Happy Monday, everyone. Grades are in from this weekend’s performance against Colorado State, and they are decidedly uneven:
Alabama is one of three teams in the nation that has yet to turn the ball over. That's notable since it ranked 56th last season giving it away 19 times. It was an issue just about all season, but there haven't even been many scares this September. The Tide has only fumbled once -- a low shotgun snap in the opener that was quickly scooped by Jalen Hurts.
Speaking of the quarterback, Hurts has been careful with his passes. He hasn't thrown an interception since last year's Iron Bowl, a streak of six straight games after throwing nine to begin last season. That has something to do with the way plays are being called, but he's also avoided the fumbles the piled up at times in 2016.
Hurts threw where he looked first both times. Of his 11 runs, three appeared to be called passes where he dropped into the pocket, surveyed the field and ran. That's the advantage of having a quarterback who doesn't have to toss those balls into the crowd. The first of those three runs went 27 yards for a touchdown on the first possession. Another ended with an 11-yard run. Only once did he bail from the pocket, roll to the right and throw it away.
With that said, two of the biggest issues for Alabama on Saturday had little to do with personnel. Alabama tackled poorly and couldn’t get off the field on third downs. Coaching can fix blown assignments, but it’s up to the players to tackle better. Some credit goes to Colorado State for making plays, but Alabama football prides itself on getting stops when needed.
There were times when some of Alabama’s best tacklers completely whiffed.
But there was an ugly side to the game, too, and too often it starred the defense, which allowed nearly 400 yards of total offense. The Rams threw for 247 yards and rushed for 144 more.
The 18-point margin of victory for Alabama after scoring 41 points wasn’t nearly as troublesome as how it occurred defensively. Colorado State possessed the ball for nearly 34 minutes and converted 58.8 percent of its third downs (10 of 17).
“That was just pathetic,” senior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “We (were) on the field entirely too long. We’re going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting on Monday.”
In general, the offense is getting high marks and the defense is not, which is to be expected. I still think some psychology is involved on the defensive side. There are reasons that advanced metrics take garbage time out of the equation, and a natural “let up” is one of them. Combine that with some younger players getting more minutes than usual and you get what you saw. Anyone who watched the opener against Florida State can see that this unit is capable of much more. Hopefully we see more discipline going forward. Sounds like Hamilton plans to make sure that it happens.
Interestingly, the consensus around the offense seems to be that Daboll and Saban have settled on a one-read scheme for now, which is surprising since Saban had basically suggested that a similar scheme held Jalen back in his development last season. This type of scheme can be very successful in college ball as long as you have a dynamic runner at the QB position and enough disguise in the formations to keep defenders guessing as to who the primary target will be on a given play. The efficiency has certainly been there against the last two opponents. A Vanderbilt defense that is allowing less than 5 points a game thus far should provide a better test.
While they may not have enjoyed the results, it sounds like the CSU faithful had a good time:
“Football is the thing,” said Mike Flick, outside his tailgate with a CSU flag hanging. “This is their culture, this is what they do.”
For Alabama fans, Saturday was another game day. Just another shoulder-shrug opponent.
But to CSU fans, it felt bigger than the Super Bowl.
This is what a football school looks like.
I mean, we love football and all, but we don’t want to be painted with that brush:
Collin Sexton is all fire and willpower: a relentless scorer who rose from an unranked prospect to a five-star recruit over the course of one summer. His stay at Alabama will be a short one — Sexton is projected as a top-10 NBA draft pick — but Sexton’s magnetic game and personality should make him one of the program’s most memorable players ever. Yes, Alabama plays basketball, too.
The Tide will play the same Mercer team in November that just gave Auburn a hard time. The Bears put out a “behind the scenes” look at how they prepare for bigger opponents.
Moving on, the Tide are heavy favorites in Nashville next week...
Alabama opens as an 18.5-point favorite over Vanderbilt via the @WynnLasVegas sports book.— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) September 17, 2017
...but Vandy’s players have other plans...
... and their fans were chanting “WE WANT BAMA” near the end of their 14-7 win over Kansas State. Sounds like the Commodores are fired up.
Tony Brown has had some well-chronicled issues at Alabama, but the young man may finally be growing up:
Football players don't get much free time so for Tony Brown to go watch kids he met Saturday play baseball Sunday says a lot about him. pic.twitter.com/9GkLE4m99w— Aaron Suttles (@AaronSuttles) September 17, 2017
Great to see.
As for Derrick Henry, he is fully grown and appears to be primed to take the starting job away from a Pro Bowler:
Murray was said to have a hamstring injury, which may offer us some explanation. You can’t deny what you saw today, though. Henry looked like the more physical runner. He looked fresh and explosive. He made things happen when things weren’t there.
Henry got five yards instead of the two that were in front of him. He changed the game by maximizing his carries. The Titans’ offense was clearly better with him back there, at least today.
Nothing to see here, just Derrick being Derrick.
As an aside, the Titans were playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, who happen to have drafted one Leonard Fournette. Of course, Henry gained double the yards on the same number of carries because that’s just how things work.
Nudie got in on the action as well:
The Bama boys are taking the NFL by storm. Check out Tim Williams blowing by perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas...
Top of the screen is Sammie Coats (10), bottom is Kenny Britt (18). Who gave less of a shit on this play? pic.twitter.com/kEWmeIsMz4— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 18, 2017
... and Jonathan Allen showing off his rare instincts. The man is one of the most polished products at the position to come into the league in some time.
Check out the read from Jonathan Allen on this screen. Works off double team and instantly recognizes screen, takes away Gurley. pic.twitter.com/a44OAxNEht— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) September 17, 2017
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.