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Postgame Thoughts From Shreveport

Second year in a row, second trip for me to Shreveport to watch the Crimson Tide. Here are a few thoughts...

  • Thankfully the weather was nowhere near as bad as it was a year ago. It was chilly, no doubt, but you did not have the body piercing wind as a constant, and it made for a much better viewing experience. I was really worried about the weather, and particularly how the wind could affect the passing game, when the game was moved to a night kick-off, but the effects of that seemed non-existent.
  • Colorado brought effectively no fans. They filled a few seats, but they were very limited, and there were massive gaps in their section. A year ago Oklahoma State filled up their sections entirely, but that was far from the case this year. After a quick search on Mapquest, it is a 16 hour drive, one way, from Boulder to Shreveport, so I cannot say I blame the fan base for not showing up in droves. That said, it was nevertheless a disaster for the Independence Bowl in that sense. I imagine they did not want to take Colorado for that very reason, but I highly doubt they had any other choice.
  • On the other hand, I was very pleased with how we filled up our section. I was a bit worried that it would be a problem with it being the second consecutive trip to Shreveport, especially given the four game losing streak, but such worries were unfounded. We bought up our entire ticket allotment, and from what I could tell from my vantage point, the Alabama section was almost entirely filled. In a lot of ways, it was almost like a home game.
  • On to the actual game, we came out on fire, obviously. Wilson looked good, though the running game wasn't all that great, and the defense was absolutely impenetrable. We went up 27-0 without seemingly breaking a sweat, but even I was thinking it was going to be a lot closer. And, not shockingly, the first half ended about as bad as it possibly could for the Tide, and suddenly it was 27-14 with Colorado getting the ball to start the second half.
  • Just like in so many other games this season,it was a tale of two teams. If you looked at this team purely from a statistical perspective on a play-by-play basis, you would never believe it was a single team. You would swear it was two teams, one about an 12-1 squad and the other about a 2-10 squad. I don't think I have ever seen a football team do that on such a consistent basis, as we have done this season.
  • To further elaborate on that... In the first ten drives of the game (five possessions for each team), the Tide offense scored five times, putting up 27 points. We racked up 235 yards off of just 29 plays. Defensively, we limited Colorado to three punts, one turnover on downs, one interception, and 37 yards on 18 plays. But after the Wilson interception, it was a completely different game. From that point we had six possessions that included four punts, a fumble, and a field goal. All told, from the Wilson interception forward, we ran 38 plays for a mere 116 yards. Colorado, on the other hand, had seven drives from the Wilson interception on -- not counting the last-second possession to end the game -- and they ended up with three touchdowns, a field goal, and a missed field goal. All told, from the Wilson interception on, the Buffs ran 51 plays for 308 yards.
  • Cody Hawkins ended up having a big night, and our pass defense was simply terrible. I don't think I've seen our pass defense struggle that bad since 2003, in all honesty. We just couldn't do anything right. When we played zone coverage, there were gaping holes and Hawkins threw right at them, and when we played man we generally guarded the receivers closely, but we were slow to recognize the ball in the air and that allowed some fairly well-covered receivers to make a lot of catches. Even when everyone knew they were going to throw and we had five and six defensive backs on the field, we simply could not stop their passing attack. The fact that Hawkins averaged eight yards per attempt is simply ridiculous.
  • The individual players in the secondary really just did nothing. Rashad Johnson has been great all year, but largely had his name go uncalled. Aside from the interception where he couldn't get his feet down in bounds, I don't recall ever seeing him positively factor into a passing play. Simeon Castille was almost equally quiet. Marcus Carter, as per usual, was a complete non-factor. Tyrone King came in to play one snap from what I saw, of which he gave up a touchdown pass.
