Hurts takes national spotlight
Hurts retreated to the sideline, and the quarterback would have been forgiven if he were rattled or even dazed. But running back Damien Harris studied Hurts' reaction following the devastating hit. And, as Harris put it, he was "no different than he was before." Not even a little bit? "No," Harris affirmed. Hurts wasn't the least bit shaken by a physically and emotionally jarring play Alabama coach Nick Saban explained was the result of a "missed execution of a line call." As center Bradley Bozeman said, the quarterback, who was later named SEC offensive player of the week, didn't seem angry after being rocked because of a blown assignment. "He was just like, 'I still got y'all's back. Y'all got mine. Let's keep rolling,'"
Take a moment to remind yourself that this is a kid we’re talking about. Sure, he’s the son of a football coach. And yeah, he’s a monster in the weight room. But he's still just a true freshman who normally wouldn’t have even stepped off the bus on Saturday in Oxford. Like most rookies, Jalen Hurts should be redshirting right now and not be part of the traveling roster. But whether it was graduating high school early, whether it was emerging as the star of Alabama's spring game, whether it was the fact that he was even in the quarterback competition, Hurts has shown that his age is just a thing that people like to talk about. A native of Texas, his grit should be the real story.
This still feels surreal, doesn't it? A dynamic true freshman QB getting it done with his feet on a day the passing game struggled? Winning the respect of star veterans? Being utterly unflappable against a very good SEC team on the road? It's going to be a fun ride.
Wrapping up Ole Miss
"For this game "I talked to the players, I asked them if they like football," Saban said. "They said, ‘Yeah, we like it,’ and everyone raised their hand. I said, ‘How many of you love it? How many really love it?’ A lot of guys put their hand up. I said, ‘How many guys really love their teammates?’ Everybody put their hand up. "I said, ‘You know, to overcome burdens, whether it’s in a marriage, in a job — people get excited, ‘I’m going to get married. This is the moment of my dreams,’ and five years later, you can’t get along at all. You get a job and this is the job I’ve always wanted, five years later, punch in the clock. There’s a lot of different ways you can quit." So Saban told his guys to play for each other.
There's a lot more here RE: Saban's weekly motivational message. It apparently worked. On a day when so many players struggled with execution and mental errors, other players stood up and got it done.
"I think that a lot of the stuff we did in the first half set up some of the things that we did later on," Saban said. "But I also think that we were really trying to ... We thought that we could execute these things. And if you look at them on the film, if we would have blocked them correctly – again, attention to detail and execution – they would have been better plays. "I think that we were trying to run the ball on the perimeter to see if we could get them tired, which we did. Then we had a lot more direct runs later and played a lot more physical interior line play for us and had success running the ball inside. Sometimes one of these things build on the other. I think that was the plan in the game."
I would agree the perimeter game was used to loosen up and tire the Ole Miss interior DL. But, I don't think anyone counted on 17 pass plays of 18 snaps at one stretch -- a stretch the Tide offense struggled. That's on Coach Kiffin. The run was there from the first possession, and Evil Passing Lane reared his head again. Jalen Hurts' wrist injury (and 8 passes in the second half) very well may have saved Kiffin from himself. #RTDBL
Said Saban of the final [Harris] run: "That was nothing but tenacity." The Rebels exposed some weaknesses in the Tide, but unfortunately for the rest of the teams on Alabama's regular-season schedule, none of them has a quarterback as good as Kelly. Meanwhile, Hurts probably will get better as a passer. That should keep opposing defenses honest. The Tide will begin addressing the issues raised in the game this week, but on Saturday, they seemed content with simply overcoming the Ole Miss burden.
How much did this one mean? Nick Saban celebrated a regular season win: a sloppy, tentative, error-filled win. Now that the Hugh Freeze monkey is off his back, this team -- and coaching staff-- can have fun and take care of business.
Alabama’s come-from-behind win over Ole Miss Saturday was impressive, but it might have highlighted one of the Tide’s only flaws and given the rest of the SEC a gameplan to compete with Nick Saban’s team this season. It’s not an easy-to-implement formula, to be fair, but it sure beats hoping that quarterback Jalen Hurts has a bad game for the Tide. If you have a strong offensive line, big, athletic receivers, a quarterback willing to do it all himself, and you play with tempo, you might be able to beat No. 1 Alabama.
In fairness, that's really a formula to beat anyone. But, Ole Miss' offensive line wasn't the problem...Alabama's offensive line versus an excellent Ole Miss front was. For the first time this season, the o-line looked bumbling against a pass rush, even as the interior run blocking improved. This is going to have to get settled before the Tide face the likes of Arden Key and Myles Garrett etc.
The Alabama coaching staff recognized nine players following last Saturday’s 48-43 win in Oxford over Ole Miss in the SEC opener for the Crimson Tide. Bradley Bozeman, Damien Harris and Jalen Hurts were selected on offense, Ryan Anderson, Reuben Foster and Dalvin Tomlinson on defense, and Adam Griffith, Keith Holcombe and Eddie Jackson on special teams.
Bradley Bozeman (and to a less extent, Ross Pierschbacher) had a very good game on a day when the unit just was not protecting its quarterback very well.
