The long wait is over and Week 1 is in the books. The Crimson Tide defeated West Virginia 33-23 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.
The big question in the off-season was "who will be the Alabama quarterback?" Fifth-year senior Blake Sims started the game and stayed in until Jake Coker was charged with running out the clock with 1:05 left in the game. That said, has that big question been answered? To this observer's eyes, no.
Sims threw 33 passes completing 24 with no touchdowns and one interceptions. He also had 6 rushes for 42 yards with a long of 21 that led to an Adam Griffith 41-yard field goal. 9 of 16 on 3rd-down conversions, no fumbles, no sacks with an unofficial quarterback rating of 130.
|Alabama Drive Summaries Led By Sims
|10:58||1||02:40||ALA 25||7||45||Field Goal|
|01:43||2||01:43||ALA 26||7||50||End of Half|
|04:59||3||03:32||ALA 26||9||64||Field Goal|
|12:23||4||04:16||ALA 12||11||60||Field Goal|
Sims appears to have the respect of his teammates in the locker room and in the huddle. He has a good knowledge of the playbook and manages the game well enough though he did let the play clock run down a few times forcing the Tide to take a time out.
Great stats, huh? If you look a little deeper, however, they don't tell the whole story. Remember who was on the receiving end of 12 of those passes - one Amari Cooper. He with his great hands, superb route-running, and excellent moves could make almost any QB look good. Most of his catches were 3 to 8 yard passes with Cooper taking the ball down field. DeAndrew White (6 catches for 73 yards), Christion Jones (3-31), and Chris Black (1-8) were the only other wide receivers to catch balls.
There were many times during Bama drives against WVU where my mind triggered back to recent seasons and I automatically expected a long pass would be a good call in a certain situation. But that was AJ McCarron and this is Sims.
The few times that Sims attempted to throw the long ball were unmitigated disasters. The ill-advised pass to O.J. Howard that was intercepted was a bad decision and a terribly thrown ball. The long ball that Christion Jones dropped was an arm punt. Yes, Jones should have caught it but the ball was lofted so high in the air, you can't blame him for thinking the ball would get there sooner. The 19 yard completion he had to DeAndrew White early in the third quarter hung up there so long that it left White vulnerable to the defender's big hit that knock him out of the game and put his arm in a sling. Sims also had a few other long balls to Cooper that were embarrassingly inaccurate.
Know too that West Virginia was without their best cornerback in Icky Banks who is dealing with an academic eligibility issue. The Tide is going to face much more difficult defenses in the future.
For years we heard that Greg McElroy and then McCarron were good "game managers". I find this an unfair label for these two, especially McCarron since he could throw down field. For Sims, however, "game manager" is a apt description. But is that enough when the SEC schedule kicks in?
There were pregame reports (tweets) on the status of Jake Coker. Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News tweeted that Coker was not on the field throwing in warm-ups. This was followed by "Jake Coker just ran onto the field with a bit of a limp". And then reports that he had a heavily taped left leg which was confirmed. My theory is that Coker has a sore or injured knee and Nick Saban did not want to risk further injury by giving Coker significant minutes if not needed. The two snaps he took at the end of the game were simple hand-offs.
Saban is notoriously tight-lipped on player information so we may not know how Coker's health truly is for awhile.
THE BIG QUESTION
"Who is the Alabama quarterback?"
A more difficult question to answer than you might think. Sims played well enough to get the win but I have the feeling West Virginia is not this good. The Tide began to wear the Mountaineers down on both sides of the ball in the second half. It seems to me that this game should've ended around 47-20.
The point is that if Sims cannot throw an accurate ball longer than 10 yards on a consistent basis, it's going to be a big problem. If an offense cannot stretch the field and have that deep ball threat, then better defenses than West Virginia's will stack the box and play man on the ends, maybe even doubling up Cooper.
Coker has two more weeks to get healthy and impress coaches before a REAL defense arrives in Tuscaloosa on September 20 in the Florida Gators.
You may disagree with me but I encourage you to go back and watch the replay on the SEC Network, Sunday at 1pm CT / 2pm ET