and continuing into the early season, Alabama football fans have been concerned the rebuilt Crimson Tide offensive line might lack something in controlling the line of scrimmage. Some of that doubt remains, even with Nick Saban saying on Monday, he “thought the offensive line did a good job” against the Gators.

"I think they are improving, they’re playing more and more together, they’re playing better fundamentally. It’s like every other part of our team — a little more consistent, a little more consistency in performance. Block here, block there, finishing a block here or there will make a big difference"

In the first three weeks of the season, no team has been stingier at giving up rushing yards than Southern Mississippi. Check out the rushing, yards-per-carry average for the Golden Eagles’ three opponents.

  • South Alabama beat Southern Miss (USM) 31-7, but USA rushed 34 times for 31 yards – an average of 0.9 yards-per-carry.
  • Southern Miss beat Grambling State 37-0 and held the Tigers to a 1.9 yards-per-carry average.
  • Troy beat USM 21-9, but the Trojans rushed for only 1.5 yards-per-carry.

The three games of run defense stats, against lower-level teams, are inflated by sacks. Still, USM might have a defensive front capable of challenging the Tide. Instead of taking advantage of what the USM defense offers, might Saban and Bill O’Brien settle on a different game plan? An above-average number of running plays might provide enough challenge to further the Tide’s offensive line development.

Note: Southern Miss stats are from

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With Brian Robinson Jr. recovering from sore ribs, Jase McClellan and Trey Sanders should see plenty of snaps against USM.