Being that it is Ole Miss week, perhaps the tag line from Red Cup Rebellion is a bit fitting this week: "Sports are chaotic and stupid; and we're bad at them." Fortunately we're not Ole Miss, so that quote generally isn't true for us, but unfortunately it does adequately describe our defensive performance this past weekend. Let's take a look back at a few of the key breakdowns from this past weekend:
South Carolina comes out with Garcia in the shotgun with backs on each side and twin wide receivers to the left, while Alabama responds in the nickel. At the snap, we simply get dominated physically at the point of attack. The left tackle controls the edge shoving Damion Square back inside, the left guard neutralizes nose guard Josh Chapman, and the center immediately moves out to the second level to pick off Dont'a Hightower. The wide receivers on the outside drive both DeMarcus Milliner and DeQuan Menzie downfield. And when the fullback leaves the backfield around left end, C.J. Mosley gets caught up inside and the fullback easily picks him off before he can get a chance to get back outside to make a play.
With South Carolina blowing up our defense at the point of attack, Marcus Lattimore is off to the races. He gets ten yards before we even have anyone in position to even make contact with him, and at that point bad things get even worse when safety Robert Lester takes a terrible angle. Lattimore is able to bounce it outside one more time for more yardage. Fortunately, Milliner trips him up by the tip of the shoes to prevent a potential touchdown run, but even so Lattimore rumbles for 22 yards while we struggle to even get a finger on him.
Facing a 4th and 2 after a timeout, South Carolina spreads the field with four wide receivers, but Alabama still tries to defend the defensive interior. Ten defenders line up within three yards of the line of scrimmage, with only Will Lowery dropping deep at safety. When the ball is snapped, it's clearly a quarterback draw all the way.
Nose guard Josh Chapman blows this play up immediately, collapsing the center into the backfield. Damion Square recognizes the draw from his right end position and closes off Garcia's running lane, leaving both Mark Barron and C.J. Mosley free to tackle Garcia well short of the first down marker. However, for whatever reason, both Barron and Mosley take off in pursuit of Marcus Lattimore, and both over-pursue back to the inside when they realize the draw. Garcia executes some laughable spin move that ought to result in him laying on the ground in pain, but with the sloppy pursuit and tackling he gets free and a 3-yard loss turns into a 7-yard gain, South Carolina moves the chains, and the following play Garcia hits Alshon Jeffery over the top for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
With the lead cut to 21-14 early in the third quarter, Alabama forces a 3rd and 8 at the South Carolina 20-yard line. The Gamecocks go empty-back, putting Garcia in the shotgun while spreading the field with five receivers. Alabama responds with a dime package, but the coverage is predictable. We've manned up on the outside against the five receivers, with safety Will Lowery obviously dropping deep and Dont'a Hightower rushing the passer.
We rush five with Hightower, and when Marcell Dareus stunts inside he comes in untouched. The pressure is immediate and Garcia takes a hard shot, but the conversion is nevertheless made with ease. Alshon Jeffery runs a 10-yard in route and Mark Barron simply cannot cover it. Jeffery fights for position on the inside and even with Dareus staring down Garcia it's an easy lob throw with the middle of the field wide open. Jeffery makes the grab and South Carolina picks up the first down despite the great pressure simply because we could not cover on the back end for even 1.7 seconds.
After picking up yet another third and long, South Carolina spreads the field on first down with four receivers and Garcia in the shotgun with Lattimore alongside him. Alabama responds in the nickel with Ed Stinson at Jack and Dont'a Hightower at Mike. When the ball is snapped, 'Bama is once again dominated physically at the point of attack.
Left tackle Jarriel King immediately drives Damion Square several yards downfield, and the South Carolina left guard crashes down to take out nose guard Kerry Murphy while the center and the right guard pull to the left side. The center shoots through the hole and executes a perfect cut block on C.J. Mosley, and it's wide open spaces for tailback Bryan Maddox. Dont'a Hightower goes unblocked but he's far too slow to be able to successfully chase the play down from his backside position, and Maddox rumbles for 13 yards before Alabama is even able to lay a hand on him. A 17-yard gain is the result, and two plays later South Carolina goes up 28-14 with their fourth touchdown of the day.
Trailing 28-21, Alabama forces a 2nd and 16 after a handoff to Ace Sanders goes nowhere, and South Carolina again goes empty-back with Garcia in the gun with five wide receivers. Alabama responds by going light, putting its three best pass rushers as down linemen -- Marcell Dareus, Ed Stinson, and Darrington Sentimore -- and linebackers Dont'a Hightower and C.J. Mosley to go along with six defensive backs. Mark Barron is down near the line of scrimmage with inside leverage on Alshon Jeffery.
When the ball is snapped, we bring four, the three down lineman plus Dont'a Hightower on a blitz. The center and the left guard double Marcell Dareus, and while Hightower and Sentimore stunt the right tackle and the right guard pick it up with ease. Left tackle Jarriel King easily handles Stinson at the point of attack. Garcia gets a clean pocket to throw from with no real pressure. And once again the football is going to Jeffery, who once again beats Mark Barron inside on the square in. Garcia makes the throw and then tackling issues loom large for the 'Bama defense. Barron is not in position to make the quick tackle, and though Will Lowery delivers a blow he easily slides off Jeffery, who scampers for another five yards. 2nd and 16 quickly turned into 3rd and 6 because of an inability to rush the passer and / or cover, and 3rd and 6 turned into 3rd and 1 with two missed tackles. South Carolina moves the chains two plays later, and two plays after that Garcia hits Jeffery deep for the death blow.