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Initial Impressions from The Citadel game

The Tide overcame a sloppy, uninspired first half and pulled away in the second.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama begrudgingly showed up on time to its 11am game against The Citadel yesterday, with poor play allowed the outmanned Bulldogs to earn a tie at the half, then played well enough in the second to pull away and win 50-17. As usual, there is absolutely nothing that can be gleaned from such a matchup.

The game was disappointing mainly because the starters failed to accomplish the only thing the game is good for on Alabama’s side: allowing youngsters and upperclassman walk-ons to get significant action while the stars get some rest. Saban ended up having to keep the ones in for the bulk of the second half, which is a shame.

Mack Wilson said after the game that the Alabama front was frustrated early by the incessant cut blocking that is used by virtually every triple option team. Nothing will slow defenders down more than the threat of a helmet to the kneecap like the one suffered by Deionte Thompson in the second half. Fortunately, Deionte is fine and could have reentered the game had it been necessary, as was Quinnen Williams who went down on a cheap shot that should have been flagged. Alex Leatherwood has what Saban termed a mild ankle sprain and Damien Harris a concussion on a scary play. We will keep an eye on those two going forward.

On the positive side, Tua Tagovailoa played without a knee brace and looked no worse for wear. He completed 18/22 for 340 yards and three TDs, but more importantly ran four times for another 37 yards and looked completely healthy doing so, cutting and juking as though he’d never been hurt. After the game he said that it was indeed the knee brace that had been causing the most issue, both in limited mobility and muscle tightness in his calf and hamstring. Jalen Hurts came in and played well, too. The QB position looks fine headed into the Iron Bowl.

You’d expect the Tide to be able to run on The Citadel, and after the sluggish start they did just that. The Harrises both averaged right at 12 yards a tote, combining for 134 yards on 11 carries. Tua didn’t spread it around as much in the passing game, as Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, and Jaylen Waddle accounted for 18 of the team’s 21 receptions. Waddle got two of the touchdowns, but the third to Irv Smith, Jr. was the highlight of the game:

A man that size shouldn’t be able to juke DBs to the ground. That’s simply not fair.

Defensively, the Tide eventually adjusted and snuffed out the rushing game outside of a bust on the option in the second half that was identical to the one in the first. Anfernee Jennings brought a fumble back to the house to give the Tide some much needed cushion. Alabama still can neither kick nor punt, so the offense and defense are going to have to keep them out of any close contests.

Not much more to say about that one. The Tide appear to be pretty healthy heading into Auburn, a welcome sight after last year’s debacle. Something tells me the motivation will be a little different in that one.

Roll Tide.