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Alabama at Arkansas: Offensive Numbers and Thoughts

The Crimson Tide put on a rushing clinic against the over matched Razorback defense yesterday, keying a 49-14 rout in Fayetteville with 328 total yards rushing and an impressive 9.4 ypc average. Three different backs had rushing TDs and at least a 8.8 ypc average, and long runs of 62 and 87 yards showed a lot of big play potential form the backfield. Unfortunately that might have been the absolute worst thing that could have happened for the Tide in it's preparations for the first big test of the season, the looming face off in Athens that is now just 5 short days away. Let's take a look at the numbers so far this season:

ed.- if you can't see the end of the table, set your blog preferences to "wide."

Despite both the final score and the dominating line play being fairly consistent with what we saw in the Clemson and WKU blowouts, the raw number saw a regression in several key categories, the first of which is third down conversions. 4-11 (36%) is only one better than the dreadful 3-11 performance against Tulane, a stat that makes me exceptionally uncomfortable, especially after my fears about our inability to move the chains were somewhat allayed after the the 9-14 showing that included several 3rd and longs against WKU. Looking at the play-by-play, you can see that we were unsuccessful on attempts of 3rd and 4, 3rd and 6, 3rd and 18, 3rd and 14, and 3rd and 8, most of those during quality time with the starters in (we were also unable to convert 3rd and 4 and 3rd and 13 with the backups, though the former was McElroy's lone pass, an INT, and the latter was late in the game when we were running it right into the line to bleed the clock). Most of those missed opportunities on 3rd down were a function of Wilson's decreasing numbers this week (6 of 14 for 74 yds vs the 17 of 27 for 116 against WKU) as all of those failed 3rd downs were either an incomplete pass or a check down dump off on 3rd and long with little to no chance of success. Making me even more uncomfortable is the fact that, if you take away the rushing yardage (and the defensive scores), the numbers look very similar to the Tulane numbers. Don't get me wrong and think I'm saying that we looked as bad against Arkansas as we did against the Green Wave. The Tide's performance was as far from that sleep walk as we could reasonably get, but the simple fact that we were able to get four (or five, if you count Upchurch's TD in junk time) "cheap" scores, i.e. pick sixes from horrible throws that a more experienced, at least in their offense, QB (*cough* Stafford *cough*) wouldn't have made and big runs enabled by the over pursuit of a young defense not covering the cutback lanes, and this game starts looking a lot uglier. I don't want to be too harsh on the offense here since, after all, we did kill them on the ground and before you knew it the passing game and sustaining drives were completely irrelevant, all we were doing was running out the clock and getting some playing time for the youngsters, but it certainly would have been nice to see the offense forced to function in an efficient manner on the road in preparation for the Georgia game.