16 September 2009
For the second consecutive week the opponent's score makes it seem as though the Bama defense allowed more points than it actually gave up. And for the second consecutive week, the Alabama defense was dominant.
There were some problems - namely the fact that in the first half Bama gave up third down conversion after third down conversion. But in the final analysis, the Tide defense gave up just one scoring drive, and completely eliminated the FIU rushing attack from the game.
Before we heep too much praise on the Bama defense, FIU did rank among the bottom ten schools in the NCAA in rushing offense in 2008 at 98.67 yards per game. But the fact that FIU didn't manage to break into positive rushing yards until late in the fourth quarter when the second unit from each team was on the field should speak volumes about Bama's run defense.
FIU's leading rusher in the game was Darria Mallery, with just 13 yards. Its second leading rusher was backup quarterback Wayne Younger, who managed a 12 yard rush that put the Golden Panthers in the positive. Otherwise, starting running back Darriet Perry had nine rushes for eight yards, and starting quarterback Paul McCall had eleven rushes for -29 yards.
Star player T.Y hilton was held to zero yards on one rush. If you don't understand how dangerous Hilton can be with the ball in his hands, take a look at his 96 yard kickoff return for an example. I'll get to how the Tide defended him as a receiver in a bit, but the Bama defense taking him away as a rushing threat was a big bonus.
In all FIU ended the game with a toal of one rushing yard. You read that right - one rushing yard. In reality the Golden Panthers managed 56 yards of forward progress, but when that is factored in with their losses of 55 yards, they end up with one total yard rushing.
The Golden Panthers longest rush of the game went for twelve, by the backup quarterback against the backup defense. The longest rushing play was by Mallary when he went for eight yards.
It's tough to lose when you don't give up any rushing plays of longer than eight yards. In fact, for comparison, the Bama offense had 12 rushing plays of eight or more yards - all by running backs on standard rushing plays.
In total, FIU had 26 rushing attempts on the day, and 13 of them went for a rushing loss, with a fourteenth going for zero yards. That takes into account the five sacks that Bama had on the day, but even eliminating those, FIU saw eight of thier 21 rushing attempts go for zero or negative yards. That is just plain awesome.
Combine it with last week and Bama is fifth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 32.5 yards per game. The two offenses Bama has faced have managed to run for a total of 65 yards on 57 attempts - an average of 1.1 yards per attempt.
As for the pass defense... don't let folks fool you into believing that Bama played the pass poorly on Saturday. Yes, FIU managed 213 passing yards, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Of those 213, 49 came in the fourth quarter when Bama was in what would essentially be called a prevent defense. Allowing just 184 yards through three quarters is pretty solid. When you consider that those yards include one 46 yard gain, and another 25 yarder, you begin to see that Bama was pretty solid against the pass.
The Panthers attempted 38 passes, plus the five plays in which they were sacked, and five other plays where Bama pressure froced a quarterback run. In those 48 called passing plays, Bama allowed just 18 completions. There were not only the five sacks, but and additional nine quarterback hurries.
Essentially, on 28 of the Golden Panthers's 48 passing attempts, they gained one yard, zero yards, or lost yards due to a sack.
Combine that with the rushing numbers, and it means that in 29 of FIU's 64 plays went for zero yards or negative yards. Unless you're giving up a ton of big plays, that will win you a lot of games.
The only FIU player that really did anything of note was receiver Greg Ellingson. He caigh five passes for 92 yards, including the 46 yard first quarter gain against Robby Green. Most of his catches were more a case of perfectly thrown passes being completed to a big receiver using his body to shield defenders. It's tough to fault the Bama defensive backs on that type of play.
Stud T.Y. Hilton had five catches for 40 yards, though 25 of those came on an early crossing route. Bama's defense adjusted and limited him to just 15 yards on his next four catches. He's an elite player that will likely play in the NFL, and Bama's defense more or less eliminated him from the game... just six touches for 40 yards.
Among all of the dominant numbers, though, it was the third quarter where Bama really dominated. In that quarter FIU ran 17 plays for a total of zero yards.
The Bama pass rush notched another five sacks, meaning the Tide is at 10 for the season. That's after notching just 25 in all of 2008.
From an individual standpoint, here's what stood out to me:
- Rolando McClain jumped back up to the top of the tackles list with 10. Among those were 1.5 for a loss.
- Dont'a Hightowerwas second on the day with six tackles, including his first career sack, and a total of 2.5 tackles for a loss.
- Marcell Dareus claims he wants to have two sacks per game. He got that on Saturday, with two for a loss of 17 yards. He's got 3.5 on the season now.
- Marquis Johnson and Kareem Jackson each had two PBUs in a game in which the Tide defensive backs were very physical.
- Nick Gentry recorded his first career tackle, but played well enough to factor into the discussion for playing time down the road. Not bad for a guy that many fans had written off as being too small to play. Most of his plays came in relief of Terrence Cody at the nose guard position.
- Terrence Cody managed 2.5 tackles for a loss, a huge feat for a 3-4 nose guard in one game.
- Kerry Murphy worked a long time to make it on to the field for Bama, and he recorded his first two tackles on Saturday.
- Mark Barron had a huge game, with six tackles, .5 sacks, and his first career interception.
Through two games Bama is allowing an average of 3.2 yards per play. They are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 46.5% of their pass attempts. The Tide is averaging one sack for every 5.8 passing attempt, and a tackle for a loss for every 5.8 plays.
To say the Bama defense has been dominant is an understatement. Things should continue for another week, as an overmatched and injury depleted North Texas comes to town. The following week brings Arkansas and offensive guru Bobby Petrino to town. We should get a good look at the Bama defense in week four.
Until then we'll have to go on what we've seen. And what I've seen tells me that Bama is likely to be among the nation's best 10 defenses in 2009.
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