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Alabama vs Western Carolina Preview: When the Catamounts Have the Ball

Another option team. Yay.

NCAA Football: Western Carolina at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Carolina currently have 3 total wins this season, those victories coming over the esteemed North Greenville University, VMI, and an overtime match against ETSU. They then followed their 2 game win streak with a blowout loss to Samford, who just happens to be Auburn’s cupcake of choice this week. Oh, and they’ve averaged just under 20 points per game.

So yeah. They’re, uh, not good. Not even for an FCS team. And even worse, we don’t have the play-by-play data in easy format for me to get into success and explosive rates and other similar more advanced stats. But, we’ll do our best to give the Catamount offense their due diligence.

The Catamounts are primarily a rushing offense, with 413 attempts to only 306 passes on the year. It’s strongly based on the option run, but it’s not the throwback wing-T triple option style that has plagued Alabama in the past with some of the more top-tier FCS opponents. Instead, the Catamounts play primarily out of the shotgun and most runs are read options with a tight end/H-back running crack backs or trap blocks.

Senior QB Tyrie Adams has been the starter for most of the year, though sophomore Will Jones started three games earlier in the season. Adams has been decently efficient if not spectacular, completing 66% of his passes for just under 1600 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Again, it’s not a particularly frightening passing attack, but it does hit in spurts and keeps defenses from focusing in too hard on stopping their run game.

5’6” Junior receiver Daqaun Patton has seen the majority of the targets in the passing game, with 45 catches for 426 yards. Behind him, the more normal sized Nate Mullen and DJ Thorpe have 29 and 24 catches, respectively. Thorpe is the big play threat of the crew, averaging over 12 yards per catch.

The running game, though, is how this offense moves. They employ a multi-headed attack with Donovan Spencer and Connell Young. The slightly smaller Spencer is the more consistent of the two, while the 210-lb Young is a more boom-or-bust back. He’s got almost a full yard-per-carry more than Spencer, but also has more negative rushing yards on 30 less attempts. QB Tyrie Adams has more rushing yards than either back with about the same number of attempts as Spencer. As a team, they have right at 2000 rushing yards on the season with a 4.1 yards per carry. That’s a lot of carries.

With Alabama breaking in a a defensive line and middle linebacker group that is likely to be all freshmen due to the plethora of injuries, the group will get a LOT of practice playing assignment run defense. And fortunately, there shouldn’t be too much in the way of the triple option with death by a million cut blocks that we’ve come to dread from some of these small school teams over the years. Despite the defensive issues Alabama has had, don’t expect more than one score on the day. A generally bad FCS team against a top-5 FBS team just won’t be a match.