Alabama Football: Defensive Report Card vs Mississippi State

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /

The defense for Alabama football showed up this week, largely shutting down Mississippi State’s Air Raid offense. The Bulldogs eventually scored on the game’s final play to make the final score 30-6, and steal a shutout from the Alabama defense.

Alabama Football Defensive Line: B+

Mississippi State is notorious for its lack of a running game, but Mike Leach made an effort to establish the run early in this game. Alabama seemed caught off guard by this strategy, but eventually found its footing. For the game, the Bulldogs ran 26 times for 62 yards (2.4 YPC). Jo’quavious Marks and Simeion Price actually ran the ball successfully, both averaging over four yards per carry, as State’s rushing stats were skewed by sack yardage.

The Alabama defensive line was missing several pieces in this game. Justin Eboigbe, DJ Dale, and Jaheim Oatis were all inactive, which allowed a lot of reserve defensive linemen to get valuable reps.

Jamil Burroughs tallied five tackles, a half sack, and a quarterback hurry, and Damon Payne Jr. notched three stops. Jah-Marien Latham finished with one tackle and one hurry. Regulars Byron Young and Tim Smith also played well, and nearly combined to force a turnover. Young’s strip sack of Will Rogers and Smith’s subsequent recovery were overturned by video review.

This game provided a good opportunity to get some experience for Alabama’s defensive line depth. This unit will benefit from the upcoming bye week, and hopefully be a lot healthier afterwards.

Alabama Football Linebackers: B+

The Alabama linebackers were pretty solid in defending this gimmick offense. Henry To’o To’o played most of the game, leading the team with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss. Weakside linebacker Jaylen Moody didn’t play much against the Air Raid, recording just one tackle and a special teams fumble recovery. Deontae Lawson and Kendrick Blackshire were both inactive for the game.

On the outside, Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner made their presence felt. Turner finished with six tackles, a half sack, and a hurry. Anderson Jr. had four tackles (1.5 TFL), and a sack. He was credited with just one hurry, but it felt like he was chasing Will Rogers all night long.

Alabama Football Secondary: A

The Alabama secondary answered the bell after a week of scrutiny. Eli Ricks replaced Terrion Arnold at cornerback and had a coming out party, with two tackles and four pass breakups. On the other side, Kool-Aid McKinstry had four tackles and four PBUs in his own right. This duo still has to prove it can be effective against high-octane, vertically-driven offenses, but Alabama football might have a pair of lockdown corners for the first time in several years.

In the dime, junior Malachi Moore had two tackles and two PBUs. Classmate Brian Branch had a huge game, notching four tackles (1.5 TFL), a sack, two PBUs, and a hurry that nearly led to an interception. Branch’s versatility was on display all night, as Pete Golding made it a point to blitz from the secondary.

After a nightmare of a game last week, safety DeMarcco Hellams bounced back with 12 tackles, a sack, and two PBUs. The Mississippi State offensive scheme allowed Hellams to come downhill and use his physicality, making him one of the most effective players on the field. Fellow safety Jordan Battle finished with six tackles and a PBU.

As a unit, the Alabama secondary totaled 15 pass breakups. It made Will Rogers extremely inefficient, allowing just 231 passing yards on 60 pass attempts (3.8 YPA). This was the type of get-back game this group desperately needed.

Alabama Football Special Teams: A

After two straight weeks of poor play, the Alabama special teams had a redemption game of its own. Kicker Will Reichard went three for three on field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder. James Burnip’s punts were largely not returnable, and he pinned three out of six inside the 20-yard line. Additionally, the Alabama special teams forced a turnover this week instead of giving one away. Senior linebacker Jaylen Moody recovered a muffed punt to give Alabama an extra possession.

Hopefully, game-changing blunders are a thing of the past for the Crimson Tide’s special teams units. Even more importantly, this game was huge for Reichard. His performance against Mississippi State should be enough to get him out of his slump.

Offensive report card vs Mississippi State. dark. Next

Will Reichard is still one of the nation’s best kickers, and Alabama may need him to hit some clutch kicks down the stretch if it is going to return to national championship form.