27 October 2008
Sorry for the lack of posts by me over the last few days. My wireless card refused to work for me in Knoxville, and I've returned home sick. If my health improves in the next couple of days I will try to do my normal game review posts, but just in case, here are some quick hitters:
For the first time in two seasons we finally got to see Nick Saban's
defense. We blitzed anybody, from anywhere, at any time. Nick Stephens was lost the entire game, and the relentless pressure put on him by Bama had everything to do with that. An inexperienced QB has almost no chance when a defense disguises its blitzes as well as Bama did. How do you think the inexperienced QBs at LSU and Auburn are feeling right now?
John Parker Wilson had his best game in 2007 against Tennessee. There is still some football left to be played in this season, but right now the same statement can be made about 2008. He made one poor throw on Bama's first drive, but was otherwise about as good as he can be. He did not throw an incomplete pass (except for the two point conversion that doesn't count towards statistics) for the game's final 44:50. Granted, he only attempted 11 passes in that span, but the potential of the passing attack really helped the Bama run offense open up in the second half.
To borrow a phrase from Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy - "Julio Jones is a MAN!" His first 100 yard game came in Knoxville. Think he'll forget that any time soon? He continues to really impress me with how hard he fights for extra yards after making the catch. In a time where so many receivers shy away from contact and get out of bounds as soon as they make a catch, Julio uses his big body to plow forward.
It wasn't the "all-Julio" show, either. John Parker Wilson completed passes to nine different guys, including two tight ends, two running backs, and five receivers. As the season progresses, we're starting to see more and more of the Jim McElwain philosophy of spreading the ball around. Julio and Nick Walker each have a catch in every game, establishing themselves as the "go to" guys, but at this point you have to respect every eligible receiver.
After getting his first action against Kentucky, Brad Smelley made good use of his first road action. He has caught one pass in each of his first two games, and both of those catches have converted a third down on what would result in touchdown drives. He was open a couple of other times, and did a much better job of blocking in this game. With Colin Peek, Preston Dial, Chris Underwood, and Brad all returning next year, the tight end position appears to be in good shape.
Not having Terrence Cody sure did kill Bama's rush defense, didn't it? Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to the big fellow returning to the field, but Josh Chapman ain't exactly chopped liver. He led the way to holding the Vols to just 36 yards rushing. And despite not having Cody in the middle, the Vols spent most of their time running outside. My guess is that they saw on video that Chapman doesn't really allow anything up the middle, either.
The last time that Bama emptied Neyland Stadium early in the 4th quarter was in 2002 when Bama thumped the #16 ranked Vols 34-14. Three weeks later the Tide played most of the 4th quarter in an empty Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, giving Nick Saban his worst defeat as LSU's coach, 31-0. That doesn't really mean anything, relative to this season, but it sure is fun to remember.
Going into the season just about everyone who wrote about Alabama football, including me, showed real concern over the defense. I think it's time to trust in Nick Saban, Kevin Steele, Kirby Smart, Lance Thompson, and Bo Davis. After Saturday the Tide ranks #2 in the nation in rushing defense (62.38), #18 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (103.27), #5 in the nation in total defense (263.13), and #10 in the nation in scoring defense (13.75).
We'll have a practice report up later today as the Tide prepares for the Red Wolves of Arkansas State.