30 August 2008
There is a certain group of fans of our state university who want more than just to win. They want to win it in a certain way. They want to win it Bama old school.
That group of fans is very happy right now.
Alabama's offense, using a debilitating power rushing attack to set up a methodical short passing game, kept the football for over 41 minutes, and the Tide defense showed off a surprisingly disruptive line to keep Clemson knocked back and off balance during the occasional interludes when they had the ball.
It was pure power football, and Clemson felt unmanned and showed it plainly before the third quarter was over.
On offense, Mark Ingram and Glenn Coffee brought serious lumber, keeping each other fresh enough to account for 188 of the 240 yards rolled up by the Bama ground game. John Parker Wilson was repeatedly given the opportunity to calmly look downfield, hitting 22 of 30 for 180 yards and two TDS, and avoided mistakes when he did not have time. Wilson had no turnovers and was not sacked. Of note were Wilson's seven hook-ups with tight end Nick Walker, six in the first half and one huge first down throw and catch in the second stanza.
Defensively, Alabama was in Clemson's backfield most of the night, holding the Tigers' celebrated running back duo of Davis and Spiller to 21 yards between them. Clemson QB Cullen Harper did not enjoy the luxury of time that was generally afforded Wilson, enduring three sacks and numerous hurries while guiding the Clemson O to only one field goal (the Tigers' TD came on a 96-yard C.J. Spiller kickoff return). Including the sacks, Clemson's ground game accounted for the grand total of one yard.
Alabama fans, who can't help but feel a bit snake-bit, kept looking for an excuse to become nervous and gloomy, but the Tide just wouldn't give them a hand.
-The 13-0 first quarter was certainly dominant, but Bama looked dominant and then folded like a pocket hankie several times last year.
- It was certainly better news when the 13-0 first quarter was followed by a 10-3 second quarter, but still, we had to see an entire game out of this bunch.
- Those fears were fed when C.J. Spiller slipped through a crack in Bama's kickoff coverage early in the third quarter and flashed his impressive wheels . . . but Bama would come right back to march methodically down the field, including the afore-mentioned third down Wilson-to-Walker conversion, in a time-consuming dagger-to-the-heart of a TD drive.
Once the drive had culminated in the first touchdown of Julio Jones' career and a Mark Ingram two-point sprint that only looked easy because of a key Travis McCall block, it was all over. The fourth quarter would be little more than a formality.
Clemson was listless, and we really don't know how good they were - despite their celebrated returning offensive backfield, they were breaking in a new offensive line and replacing nearly half of their defense - but there's no getting around the fact that Alabama made a statement tonight. The question of the moment is whether the AP and UPI voters will get over their pre-season prejudices sufficiently to give the Tide the Top Ten spot they just earned, but the answer to that question is of temporary interest only. If Bama just keeps showing up on the field this way, the pollsters will eventually take note.