Well, we finally found the one thing that can slow down the Alabama offense a bit: the right knee of Tua Tagovailoa.
Tua clearly wasn’t 100% from the start, and perhaps shouldn’t have even been out there. It appeared that he was going out of his way to protect his front leg in any semblance of traffic, affecting his usually impeccable timing, and the lack of lateral mobility certainly contributed to his fumble. Of course, everything is relative as he still managed over 12 YPA and three TDs on 22 attempts, albeit with a pedestrian 54.5% completion percentage. The greater concern, of course, is that this thing lingers into what will be a difficult game in Baton Rouge in three weeks. Jalen Hurts has had his most fun at Tennessee’s expense in his career, and I see little reason to keep him from doing it again if two weeks off will help Tua get better.
The WR corps was as explosive as ever, led by Jeudy grabbing 3/147 and a TD and Devonta Smith 4/100 with another TD before leaving with a pulled hammy. Those things can linger so it will be something to watch, but the fact that he tried to give it a go suggests that he should be fine for LSU in a worst case scenario. Henry Ruggs has a mildly sprained ankle that he played through, but it could have been much worse after this nonsense.
Not sure what that was about, but dude is dirty.
Missouri came into this game allowing only 3.31 yards per rush, and Alabama found the sledding tough against them. Josh Jacobs had the best average at 9/52 for 5.8 per carry, while Damien Harris (14/62) and Najee Harris (13/57) finished at 4.4 apiece. It was a workmanlike effort that was mainly disappointing because they again failed to convert a 4th and 1. Ross Pierschbacher was primarily at fault for that play as he made a rather feeble attempt at a cut block on ankle twister Cale Garrett. To Garrett’s credit, he shed it and made a fantastic solo tackle on Damien Harris, which is very difficult. Still, this is an area in which the Tide needs to improve.
The defense really stepped up in this one. They did allow a few runs on the edges, but offset those by blowing quite a few up in the backfield for big losses. Drew Lock was under an impressive amount of pressure all night after throwing for his lone TD on an inexplicably called three-man rush in the red zone that we didn’t see the rest of the night. The starting defensive line of Raekwon Davis, Quinnen Williams, and Isaiah Buggs showed out with three sacks and four tackles for loss. Williams sacked Lock for a safety following the offense’s short yardage failure and Davis apologized after going all MMA on a dude in retaliation for what he perceived to be a dirty hit vs. Mack Wilson.
Lock understandably went after Saivion Smith, and he got two interceptions for his trouble. The first one was textbook man coverage and couldn’t have been played any better, though it was against a big tight end. Guys with top end speed will likely be an issue for Smith all season, but his technique looked strong. It’s tough to find much fault with a secondary that allowed a meager 50% completion and 5.5 YPA against a NFL caliber arm. Of course, Missouri was without its top two receivers in the game as well.
Joseph Bulovas had a stellar night kicking the ball. He made all four of his extra points and three of four field goals, the only miss from 52 yards on a well struck ball that just sailed left. He seems to be building confidence. Skyler DeLong finally burned his redshirt with one punt, and it’s better that we just don’t talk about that. Look for Alabama to be aggressive in going for it on fourth down the rest of the season. Jaylen Waddle got very few attempts to return punts and did muff one, though he got it back. Tough to be concerned with that as reliable as he’s been.
Last, Saban was very pleased with the home atmosphere and made sure to mention it after railing on the students a couple weeks ago. Of course, it was homecoming and they got their Dixieland Delight back.
Greg Byrne told a couple of the beat writers that he expects it to stay. If that makes the children happy enough to be good football fans, so be it.
According to Saban, the Tide will be fine on the injury front with Smith the only one who is “day-to-day.” Tua could have gone back in, albeit with that bulky brace that he clearly hates. Sorry Tua, but you at 80% is better than just about anybody else in the country, so you’re going to have to wear it. We can’t afford to risk the unthinkable.
We have now reached the “survive and advance” point of the season, and the Tide did just that. They will roll into Knoxville as the clear number one in the nation, and barring the biggest shock of the Saban era, will enter November as the clear favorite to win it all.