30 September 2008
What can you say about an offense that has scored 40 points in three consecutive games, with two of those coming on the road in the SEC? What can you say about an offense that scored on its first five possessions? What can you say about an offense that for the first 30 minutes of Saturday's game did pretty much whatever in the hell they pleased?
I guess the only thing to really say is, "Roll Tide!"
It wasn't all positive for Alabama's offense in Saturday night's dominating 41-30 win over then #3 ranked Georgia. After all, the Tide failed to convert a second and two from the Georgia three yard line into a touchdown. The Tide offense also failed to pick up a first down in the third quarter.
But when it mattered most, which was every time the Georgia crowd got involved, Alabama's offense systematically worked its way down the field and put points on the board.
Neither the 129 rushing yards, nor the 205 passing yards were season high's for the Tide. The 334 yards of total offense wasn't even close to the Tide's best. Very little of what Alabama did on Saturday night jumps off of the stat sheet. Well, except for the 41 points they put on one of the nation's better defenses.
Probably the most eye-popping thing is the fact that Alabama had better than nine minutes of time of possession in three of the game's four quarters. Bama totaled an amazing 11:19 in the first quarter and then added another 9:13 in the second. That gave the Tide an astounding 20:32-9:28 advantage at the half. After Georgia's huge third quarter, the Bama offense settled in once again, and controlled the close for 9:52 in the fourth quarter.
That appeared to be a part of the game plan, too. Despite the fact that Bama routinely broke the huddle with 20-25 seconds on the play clock, it was a rarity for Antoine Caldwell to get the ball into John Parker Wilson's hands with more than three or four seconds remaining. Not only did this allow Bama to completely control the tempo of the game, it completely drained Sanford Stadium of all of the eneregy that the Dawgs "Black Out" had given it. This was an amazingly brilliant piece of scheming that Bama executed to perfection.
An abundant amount of praise should be thrown upon Jim McElwain this week for the game plan that he established and called. The Georgia defense seemed to be off balance for the entire game, excepting the third quarter, and Bama never really struggled to accomplish anything.
John Parker Wilson, stand up and take a bow! After hearing all summer that he would be the thing that held Alabama back, that he was not capable of making things happen in a big game, John Parker had possibly his best game as Bama's quarterback.
He's thrown for more yards in a game. He's thrown for more touchdowns in a game. But he's never managed a game so expertly. And the SEC rewarded him with its offensive player of the week honors. A clear acknowledgement from the league office that there is more to be a successful quarterback than what's on the stat sheet. It's not like the stats were bad, they just weren't the type of ridiculous video game like numbers that you usually see from the league's player of the week.
He got into a quick and easy rhythm, completing his first seven passes. Technically there were two incomplete passes in that mix, but both were wiped out by defensive holding penalties that were responsible for the incomplete pass. After his first statistical miss he completed his next three to close the first half. I'll take nine of ten in the first half every week.
He threw everying well, too. His touchdown to Julio Jones to close out the Tide's first half scoring was a thing of beauty, placed in the perfect place for Julio to catch it without having to concern himself with either the defender or the back line of the endzone.
He threw another deep ball well, putting the ball in a perfect position to be caught by Marquis Maze on Bama's first drive. It was a certain touchdown until Georgia's Prince Miller literally tackled Maze to avoid the completion.
He executed the play action perfectly. He spread the ball around well. We was especially adept at properly executing the screen pass, especially on his final attempt of the night to Roy Upchurch. He'll likely remember that screen pass to Upchurch for a while... that one pushed him past Brodie Croyle into the #1 spot on the Tide's all time career passing list.
It was his decision making that really put this game into the marquee category. Of his three incompletions, two were throw aways. He pulled the ball down on third down twice and managed to pick up positive yards without risking a turnover. He only took one sack, and rather than try to make something out of nothings, he covered the ball and protected field position and momentum.
Simply put, this was John Parker Wilson's best game as Alabama's quarterback.
13 of 16, 205 yards (12.8 yards per attempt), 1 Touchdown, 5 rushes, 13 yards
I'm big on averages. Give me a guy that has a great per rush, per reception, or per attempt ratio and I'll put the offense behind him. Glen Coffee has excelled at that this year, so it might look on paper as though his 3.7 yard average on Saturday night was a disappointment. You have to take the opponent into consideration, and Georgia does have a very solid run defense.
For the second consecutive game Glen found the end zone twice, with both runs demonstrating his new-found ability to pick up positive yards after first contact. That's not something that we saw from Glen last season, and it is the largest area of improvement that I've seen this season.
He did fumble an early pass reception that could have hurt Bama's ability to establish momentum. Thankfully the play was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Georgia - the Coffee still contends that he recovered the fumble.
23 carries, 86 yards, 2 TDs, 1 reception for 6 yards
Mark Ingram tweaked an ankle on his fifth carry that held him out of the rest of the game. That was pretty evident on his sixth and seventh carry when he was unable to make positive yards near the goal line - something that has been his role on the team this year. He was back at full speed during Monday's practice and should find his way back into the rotation this Saturday.
