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Initial Impressions: Alabama defeats Auburn 30-12

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More accurately: Alabama survives itself

NCAA Football: Auburn at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama now has it’s first undefeated regular season since 2009. For all the talk of the Tide’s oppressive reign over college football since then, they still have managed to lose at least one game every season—even those that ended in national championships. There are still three more games ahead for this to be a perfect season, but this alone is a huge accomplishment for this team, and one we need to take a day to enjoy.

Not only that, but we disposed of Auburn in a way that left them feeling like they never had any chance whatsoever, even with the Alabama offense playing hot potato with the football for the entire 1st half.

On J.K. Scott’s first punt of the night, Auburn returner Stephen Roberts (who?) caught the ball in traffic at a full gallop and sprinted down the sideline for 58 yards before our lovable giraffe of a punter showed his versatility and forced the return man out of bounds. The Alabama defense forced Auburn backwards and Daniel Carlson converted his first of four field goals on the night.

Alabama responded by nickle and diming down the field and tied the game with 3 points apiece. This time the Auburn offense managed to go forward, all of one yard, before punting again. A long play by ArDarius Stewart and a 17-yard dump off touchdown to Damien Harris gave the Tide it’s first lead of the game, and things were looking up.... Until Jalen Hurts and Stewart disagreed on how to run a passing play, leading to a free interception for Auburn. Fortunately, the defense held yet again and Auburn settled for it’s second field goal.

Not long later, a couple of Alabama receivers tried to run a route into the same spot of the field, and another pass landed in the hands of surprised Auburn defensive back. Auburn finally managed a first down before settling for their third field goal. At this point, the Tigers had all of 39 yards and a single first down to go with 9 points. The Tide managed one more field goal and multiple near-disastrous fumbles before slipping back into the locker room to deal with the wrath of Saban.

To his credit, Saban likely took some advice from the IT department and turned the offense off and turned it back on again. Rather than the discombobulated snafu of fumbled jet sweeps, broken options, and ugly interceptions, the Tide offense went back to its roots and handed the ball off to a 240 pound running back and let him eat. The Tide methodically drove down the field and capped off the drive with a 2 yard Jalen Hurts touchdown run around right end.

Daniel Carlson finally missed a field goal, and Alabama responded with a bootleg dart to ArDarius Stewart, who broke the tackle and sprinted 39 yards down the field for Alabama’s 3rd touchdown.

Alabama spent the rest of the half slowly churning out first downs and burning clock, ending the game on a 15-play, 9-minute drive. Final score: 30-12.

Thoughts

  • This is the fourth straight game that the Tide defense has not allowed a touchdown. The last time a touchdown was scored was October 22nd against Texas A&M. What a remarkable run. Not only that, but the defense only allowed 182 yards and 7 first downs all night. Most of this defense will be in the pros next year, so enjoy the few games we have left to watch them all play together.
  • The secondary depth is really getting scary. With Tony Brown suspended and Marlon Humphrey hurt, Alabama was down to having a walk-on player in full time at outside cornerback. Fortunately, Auburn has a fairly pitiful passing game and couldn’t take advantage. But we need Humphrey healthy before the playoffs.
  • ArDarius Stewart continues to be the main option on offense. He caught a career-high 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and added an impressive 12-yard pass completion to O.J. Howard on a double-pass. He really did everything tonight.
  • However, an injection of Bo Scarbrough is what got the offense going. The massive battering ram of a man trucked and plowed his way to 90 yards on only 17 carries. On a day when the offense struggled in many areas, Bo is what made it go.
  • Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs also both had some pretty good plays, but Harris had a bad fumble (that he did manage to recover) and Jacobs didn’t convert an easy short-yardage play when he eschewed following a surging Tide line up the middle in order to bounce outside and get tackled for a loss. Each got benched for a significant period of time for their respective mistakes.
  • I’m hoping that Kiffin learns from this game. The first half was one of his more poorly-called halves, with a plethora of jets, motions, and options that his own players were unable to handle. In the second half, he corrected and blended his lateral penchant with a more traditional running/play action approach in order to totally dominate the scoreboard and time of possession with very little mistakes or chance for turnovers. If he can keep that up, Alabama will have a great shot at the title this year. If not, a better team than Auburn could cause some real problems.
  • Like I said above, this defense is special. It alone might be able to win us a championship regardless of offensive performance. The only issue is the depth in the secondary. If Marlon Humphrey can’t get his leg healthy, the corners could be in for a long game against Florida next week.

In the meantime, we’ve now beaten Auburn three years in a row, just pulled off an undefeated regular season, and are almost a lock to make the playoffs, even if we lose to Florida in the SEC championship. It’s a great time to be an Alabama fan. Take your time to enjoy the next few days before moving on to worrying about the Florida Gators.