Hours removed, a few initial impressions from the Tennessee game:
Colin Peek getting injured was just a sign of how things went for the Tide today. Nevertheless, Michael Williams -- who I've been touting for a few weeks now -- played well in his absence. He blocked well, had a catch, and should have gotten another catch to give us a first and goal, but, you know, McElroy...
The 'Bama offensive line played well today. They kept McElroy upright for most of the day, and pounded out some yards on the ground. They certainly weren't the problem offensively, that much is certain. And if this doesn't make your blood boil... we give up 0 sacks today on 29 passing attempts, and still only average 4.1 yards per attempt.
- That was the most emotionally draining game I've sat through since at least the 2005 Tennessee game. Even the Florida game last year in Atlanta paled in comparison. I tell you, I think I speak for the whole of the fan base when I say that had that game gone on any longer, half of us would have died from a collective heart attack, myself included.
- You guys know how much I loathe the Vols, but they deserved to win this game. They had almost 100 more total yards than we did, more first downs, won the time of possession battle, averaged almost three and a half yards more per passing attempt than we did, were better on third down, and were better on fourth down to boot. In almost every major statistical category -- sans rushing totals and placekicking -- the Vols outperformed us. They deserved to win today, truth be told. I'm just elated that we somehow got the job done.
- To say we pulled this one out by the slimmest of margins is a vast overstatement of the margin of victory. Three field goals were determined by a total of about 36 inches, and all three of them went in our favor. Which is, of course, to say nothing of the two blocked kicks by Terrence Cody. In all honesty, we probably couldn't pull this one out again if our lives depended on it.
- Two quarterbacks on the field today... one was terrible, the other was Jonathon Crompton. I know that Crompton has been the butt of every joke around the SEC the past couple of years, but he played a fine game today. He wasn't just getting all day to throw to wide open receivers, either, he made some great throws into some very tight windows under duress. I'm not going to take anything away from what he did today. He's had two great games in a row, and he should be recognized as such. I tell you, had Crompton played like this all year, Tennessee would be a 10-win team and he would be a first day NFL Draft pick. Or, better yet, had he played like this last year, Fulmer would still be roaming the sidelines in Knoxville.
Greg McElroy, on the other hand, played terrible, plain and simple. He cannot throw the football at all right now. And our offensive coaches know it, and our defensive opponents know it too. Our "passing game," -- again, if you can even call it that -- was just a collection of dink and dunks. Dump-offs to the backs, swing passes out of the backfield, screen passes to Julio, five-yard hitch routes, five-yard out routes by the tight ends, etc. It's nothing really... 29 passes for 120 yards, barely 4.1 yards per attempt. Just a joke. And it was even uglier than that, really. McElroy made a lot of bad decisions on who to throw the football to, and frankly just missed a lot of open receivers. The only true down field completion was to Maze, and that throw was thrown badly behind his target. The second best passing play we had of the day was the 12-yard gain on the draw play by McElroy, and if you think about it that's just sad. And being brutally honest, unless McElroy really starts to play a lot better -- and I'm afraid to say that I don't see anything that would necessarily cause me to expect that -- we're not going to score a lot of points regardless.
- Offensive playcalling was terrible once again for the second time in three weeks. With a laughingstock of a passing game we throw the football twice with one yard to go for a first down inside the Tennessee five-yard line? And on two short-yardage situations on third down in the third quarter, we give the ball to Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch, i.e. not Mark Ingram? Ingram had all of about five touches in the second half. And we're throwing the football late in the game, inevitably stopping the clock when the incompletion comes? McElroy's terrible play hurt us, but the playcalling was just as bad, if not worse. If we go in for the score inside the five, we go into halftime with a 13-3 lead and the game is almost over at that stage.
- It was nice to see us get Julio Jones involved, but it was still frustrating as could be. A once-in-a-generation player and we have to call countless bubble screens and hitch routes just to get him the ball? Unreal frustrating.
Likewise, kudos to the Tennessee offensive line, they played a fine game today. They protected Crompton well, and probably did as much against our run defense as you can reasonably expect. That's a patchwork unit if there ever was one, but they did a fine job today. I'm sure today's loss was painful for them, but they gave us more trouble than any other offensive line we faced this year.
Javier Arenas... plain and simple, without him we don't beat the Vols. He came up absolutely huge today. 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a PBU... for a cornerback. And he averaged over 16 yards per punt return today. Today was probably his finest hour.
Cory Reamer had another good performance today. Jerrell Harris played on the kick unit, but honestly as long as Reamer plays like he has the past three weeks, Harris isn't going to see the field much. I imagine he'll play more against LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn just because they like to spread the field more, but Reamer has earned a lot of playing time regardless.
Nico Johnson is coming along nicely as well. He was a liability for us against Ole Miss, but he's looking a lot better now. He still has growing pains to fight through, I'm sure, but when he arrived in Tuscaloosa he was widely expected to eventually be a star, and I have seen nothing this year that would convince me to change that projection.
Defensively, I really didn't understand what we were doing early. It seemed like a given that Tennessee would try to establish the short passing game to make life easier for Crompton, but we really didn't defend that particularly well. They still made throws to the flat with relative ease, and Kareem Jackson was beaten badly on two early slants. It seemed to me like that would be the type of thing that we would have been geared up to stop early, and that really just did not look like the case.