- 7 carries, 17 yards, 1 TD
Roy Upchurch took advantage of Ingram abscence to continue to increase his role. He's the Tide's best blocker on blitzes, and he expanded that this week to include chucking the blitzer and rolling into a passing lane. His highlight of the game was making a Georgia defender look absolutely silly on the 29 yard reception that helped Wilson break his record, and helped Alabama put the game away for good two players later.
6 carries, 18 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 51 yards
We had seen glimpses of what Julio Jones is capable of over the course of the first four games. Saturday night we saw more than a glimpse. We still haven't seen the total package, but we got a chance to see what a big play receiver he can be.
The first thing that jumps out is the touchdown catch. He shielded the defense back with his body and made the over-the-shoulder catch. The back line of the end zone didn't even seem to be an issue with him making the catch, despite the fact that he was barely in bounds. What you might not have been able to see on television is that Julio was being held for the entirety of his route. Somewhere around the five yard line he just discarded the defensive back, without pushing off, and made a great catch seem routine.
But that wasn't the only big play. He caught two passes, each for 13 yards on Bama's first drive. The first one was a great route, where he ran the defensive back off the play. The second one was a result of the first one, with the Georgia corner simply giving him too much room. Neither of those were spectacular, but are an indication that he and Wilson are starting to develop a rhythm.
That was very evident on Bama's third offensive possession. John Parker waited what seemed an eternity (kudos to the offensive line) for Julio to cross the entire width of the field behind the soft zone of the Georgia defense. John Parker did a decent job of looking around, but it seemed as though he knew Julio was going to be open, and he held on to the ball until it happened. Julio wasn't satisfied with the 18 yards he had picked up at the time of the catch, either. He wheeled up field and broke two Georgia tackles, tip-toeing his way down the sideline, and didn't hit the ground until he reached the end zone. Unfortunately he barely stepped out of bounds at the four yard line, but the athleticism of the play was incredible.
5 receptions, 94 yards, 1 TD - All career highs
Mike McCoy only had two receptions, but they were both key catches. After Bama had a short field following the Don'ta Hightower "fumble recovery" Mike made a nice outside move to start the drive with a big 12 yard gain to get Alabama around the 20. Two plays later, on third and six he found another seem in the Georgia zone and picked up a crucial third down coversion that led to Upchurch's touchdown.
2 receptions for 22 yards
Nikita Stover and Nick Walker each took advantage of the soft zone that Georgia had to employ in order to try to stop the Bama run. Each guy ran a crisp route and picked up a first down by simply finding a hole in the zone for John Parker to throw to.
There was great irony in the fact that Bama's first pass play went to BJ Scott. All of the hype leading up to the game was over the duo of freshmen receivers in Bama's Julio Jones and Georgia's AJ Green (who are both great), and BJ was the first one to touch the ball. Was that a message from the coaching staff? It was a quick read and throw by John Parker, so I have to think that it was a designed play. Simply a reward for Scott's hard work? or a message sent that Bama has more than one talented freshman skill player.
The OFFENSIVE LINE
These guys get all caps at this point. I wish I could devote more time to watching the big uglies play, but my eyes always wander to the skill guys, even on repeat viewing. My lack of in depth analysis of these guys isn't an indication of their play, but rather my inability to really watch them.
I do know this... John Parker Wilson had time to throw all night long. The one time he was sacked came on a well timed blitz by the Georgia defense, and sometimes you just have to tip your cap to that. But against a big, physical defense that was lauded coming into the game for their ability to put pressure on the quarterback, they didn't get a lot of pressure on Wilson.
The run blocking was also superb. It wasn't quite as evident as in previous games, mostly because the opponent's front seven was far superior to Bama's other opponents. When it mattered most, the guys had holes to run through.
And for all of the press given (deservedly) to Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell, the guy between them is having a hell of a year. Crump mentioned him in his unsung heroes column, but Mike Johnson deserves another mention here.
He was iffy at tackle last season, but the move to guard has made all of the difference in the world. He was seemingly always at the second level looking for someone to block. On all of Bama's rushing touchdowns you can see him somewhere near the ball carrier when he cross the goal line. A huge, huge game for Mike.
The Davises on the right side aren't exactly a weak link either. Alabama continues to have success running to the right. Part of that is because teams load up the left side, anticipating runs coming that way. But a lot of that is also because these two guys are plowing the road. Teams are going to have stop loading up on the left, and that simply makes the offense better.
I'm gonna go ahead and lump Travis McCall in here. He doesn't get a lot of looks in the passing attack, despite the fact that he's a decent receiving tight end. His ability to block, however, is elite. Both of Bama's tight ends stand a strong chance of playing on Sundays, but McCall's chances are probably a little better. When he shift behind the line he is like a pulling guard. When he stays put on the end, he is like an extra tackle. Bama looks to lose at least two, and probably three members of the offensive line after this season. McCall almost counts as another lost lineman. He's that good of a blocker.