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Five #RTDB charts from the Southern Miss game

Najee Harris and company showed us that they can still (sometimes) do it right.

Najee Harris (Alabama) runs into the End zone Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

You may have heard grumbles from portions of the Tide faithful after our lack of rushing attempts in last week’s game against South Carolina. You perhaps even heard such grumbles from this here RBR column.

Look, we fans get it: we’ve got a unique passing talent in Tua Tagovailoa; we’ve apparently got about fifty top-shelf receivers; and the game has changed and teams are finding better results from passing the ball. Saban is, among other things, a student of change.

However, while you wouldn’t mistake this for an Ingram- or Henry-era game, Saturday’s game vs. the Southern Miss Golden Eagles can serve as a timely salve for your Alabama rushing needs. Here are five #RTDB charts from Alabama vs. Southern Miss:

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Rushing rate (cumulative), Alabama

Now that’s more like it! The Tide’s game vs. South Carolina the weekend prior gave us a rare sight: an opponent out-running Alabama on both attempts and efficiency. It was gross!

Fortunately, coach Sarkisian showed against Southern Miss this past Saturday that we still do remember the old ways. While this 55% cumulative rushing rate doesn’t “pop off the screen” — it’s no “Derrick Henry bowling over the Auburn defense 46 times,” with a 66% rushing rate — but it’s actually the highest that the Tide have posted in our pass-inclined offense this year.

I’ll take it.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

And would you look at that, it dun’ worked!

That ~59% rushing success rate is solid — well above the 41% NCAA average for success on any play — and is the second highest rushing SR we’ve posted this season (after posting a 63% rushing SR against New Mexico State).

Plus, the relative breakdown is hilarious: Southern Miss did get some traction through the air on Saturday (43% passing SR), but they could barely get past a 20% SR when running the ball. The Tide nearly tripled their opponent’s efficiency running the ball. Sure, it’s against a G5 opponent with a different talent base; but this is a TV product, and I like it!

Oh, and as for that super-low <3% rushing explosiveness rate? It’s odd and a wee bit concerning, but hopefully an aberration. Let’s dig in on the Play Map below.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

Bama put up a solid stripe of successful running plays here (the red circles), which is always a good thing to see. But those rushing plays, while often successful, didn’t tend to push past ten yards: in fact, we (ahem, Najee Harris) only got past the 15 yard “explosiveness” mark once, with a 17 yard rush in the 3rd quarter.

We seem to have made up for it passing, for the most part. Part of why there are so few plays on this map this week — and both teams’ charts are unusually sparse in this short, low-playcount game — is because Tua Tagovailoa and co. were getting some quick-strike TD’s in the first half. Sure, that would usually slow down the broadcast, but the ensuing points margin paired nicely with a successful dose of #RTDB to keep things moving.

Either way, I did end up checking for errors in this dataset, as we only played ~60-65% of the plays that we had against South Carolina the week prior. Weird.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

In a more detailed look of our rushing success (the solid line with circles above), we can feel even more encouraged by our success in this game: at the end of Najee Harris’s final snap in the 3rd quarter, we were sitting on a 68% rushing SR, which is really, really great.

You could accuse me of cherry-picking to get there, but the fact that the rushing SR was so strong so late in the game means that that success was no quirk in the data. It’s real, y’all!

Top Runners, Alabama

Ah, there he is. I’ve perhaps waffled on Najee Harris as much as the next Tide fan-skeptic this season; but consider me his #1 fan as long as we keep getting 71.4% rushing success rates out of this guy.

Please, pretty please, Najee: give us this kind of efficiency vs. SEC and post-season opponents. Oh, and also maybe a little more explosiveness. — Your friend, Balloons.

Also, I believe this is the first time we’ve seen converted-WR Chadarius Townsend on the rushers list. Too bad they didn’t go well this game, but hopefully he’ll keep getting touches and turn into a weird/great change of pace back. It’s also good seeing Brian Robinson Jr. and Jerome Ford putting up 50% SRs.

Check out all of the charts from this game for more graph-y goodness. Otherwise, Roll Tide and enjoy another cupcake-prep (teehee) week.