Mark Ingram did well today when we got him the ball, but we, you know, had to actually give him the ball, something that we were reticent to do. Now, such a strategy is a good one for the long-term because it helps him stay healthy and fresh, but it almost got us beat today. His fumble was frustrating, but those things happen to everyone occasionally, and honestly he came within a shoelace of breaking off about a 97-yard touchdown run a few plays earlier to ice the game. I'll be honest, fumble or no, if we get the ball to Mark Ingram more today, we're not holding our breath in the waning seconds. Truth be told, he's all we have offensively. Our offensive "gameplan" basically consists of giving the ball to Mark Ingram and then praying.
Chavis Williams, the junior from Dora, played an absolute ton today. He was in the game on every major passing situation, meanwhile Courtney Upshaw was absolutely nowhere to be found. Upshaw was not suspended and was apparently healthy, but I will say that he didn't look to be playing too aggressive last week, so he may be in Saban's doghouse. I don't know, but either way Chavis Williams played a ton today.
Gary Danielson as an "expert" commentator is a laughable notion at best, but I'll give him credit on the placekicking call. He said after the first kick by Lincoln that the trajectory was very low, and that was something we would have to keep our eyes on moving forward. Was he ever right...
Speaking of the kicks, the first blocked kick by Cody was terrible. Not only did it smash into Cody's mid-section, if you look at the trajectory that the ball traveled from the spot of the kick until it bounced off Cody, that kick was likely to be a long ways wide left. At the very least, if it was going to go through the uprights, it was going to have to veer a long way back to the right. Truth be told, Tennessee was lucky the blocked kick bounced right back to the holder, or otherwise we could have easily scooped it and scored.
The blocked kick to end regulation, however, was a completely different story. The distance wouldn't have been an issue, and based on the limited bit you could tell of the ball leaving the foot and heading towards the upright, it sure as hell looked like a winner to me. From these eyes, if we don't block that kick, Lincoln nails it and the Vols win 13-12.
And to the Tennessee fans pissing and moaning about Cody ripping his helmet off, shut up. It should have been called a penalty, but you still wouldn't have gotten another kick. The game cannot end on an defensive penalty, but we recovered the blocked kick, and thus we were the offensive team at that point. Bottom line... the game was over. The penalty flag should have been thrown, but the game would have still ended with that play and a final score of 12-10 regardless. At absolute most, it was a no-call on a completely and totally meaningless penalty.
Terrence Cody... you were a star before the sun rose over the eastern horizon yesterday morning, but as the sun descended into its home in the western sky last night, you made yourself a legend for the ages. You were already an All-American, and now you have taken one giant leap into the history books. You'll be the centerpiece of a Daniel Moore painting, and decades from now 'Bama fans will remember where they were when they saw you block that kick. Your performance is now immortalized right alongside the likes of the Goal Line Stand, and the Kick. After today, all of our grand kids will know who you are, and we'll play the video of those blocks in Bryant-Denny for decades. You may live to see 100, but you'll never walk down a street in the state of Alabama without people knowing who you are. With what you did today, you cemented your legacy, and indeed you now are, "The Legend of Mount Cody." Congrats, big fella, all the hard work has paid off. Keep it up and it'll pay off even more.
Speaking of Daniel Moore, congratulations to you too. He'll make a killing off of this play. I bet you'll be able to buy the painting by January. Going to be a beauty, I'm sure.
Thank God the off week is here. We're beaten black and blue anyway, and you know we are emotionally and mentally exhausted after today. After all this, if we played Memphis next week, they'd probably take us to the woodshed. We need an off week like Africa needs an AIDS vaccine.
Bad news around the rest of the country tonight... Texas spanked Missouri, and Iowa pulled out a squeaker against Michigan State. It's looking more and more like those two teams could run the table, which means that regardless of what happens in Atlanta, a loss by either 'Bama or Florida at any point will end their national title hopes. All I can say is we ought to root like hell for the Buckeyes when they play Iowa. We need that victory with all we've got.
LSU spanked an Auburn team tonight that keeps looking worse with each passing week. I know Auburn isn't anything special, but LSU looked good tonight, give them credit. We're going to have to play a hell of a lot better in two weeks to beat those guys. And with them coming in 7-1, the West is clearly on the line. With LSU having games remaining against Ole Miss and Arkansas, I would still feel pretty good about our chances of winning the West even if we lose that game, but we need to get it together and beat the hell out of them, removing all doubt. With a win in two weeks, the West is ours.
All in all, it was great to see us pull out the victory last night, but it was admittedly ugly as hell, and we cannot keep playing like this. To be sure, neither LSU, MSU, or Auburn look great right now, but with how we are playing it doesn't matter... we're going to be fighting tooth and nail to get the victory in each of those games, and the LSU game is likely to be a dogfight. Say what you will, but we're a vulnerable team right now, and it's nothing short of a Festivus miracle that we are still undefeated. We should be sitting at 7-1 right now, period. Savor the flavor while it lasts, folks, because I can assure you it won't last for much longer if we keep playing this way. If we keep playing this way, pop in a DVD of the 2005 season to catch a sneak peek of how it will all end.