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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It might just be a fan/commentator storyline... but it sure seems like the coaches were holding Damien Harris back for a few weeks so they could finally unleash him against LSU. Considering that the Tide was (still) platooning running backs in this game, Damien Harris was awesome as a runner, with a 63% rushing SR off of 19 attempts. I can’t remember the last time we actually gave 19+ attempts to a back... it seems like it would have been a game featuring Derrick Henry! Either way, it was fantastic getting to see this senior back being doubled down on for a huge game.
Just to pile it on, all of Alabama’s running backs had 50%+ success rates on the ground (plus Tua Tagovailoa, with his 100% SR and 50% XR from his long touchdown scramble). Najee Harris looked great, running over folks and leaving the game with a sky high 83% SR on 6 attempts. Josh Jacobs was quieter than what we saw from him vs. Tennessee, but had an efficient change of pace role.
Finally, Brian Robinson Jr. made a rare meaningful appearance against a bonafide opponent! Very happy to see him used like this: a final sledgehammer against a big, bad defense (albeit after it’s been broken in a bit). Brian had one explosive run and turned in a majority success rate overall.
Success by Passer
It’s been a long time since we saw this chart with just one passer in it: the last time was, in fact, when Jalen Hurts passed against Clemson in last season’s CFP semifinal. As a reminder: Jalen’s 34% passing SR that game was about what Joe Burrow achieved in this game. Jalen did have a few big rushing plays in that game, too, but very inefficiently. Just a little reminder that, yeah, Tua’s good, and he’s been good for us.
Speaking of, Tua was fine in this game: his ~39.5% SR was about league average. You could call that relatively impressive given LSU’s excellent pass defense, but it’s far shy of what we’ve seen from Tua so far this season (and last season, too). From a success rate standpoint, this has been Tua’s worst game in Crimson... and we still got the points, y’all.
That 21% explosiveness rate is really good, though: this was where Tua has shined in this offense, and he continued the trend in this one. This, plus Tua’s rushing success above, still belies QB play in this game that a coach can be happy about.
Success by Receiver
Jerry Jeudy is back at it again, leading this chart with 5 more receiving attempts than the next guy (some scrub named Henry Ruggs III). Ruggs and Irv Smith Jr. were slightly more efficient (50% and 66% SR’s to Jeudy’s 46%), but Jerry was the most explosive and most active target on the day. Roll Jerry Roll!
I’ll give my usual extra plug for Irv, though: he’s fun to watch and it’s always impressive to see this tight end go and get that ball, fast.
Jaylen Waddle did a nice job picking up slack from a slightly banged-up receiving core: his reliability is pretty great for a true freshman, even if that (and his explosiveness) was slightly diminished by an athletic defense like LSU’s. It must be partially due to Devonta Smith’s injury, but Waddle may have picked up some snaps from him regardless.
If you were wondering where all of those “unsuccessful catches” came from in Tua’s passer chart earlier: it was a mix of running backs (with unsuccessful catches from Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs) and a few short passes to wideouts (Jeudy and Waddle). I guess the coaches had to mix it up given LSU’s plan to take away the long pass... but it’s a bit disappointing to see those short passes fail, especially in that we haven’t seen short passes in the playbook much this year. Kinda reminds you of the Kiffin Bama offenses, eh?
Lastly, Tyrell Shavers made a rare appearance in the chart, which was surprising during such a big game.nIf I recall the play correctly, it looked like it would have been a fun one had things worked out (i.e., with a better pass thrown).
Success by Tackler
Well, who did you think was going to show up at the top of the tackler’s chart this week!? This chart usually shows a solid distribution, but against LSU, Quinnen Williams totally pants’ed everyone else, with 3.5 more tackles than the next guy. Aside from his 6.5 stops for unsuccessful plays (which is already a great game from a defender), he had two more tackles on successful plays—for a DL, that means he was chasing folks down in the open field. Kinda scary.
Note: yeah, I know that ESPN (et al) credits Quinnen with 10 tackles on the game, but I split tackles in my metrics, so he ends up with 8.5 here, not 10.
As for the rest of the DL: they had a few close misses but ultimately landed much further down the list with only a few tackles between them. We’ll surely see you next time, Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and co.
We had a surprising (and slightly alarming?) amount of tackles showing up from defensive backs like Saivion Smith, Shyheim Carter, Xavier McKinney, Deionte Thompson, and Patrick Surtain II: these guys accounted for 15 tackles between them! I guess when the offense passes as much as LSU’s did (see Graphing the Tide vs LSU from earlier this week), you’re going to have the DBs get some tackles. And, to be fair, a good amount of those were on unsuccessful plays, which is a great contribution from a DB (especially looking at you here, Shyheim Carter, with your 100% stop rate on 3.5 tackles).
The LB’s were solid but not super remarkable: Mack Wilson obviously had the excellent shutout-sealing interception in the 4th quarter, but we saw Dylan Moses show up with more stops and more tackles overall. Both of these guys had tackles on explosive plays, which shows nice effort but perhaps some other issues that the Tide will want to iron out. Anfernee Jennings showed up in big moments, too, putting up a 100% stop rate on 2.5 tackles. The team has got to love having this guy healthy for a stretch.
Onward and upward! Roll Tide.