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Houston Post-Game: Random Ramblings

You know the routine...

  • First off, we should all be very thankful we came out of this thing with a win. Houston is a formidable foe, but we really could have lost this one. I'll be quite frank, I just knew we were beat, yet somehow, someway, we pulled it out. The jumpball at the end was very, very scary. Those things are fluke deals, and the truth is that the odds were just as good that a Houston wide receiver would come down with it as there was that an Alabama defensive back would come down with it. We are very lucky to be sitting at 4-2.
  • The passing game was, ah who the hell am I kidding? We have no real passing game, for all intents and purposes. Wilson just can't throw the football down the field, everything is just dink and dunk. I mean what can you say? Everything is short and underneath, we can't stretch the field vertically at all, and there is essentially no big play threat whatsoever from the passing game. What's worse, despite all of these short throws -- as evidenced by the short yards per attempt and yards per completion -- we still can't complete passes consistently. Wilson had a mere 55.1% completion percentage today, on dink and dunk passes, against Houston, at home.
  • The running game looked okay, but those guys have it tough. It's obvious as day that we have no vertical threat in the passing game, and opposing teams are just stuffing the box. Coffee carried the ball 30 times today for 121 yards, and I'll tip my cap to him, he earned every one of those yards the hard way. His long run was a mere nine yards, so he deserves credit. Pardon the crappy partial-pun, but Coffee ground it out the hard way.
  • Speaking of the running game, it now looks that Terry Grant is in third on the depth chart at tailback. Coffee was the main man today, no doubt, and Upchurch was really the back-up. It was just four weeks ago that Grant was the clear-cut starter. I'm not saying anything about individual players, mind you, but it is interesting to point out just how fluid the depth chart is with Saban.
  • What to do with Wilson? The truth is, this kid is playing terrible, and you really cannot sugarcoat it. I mean we're playing Houston and he still looks quite poor, and if Coach Saban's comments are to be believed, he's having a lot of trouble just getting us into the right play at the line of scrimmage. Playing terrible is one thing, missing wide open receivers is one thing, but you've at least got to be able to consistently get your team into the right play, and judging by the post-game comments, I'm not sure that Wilson is even doing that at the moment. I've defended playing Wilson, and I still contend that, as bad as his performance may be, he may be the best quarterback we have on the roster (thanks Coach Shula). But at some point, something has to give. McElroy isn't the second coming of Joe Namath, but at this point, I'm not really sure he could play much worse than Wilson is playing. It'd be nice to get him some playing time, but the past five games have been so close that it has not been feasible. I wouldn't be shocked to see him get some time against the Rebels. It is obvious to see Saban's frustration at the poor play by Wilson just by reading his post-game comments, so you have to think something could happen.
  • And speaking of the possibility of playing McElroy, if you are going to play him, it's almost certain to happen against Ole Miss. I know it's on the road, which is a bit scary for an inexperienced kid, but you sure as hell don't want to throw him to the wolves in the following two games -- Tennessee and LSU. Nothing against the kid, but if he's cutting his teeth against the Vols and the Tigers, that's probably not a good thing.
  • From all that I can tell, we had about 31 passing plays today, and out of that we gave up only one sack, and that sack lost only one yard. I know Houston isn't the greatest pass rushing team in the country, mind you, but nonetheless the offensive line deserves credit, they got it done in pass protection again today. The passing game may effectively be non-existent, but the big uglies are getting their job done.
  • 31 passing plays today, and it results in six completions to wide receivers. Against Houston. That one is pretty much self-explanatory.
  • The big changing point in this game was the fumble by Houston on the punt return. That gave us seven points with the short field -- the offense obviously couldn't score if they had to march all the way down the field -- and that was really the difference. Take that away, and Houston probably beats us. Again, it was that close, and we were quite lucky.
  • The defense, as a whole, did pretty well against a very potent Houston attack. All told, they allowed only 22 net points, held Houston to around 260 yards passing, racked up three sacks, and also had two interceptions. That's not exactly a great performance mind you, but Houston has a great offense, our defense is still obviously learning the scheme and we don't have a whole lot of depth, to say the very least.
  • That said, it was obvious that the defense was completely gassed at the end of the game. They fought well all day, sans a big play or two, but by the end they were done. I'm just glad they came up with a couple of big interceptions, because that was about the only way we were stopping Houston. Ideally the offense would have made it easy for them, but, um, you know...
  • Speaking of that, Saban noted that in his post-game comments as well. He didn't directly call out the offense -- not that you would really expect him to, but nonetheless -- but he did make light of the fact that the offense was putting the defense in some really poor situations and making their life a lot tougher with a lack of production. What can you say? The production, or lack thereof, of the offense has a direct impact on the production of the defense.
  • Also from Saban's comments, he was very open in the fact that he didn't get much sleep this week worrying over this crazy Houston offense, and rightfully so. This is, with no uncertainty whatsoever, the most unique offense in all of big-time college football, and I know it has to drive a defensive coordinator absolutely nuts. I mean seriously, they can't even come up with a name for this one, so you know it's out there. I'm not saying that Ole Miss is going to be a breeze, mind you, but I bet that Saban, the rest of the defensive staff, and the entire defense is very, very happy that they are going to be facing much more conventional sets this week against the Rebels. Johnny Reb may take us to the woodshed, but at least they aren't trying to do so by re-inventing the wheel.
  • I did like the fact that we did much better in terms of rushing the passer today. I know Houston threw the ball a lot, but we nonetheless racked up five sacks this afternoon. Considering that we only had five sacks in the first five games combined, to get five today is quite nice. The truth is that we are not a great pass rushing team, and likely won't be until Saban gets a lot of his recruits into the program, but it was still a nice sight to see. Hopefully that means that we are making progress in that department.
  • A big nod should go out to Wallace Gilberry. Against teams like Houston, it's very important for your defensive line to play well, and he had one of the best games he's ever had at Alabama today at Houston. Just read the stat-line: 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks -- one of which went for a safety -- and 2 quarterback hurries.
  • To close, another big nod should go out to D.J. Hall. You have to feel sorry for the guy in a way, he's extremely talented and just to be quite frank, we don't have anyone at quarterback good enough to get the ball to one of the best wide receivers in the country. Nevertheless, he's still fighting hard and today he became Alabama's all-time leading receiver in receptions, and it's well-deserved. I know due to the poor play at quarterback things haven't gone as he would have hoped, but this guy has basically re-written the Alabama record books, so he deserves a hell of a lot of credit. I've said it before and I'll say it again: he's the best pure wide receiver we've ever had. It's nice to see the record books now reflect that as well.
We'll have a lot more on the Houston game and the upcoming Ole Miss game in the next few days, so stay tuned.