19 September 2009
Before I get to actually grading the Tide on the areas that needed improvement, I just want to say how thankful I am that Alabama has the coaching staff that it has. After watching the unbelievably poorly coached West Virginia team squander a chance to beat Auburn, I have come to the realization that it has only taken two years and three games for me to become spoiled by this staff.
Anyway, when you win 53-7, obviously the grades are gonna be pretty good. Here's how it breaks down:
#5 - Penalties
After 10 in week one and six in week two, Bama only had two in week three.The fact that I can name those penalties from memory, without having to look at the stat sheet pretty much sums it up. But, because I have the play-by-play in front of me, I'll actually take a look and see what the result of those penalties was.
1 - holding on William Vlachos. This play happened on Alabama's third offensive possession, on a second and four from the North Texas 43 yard line. It technically goes in the books as a three yard rushing gain for Mark Ingram, with the penalty being assessed from the spot of the foul.
While it only goes in the books as a ten yard penalty, it actually negated a run of more than 15 yards by Ingram, and set Bama back to a second and eleven situation and midfield.
Fortunately the Tide answered with a nine yard run by Trent Richardson and a seven yard pass Colin Peek to gain a first down. After Peek's reception game Bama the first down, Greg McElroy hit Marquis Maze for a 34 yard touchdown.
So while the penalty was initially costly, in that it put Bama in a second and long situation, the drive ultimately resulted in a touchdown.
2 - delay of game on Star Jackson. Ugh. This one was ugly, and pretty much cost Bama points. The Tide was set up first and goal at the North Texas five yard line, just a few plays into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately Jackson simply took too much time in getting the play off. The result was that Bama was moved back to the ten yard line, and had to kick a field goal from the three after two runs and an incomplete pass. With a first and goal situation at the five, and a worn down Mean Green defense, I have to think that Bama scores a touchdown. So this one cost the Tide four points.
I'll cut Star some slack, because he's still getting his feet wet. The penalty is still stupid, and shouldn't happen. But I'm betting the experience was a learning one, and he'll show more urgency in the future.
Overall it is unrealistic to expect a team to play penalty free. And when you consider that they only truly costly penalty came from the second unit, I have to give Bama an A+.
#4 - Kick off Returns
The game's opening kick off was a squib that Baron Huber did a wonderful job of fielding and getting up field. Not all up-backs are capable of making a quick grab and getting positive yards out of it, but Huber did a nice job. Bama started the possession with great field position at the 46 yard line. The subsequent fumble sucked, but it has nothing to do with kick returns, so I'll ignore it for now.
The only other kick off gave me exactly what I wanted to see. North Texas kicked deep to Javier Arenas, and he made them pay. His 61 yard return was the second longest of his career - just one yard shy of his best of 62 yards. He had solid blocking on the play, and showed the type of elusiveness that has made him a great punt returner. He's still waiting for that first kick off return for a touchdown. And honestly, I'm betting he won't get it, because I'm betting this return - to the North Texas 39 - will remind people exactly why teams avoid kicking to him.
So, Bama returned two kicks, for a combined 71 yards. Even with one of those returns being a 10 yarder by Huber, that's still an average of 35.5 per. More importantly, the two returns game Bama an average starting position of the North Texas 47 yard line. The overall average field position for Bama for the day was their own 42, so the kick returns resulted in a positive of 11 yards from that average.
That earns a big fat A+
#3 - Play a complete game
Coach Saban seemed pretty pleased by the effort, so it would be tough for me to think otherwise.
He said he wanted the Tide to come out fast... well, after the fluke fumble on the first play, here's how the game went:
- North Texas - three plays, six yards, punt
- Bama - 13 plays, 95 yards, touchdown
- North Texas - three plays, two yards, punt
- Bama - six plays, 67 yards, touchdown
So that's 19 plays for 162 yards and two touchdowns for Bama, compared to six plays for eight yards for North Texas. Yep, that's a pretty good start.
In all, Bama would go on to score on six consecutive possessions - five touchdowns and a field goal.
It didn't really stop there, either. Bama managed to score on every possession after the fumble on the first play, except for one three and out with the second unit in the third quarter. Otherwise the Tide simply didn't let up. Sure, there were mistakes made late in the game. It's going to be tough for any team to keep focus when the game is completely out of hand.
But overall, Bama dominated in all three aspects of the game. And the Tide did so from the opening kick until the Thomas Darrah took a knee to end the game.
The fumble to start and the big touchdown allowed keep this from being perfect, but it's about as close as you can get. Once again, I'll go with an A+
#2 - The Red Zone
The Tide ended up scoring touchdowns on five of seven trips to the red zone, after scoring on just five of its first twelve. That's definitely improvement.
To make things better, Greg McElroy was a perfect three for three in getting his team into the end zone while in the red zone. So that is absolutely improvement. Star Jackson was two of four, with one trip running out of time at the end of the first half, and the second bogging down because of the stupid penalty.
I had said that I wanted the Tide to be at an 80% clip against North Texas, and I got 71%. That'll keep me from giving Bama as high of a grade, though I won't punish the score too badly because the first team was perfect.
The Tide did manage to score on all of its red zone possessions, at least, with short field goals coming on the two possessions that didn't end in touchdowns. While I would much rather have touchdowns, field goals are sometimes acceptable. Coming away with no points is not.
With all of that in mind, I'll give the Tide a score of B+, but I could easily be persuaded to go to an A.
#1 - Kick off Coverage
I know, I know, there was one long return of 67 yards. It was also aided by a block in the back that took Rod Woodson completely out of the play. Would Rod have made the tackle? Possibly. Would he have maintained his lane and forced the return man into another tackler? Probably not. I won't count this return too harshly against the Tide, because there's no way of knowing exactly how the penalty affected things. I wasn't pleased to see the return, but the flag came immediately as the return man started up field. So, honestly, I gave up on the play at that time.
The other kick returns? Seven attempts for 119 yards. That's an average of right under 20 yards, which is very, very acceptable. The long on the day was 23 yards, and Bama also had great coverage on returns of 12 and 15 yards.
Leigh Tiffin did an absolutely brilliant job on kick offs, which helped. I know that the only thing that most people are going to remember about Leigh is the two missed extra points - and those were awful - but his kick offs really shouldn't be over looked.
He had two very wind-aided touchbacks, and a third kick that should have been a touchback. Those have been rare in Tuscaloosa since the kicks were moved back to the 30, and the crowd responded nicely both times. But even when kicking into the face of the wind, all of Leigh's kicks were inside the five yard line.
Those kicks were also extremely high, and placed in a corner - which is where Coach Saban wants them.
I can't completely ignore the long one that was called back, because it did happen. With that in mind, I'll go with a solid B for the Tide kick coverage.
With that out of the way, if you have any suggestions for next week's version of this article... please send them in. It's tough to come up with five things to improve on when you have dominated a team 53-7.
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