"It’s kind of hard to figure out when you get behind in the game 24-3, basically gave them 14 points -- one on a missed execution of a line call which gave them a sack-fumble for a touchdown, one which was a busted coverage in the secondary, which was really pretty easy," Saban said. "Lack of discipline and eye control for an uncontested touchdown. "Then come back and sort of go 45-6 over the next however many minutes in the game and then do a really poor job of finishing the game like we need to finish and allow them to score 13 points in the last five minutes or whatever in the game. All these things catch up with you if you don’t fix them, correct them, focus on every play and get things executed properly."
Part of Saban's address today was the same one he's stressed all Fall: this team has to buy into the Process: improved focus on every play, doing thing the right way, etc. Kent State may seem like a paycheck game, but for Alabama it's going to be more a chance to get back to executing the basics.
Stewart, who suffered a sprained knee, is the "biggest question mark for this game" among the players who got injured Saturday, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. Saban said the other three players who suffered injuries Saturday are either "fine" or "will be fine." Those players: quarterback Jalen Hurts, who suffered a sprained wrist, safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick. Jackson and Fitzpatrick sustained undisclosed injuries.
ArDarius had to undergo the concussion protocol on Saturday, but it wound up being his knee that was the issue. That's a big loss if it lingers past Kent State. Stewart is a physical burner who does all the dirty things to make the offense click. It was encouraging though, in his absence, to see Gehrig Dieter step in to fill some of those responsibilities.
SEC West Race
Arkansas has the best-looking win (at TCU) of any of the non-Alabama 3-0 SEC teams so far, but they have yet to face an SEC opponent (that’ll change this week when they play Texas A&M). The offense isn’t as potent as it was in 2015, but the defense appears improved.
A look at the contenders in the West. It seems like LSU has been largely relegated to the backburner in favor of Arkansas, and, to a greater extent, Texas A&M. The latter swear this season is different; that the Aggies won't repeat their annual October swoon. While the Ags have more talent to be sure, the same old issues look to be a concern, namely Texas A&M still has no dependable running game and the interior defensive line can be ran on. We'll see how far the Aggies have come when they play Arkansas this weekend in an SEC West elimination game.
This year's team is different, though. For starters, the defense is as good as Sumlin has had since he has been at Texas A&M. With John Chavis now in his second year as defensive coordinator, the Aggies are allowing just 13.3 points per game through the first three games, good for second in the SEC. Against Auburn, they had four sacks, including two from star defensive end Myles Garrett. The junior also blew up another play in the backfield that resulted in a tackle for loss. "We have talent at every position," Garrett said. "We have guys who are going to come down and lay the boom, but then also come off the edge and play the pass. I feel like we can do it all this season. If we just hang in there all four quarters, we can hang with anybody."
Louisville-Houston will be a "Win and You’re Into the College Football Playoff" matchup when they play in late November Louisville’s win over Florida State was massive proof that the Cardinals aren’t just Lamar Jackson, they're a complete and total team. And if they can get by a trip to Clemson in two weeks, they have a super-manageable schedule that should have them at 10-0 when they travel to Houston on Nov. 17.
Never too early to talk playoffs. Louisville has many more challenges on tap. Meanwhile, Houston can sleepwalk until Thanksgiving and game plan for that home tilt over the next six or seven games. Louisville is the better team, to be sure. But, I'd give Houston a better than puncher's chance with those advantages.
Tennessee's defense will limp into its game against arch-rival Florida. The Vols were already down one of their top defenders with Darrin Kirkland sidelined with a high-ankle sprain and now you can add their best defensive back Cam Sutton and redshirt freshman linebacker Quart'e Sapp to the list of players who are out for the UF game. Coach Butch Jones updated their status on Monday, saying that Sapp will be out for the season with a torn ACL and Sutton, a cornerback-returnman, is out for an extended period of time with a fractured ankle.
Tennessee's depth, always an issue, is about to be seriously tested. The Vols are down three starters (and a R. Fr. contributor) on defense alone. Sutton has now been downgraded to being out for 8 weeks, so there is no guess who the Vols turn to against Ridley et al.
Gus Malzahn - Auburn Saturday's LSU-Auburn game might as well be an elimination contest. Malzahn has now lost seven straight home games to Power 5 opponents, second-most amongst major-conference teams. That's more than Kansas. The Tigers are good, they've just run into a rough schedule — that's life in the SEC. Alas, the loss to Texas A&M was bad, but there's no scenario imaginable where Malzahn survives if he loses to LSU this weekend.
Gus has moved to the top of the hot seat list, though Les Miles and Kevin Sumlin are still firmly in the crosshairs.
It keeps happening. Our national epidemic of football players dropping the ball before they cross the end zone just ... won't ... stop. Who doesn't want to be a Drop The Ball Guy these days? It's a race to look cool and hard by dropping the ball right before crossing the goal line. Because really, nothing says you're a baller like disengaging with the ball as quickly as humanly possible since it's a burden to carry it a few more yards.
This is an epidemic and it's stupid. Cross the goal line, hand the ball to the referee, and get off the field.