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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I could’a sworn that we’d see Josh Jacobs at the top of this list this week: he was the most productive running back again in this one, with his excellent 75% SR and a respectable 12.5% XR. Admittedly, some success is based on “circumstances” rather than “which running back” we run — these running stats are always susceptible to game situation and context, e.g., OL play and field position — but Jacobs undoubtedly gave us the most confidence when he was in the game.
However, senior Damien Harris registered one more rushing attempt than Jacobs, and actually turned in a pretty good 45% SR on the ground. He didn’t tally any explosive plays, but got really close with an 14 yard rush to open the first drive, an 11-yarder in the 2nd quarter, and a few 8-9 yard gains in the second half. Frankly, I’d forgotten that he did fairly well in this game... maybe it was the mood in the room for the first 3 quarters.
Najee Harris, for his part, gave us a nice 17-yarder in the 1st quarter, but other than that he didn’t do much. Again, context is key for RB stats, but I think the eye test would agree that Najee is more of an explosive threat than an uber-consistent back: he had a nearly identical line against Auburn, and limited attempts vs Mississippi State and LSU (though a strong SR in the latter). Hopefully he’ll develop that with more attempts.
In another surprise: Jalen Hurts’ rushing stat-line only shows a 40% SR — I guess I do recall a few of his scrambles being of the at-least-don’t-lose-yards variety. But one of those successful runs was an explosive one ... and boy was that game-winning QB draw a doozy.
Roll Jalen, Roll. What a dude.
Success by Passer
Again, it’s easy to remember the Jalen Hurts show late in the game, but he actually got less than a quarter of Alabama’s passing attempts. Fortunately, he made the most of it, with a great 56% SR (to Tua Tagovailoa’s probably-career-low 32% SR), and a 78% completion rate (to Tua’s 40%).
Jalen’s passing explosiveness — which turned out to be critical on 3rd downs — was a beautiful 33%. Including his rushing stats, Hurts delivered a 29% big play rate on his own in his time in the 4th quarter. To gladly state the obvious: that won us this football game.
But you’ve got to feel it for Tua: this was a bad stat-line in a really tough game, at the worst possible time for his 2018 Heisman hopes. And he’s hurt! At the very least, let’s hope for the best on his various recoveries so we can see him have some fun against playoff competition: Even if we get to see Clemson in the finals, you’ve got to think we’ve seen Tua’s worst game this year already. Pretty please.
Success by Receiver
Well... that’s a lot of failed plays. Really, this is a pretty normal-looking receivers chart for a game against a well-matched opponent. However, we’ve gotten spoiled seeing incredible SRs from our receivers week to week (and our QBs too, for that matter), so this chart ends up looking like an exception rather than the rule.
That said, we did have good distribution, with 5 players with 6-8 attempts each. This wasn’t another repeat of Jalen Hurts’ old habits of looking for Calvin Ridley every play — same goes with the ol’ Blake Sims to Amari Cooper connection. Heck, Hurts himself got it to 3 different receivers (including a tight end in Irv Smith Jr.!) in his limited time in.
And while Jaylen Waddle had to settle for a good-not-great 50% SR, he found success at the best possible opportunities, delivering explosive plays on all of his receptions on the night (including that blinding dash to the sideline, then the end zone, in the 3rd quarter).
For his part, Henry Ruggs III did a lot with his receptions, with a 28.5% XR from his two explosive plays. He didn’t get the ball during the 4th quarter rally, but his earlier contributions proved to be important... and per usual, he was out there blocking all night.
Success by Tackler
This is a strange tacklers chart — probably ‘cause it was an unusually close game for the 2018 edition of the Tide. We had only 13 tacklers show up in this list this week, which is a notable drop from the 18 we saw against Auburn the week prior, and is nearly 10 fewer than what we’ve seen in blowout games this season. I guess when the starters let those Bulldogs hang around all night, it was their job to clean up the mess. Thankfully, they eventually did.
In what’s likely a bad sign, five of our top eight tacklers were defensive backs, with several of those tackles being on explosive and/or successful offensive plays. Saivion Smith was unfortunately picked on again... though he made a few big stops, too, to his credit.
Quinnen Williams was his usual high-performing self, though nearly half of his tackles were on successful plays, suggesting that he was chasing bulldogs from behind. The next DL down is Isaiah Buggs, then Raekwon Davis near the bottom of the list, then LaBryan Ray just barely getting our chart to 13 total tacklers (with his late, clutch sack on Jake Fromm). These guys all did their part to make stops in important moments, though we’d like to see them higher up this chart (as that means our opponents aren’t getting out of the tackle box).
Mack Wilson did his part, with a handful of stops and tackles on otherwise-successful plays, but he and Dylan Moses didn’t make any recorded tackles in the 4th quarter. So, I guess I’m picking a bit on the DBs and DL, but the 4th quarter was all them, with Patrick Surtain II, Saivion Smith, Shyheim Carter, Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams, and LaBryan Ray shutting down the Dawgs late. Technically, Anfernee Jennings was the only LB to make a tackle in the 4th quarter, with his stop of QB Justin Fields on Kirby’s hilarious fake punt attempt.
Whew. I sincerely hope these charts look different against Oklahoma at the end of the month, but I’m afraid that we’re going to rely on our DB’s and DL again in a big way. Hopefully the linebackers can play up to their usual selves to round out a stronger defensive performance.
One thing I would love to see carry over to the next game, though, is a good Jalen Hurts stat-line. Now, I’m hoping and assuming that the circumstances will be different, but seeing him on the field again, as he showed on Saturday, can be a thrilling experience.