Alabama Football: Too many mistakes and too few adjustments

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football fans can easily come up with a long list of ‘what ifs’ to explain the loss to Tennessee. We can talk about officiating costing the Crimson Tide the game. We can blame poor performances on members of the Alabama football staff. We could even argue that Josh Heupel and his staff outcoached Nick Saban and the Alabama staff.

But assigning reasons for the Crimson Tide loss cannot cloud two facts. The Vols may not be a true, top-five team, and were maybe overrated at No. 6. If so, any top-ten team can beat a Crimson Tide that makes 17 penalties, totaling 130 yards. Especially when on top of those penalties, a punt return is frittered away by a grievous mental error, giving the opponent a short-field score.

Alabama lost to Tennessee because the Crimson Tide beat itself.

From the perspective of continued pursuit of championships, losing to Tennessee is not a major blow. At some point, the streak was going to end. That the Crimson Tide beat one of the SEC’s most storied programs in 15 straight games is truly remarkable. Winning a 16th was a bit too much, but as much as Tennessee fans want to believe otherwise, Saturday was just one win and one loss – not a changing of the guard.

What must be asked going forward is what the Crimson must do to avoid another loss. An easy answer is a more disciplined level of play that results in far fewer penalties.

Other questions are harder to answer. With a trio of immensely talented pass rushers, why did the Tide produce just one sack and zero quarterback hurries? A partial answer is the Crimson Tide chose to drop extra players into coverage, at times as many as eight. Credit is also due to the Tennessee offensive scheme that allows Hendon Hooker to often make quick throws. But one sack, from a team with Will Anderson Jr., Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell?

Alabama Football: Too many mistakes and too few adjustments

More perplexing is why, other than dropping eight, the Alabama football staff never successfully adjusted to cover Jalin Hyatt. Going into the game, Hyatt was a well-known threat. He caught six passes with DeMarcco Hellams and Malachi Moore trying to cover him. Five of them were touchdown passes. Alabama fans are asking why a major adjustment was not made, such as using a backup cornerback for Kool-Aid’s spot and moving McKinstry to cover Hyatt, wherever the Tennessee receiver lined up. Perhaps, that is a foolish idea, but could the results have been worse than what happened in the game?

After the game, Nick Saban talked about the defense “playing too soft” on Tennessee’s last drive. He also said Alabama tried to play nickel, leading to the Vols getting wideouts covered by Crimson Tide safeties. Jalin Hyatt had receptions for 207 yards against those matchups. It is time for a mid-season self-assessment. Not just for Crimson Tide players, but for every coach as well – and that includes Nick Saban.

Alabama Football vs. Tennessee Box Score

Next. Alabama Football 3-Star Surprises. dark

Credit to Tennessee for their performance, but for Alabama, there should be even tougher post-season foes ahead. To meet those challenges, the Crimson Tide must improve on what it did wrong and failed to do in Knoxville.