A ”successful” play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is when a play gains enough yardage to keep the offense on track, i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd, or 100% on 3rd/4th. A ”big play” (aka “explosive play”) is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).
Total Running and Passing
Success by Runner
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We discussed the QBs in yesterday’s GTT Game Review—the passing game was awesome and exciting—but the most successful player on the day was actually senior Damien Harris. Welcome back, buddy! For whatever reason, coaches Mike Locksley and Nick Saban felt like putting this guy in charge again for the time being, and he did predictably great, with 11 successful runs (3 of them explosive) and 1 successful catch, for a 71% overall success rate on the day. Very nice.
Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. had some success late into the 2nd half, too: I mentioned yesterday that they were in oddly late for a blowout game, but if that’s what it takes to keep our backs happy, I’m all for it. Josh Jacobs got a few good ones in, too.
This was actually only the second explosive run we’ve seen out of Jalen Hurts this season (the other being against Arkansas State), and it was a doozy: a big QB draw with Jalen under center and actual starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa lined up out wide (Tua tried to block downfield, but wasn’t entirely successful). There are some rational gripes about Jalen’s play in the past, but the last two seasons he reliably showed up on this chart with some explosive runs in every game. It hasn’t been the case this year—he seems to be working on his passing game—but it was fun to go all vintage Jalen for a moment there. And I’d love to see more multi-QB plays like that further into the season.
Success by Passer
Speaking of Jalen Hurts, he did well on limited passing attempts in this one, with 2 explosive plays and a 60% SR. But the real standout was obviously Tua Tagovailoa, with his 77% SR and 61% big play rate (!) on 13 passes. I used up all of my adjectives on the passing performance in the game review yesterday, so let’s just say... it’s real good, y’all.
Success by Receiver
That’s a new name up top: Jaylen Waddle followed up his awesome game against ULL by being the most sought-after receiver on the field vs. Arkansas. What’s that about freshmen not getting playing time at Alabama?
Alright, alright, Waddle’s 60% SR and 40% SR were only normal-great this week, while Jerry Jeudy took back the role of “100% big play” receiver. Jaylen went 3/3 on explosive plays last week vs. ULL, so of course Jerry had to go and do 4/4 this week. Sheesh, Jerry.
The other starting WRs, Devonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III, were quieter this week: they’ve each taken their turns earlier this season. But breakout tight end Irv Smith Jr. made a few big plays this week; despite his fumble on one big catch and run, I did give him the yardage he gained and the credit for the explosive touchdown play. Just hold on to the ball next time, OK Irv? (And sorry, Mr. Ruggs, but thank you for finishing that play).
Success by Tackler
To my disgruntled dismay, there was no tackling data in this week’s play by play data. It’s unclear to me where NCAA.com gets its play by play data—in the past we’ve had differences for things like bowl games, so it may be a collection of different data sources per game. I’m just hoping that this is a temporary hiccup, and not a sign of things we’ll see more often.
But... Alabama did tackle some piggies, I saw it! You’ll have to believe your lyin’ eyes on this one. [ Insert joke about how Alabama actually did NOT tackle as well this week and gave up 31 points ].