  • The worst performance of the night among the DB's, however, was from Kareem Jackson. Granted Jackson has been great for the Tide defense all season, but he was terrible last night. He dropped an easy interception in the end zone just when Colorado began to rally, and then was completely turned around and beaten on the last-second touchdown pass to end the first half. Later in the game we had him at safety, at least for one play, and he completely jumped on a deep seem route, and the receiver ran about 10 yards by him. Thank goodness Hawkins overthrew the wide-open receiver, otherwise we would most likely be talking a loss for the Crimson Tide and yet another 6-7 finish. Jackson played great on down the stretch in 2007, make no mistake about it, but he was very bad last night. The Independence Bowl was probably the worst game he has had at Alabama thus far.
  • Offensively, the running game really never got going. Coffee carried the load most of the night, and his 72 yards on the ground look a bit impressive, but he averaged fewer than four yards per carry and had a low success rate. One time it seemed he was going to break a long run, but subsequently fell on his face. Upchurch's numbers don't look quite as impressive because he had to run against some eight and nine man fronts on down the stretch, but he is easily our most physically impressive back. I really wish he were the starting guy getting the carries, but they don't pay me four million bucks to make that decision. As for Terry Grant, I'm really just not sure exactly where he fits in with the program at this point.
  • In terms of pressuring the quarterback, this team has really struggled this year and it showed last night. We bring a lot of blitzes, as you would expect from the ol' Nicktator, but it just doesn't generate any pressure most of the time. We bring people, but it's just so slow to develop that we rarely make any tangible impact on the play with it. The more I see that happen, the more I think it is simply indicative of the overall lack of speed and athleticism in the defensive front seven. Aside from Zeke Knight, Rolando McClain, and Wallace Gilberry, I'm just not sure we have anyone else in the defensive front seven that is athletic enough to consistently rush the passer. The fact that we touched Hawkins only about four times on about 45 passing plays is very concerning in that regard.
  • The win was really nice considering that, in terms of luck, everything that could have possibly gone against us did. Colorado had two fumbles, both of which rolled harmlessly out of bounds. They had a punt hit the returner on the top of the helmet, and then bounce forward about 15 yards and go out of bounds. A pass interference penalty in the second half was called off on Colorado, as it was ruled uncatchable. We also saw a face mask flag picked up, and the call of running into the kicker, instead of roughing, when Fitzgerald was plowed meant that we had to turn the ball over. And of course that is not to mention the field goal for the Buffs that bounced off the upright and went in. About everything that could have went wrong for us on the luck front did, and yet we still won. Any time that happens, you have to feel good about it.
  • Without trying to sound like the know-it-all fan, I really feel that the coaching job done by the Colorado coaching staff was very poor. Early on they were trying to fool us with all of the misdirection running plays -- not to mention the fake punt -- and I really did not get that. It was as if they didn't think they could go toe-to-toe with us, and thus tried to out-maneuver us with uncertainty. The obvious problem was it didn't work. They wouldn't throw the ball early on, and we completely shut down their rushing attack. Only when they found themselves down 27-0 did they begin throwing the football, and it was only through the air that they found success. We simply could not stop the pass -- we struggled to stop 3rd and 20+ on a consistent basis -- and we were just extremely fortunate to have an opposing coaching staff that it took almost an entire half to recognize. It's very simple, Colorado averaged 8.0 yards per passing attempt, but only 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. Had the Buffs aired it out all night long, instead of waiting almost the entire first half to figure out our obvious weakness, I'd bet very good money we would be sitting at 6-7 right now.
  • At the end of the day, it's Shreveport and the Independence Bowl, so there is really nothing to get overly excited about. Nevertheless, a win is a win is a win, and 7-6 is immeasurably better than 6-7. Though we looked great at times, this game really showcased the progress that we have to make in a lot of areas. We are a much better team today than we were one year ago, and the program is in much better shape, but the majority of work still lies in front us. We did make a bowl game, get the win, and get all of the extra practices. That helped in the process, but we're still going to see a lot of turnover and attrition over the next several months -- I think it's a given that more than a few current faces will not be around come next August -- and the great recruiting class we will bring in will shake up the mix even more. At this point, there are a lot more question marks than answers on Bryant Drive, and no one should underestimate the difficulty of the road that lies ahead, but there is reason for hope, and that is something we haven't had any realistic reason to believe in for over ten years now.