This game was, for most, a known snoozer: a ~55-point spread favoring a #2 team that probably didn’t need much rest after an easy effort against Duke the weekend before. The Tide passed, the Tide ran, the Tide tackled. The other team did some (but not as much) of these activities too. Boring.
But when we run the graphs (see the companion article with all the graphs), some weird tidbits emerge. The storylines and fan-talk coming out of this game focus on the Tide’s dominance overall, and especially their dominance in the air: but both of those points contain more nuance than you’d expect. You can see all of the graphs for this game in this post, but below are 5 surprising charts from Alabama vs New Mexico State.
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The Aggie’s feisty 4th quarter
Success and Explosiveness by Quarter
First of all, a few caveats:
- Yes, the Alabama Crimson Tide solidly out-success’ed and out-explosive’d the New Mexico State Aggies for three quarters in a row, turning this game into a certain victory early and reiterating the point enough times to put it all behind them.
- Yes, the Tide (and most respectable teams) have a tendency to take out the starters late in a blowout: that and playcalling changes can lead to “garbage time” performance, where you’re not really looking at data the same way you would in a “normal” game situation.
Look, I get it. Still, I’m surprised at how the NMS Aggies showed out in the 3rd and 4th quarters! You’d think the Alabama second- and third-stringers would have the talent to continue embarrassing a notably bad G5 FBS team (3-9 last year, 0-2 so far this year) for a quarter or two.
But it was not so. The Tide’s opponent rallied enough against our backups to put up the best two quarters that anyone’s had on this 2019 defense, with a near-NCAA-average 39% in the 3rd quarter, and an above-average ~47% SR in the 4th.
Pretty good, Ags. But, c’mon, Tide backups!
Play Map: Yards and Result by Play
You can see the same 4th quarter push here too (I’ve loaded the New Mexico State map first, for emphasis). The Aggies really dragged along like a dead body for the first half, with just a few blips of success (entirely on pass plays), and they only put up 3 explosive plays over the course of the entire game.
That lacking explosiveness didn’t pick up in the 4th at all. But, they did start running the dang ball on the Tide late-stringers: that last drive is a real cluster of success, with 6-to-9-yard rushes sprinkled through there too.
Meanwhile (see it by clicking that button above to flip to the Alabama view): the Tide didn’t do much of anything in those late drives aside from a 74-yard footrace TD by freshman RB Keilan Robinson. Given that New Mexico State was holding the ball the whole time, I guess that big blank spot shouldn’t be a surprise.
The Tide’s oddly efficient rushing game
Success and Explosiveness by Play Type
Now, I know what we’re all thinking coming out of the first two games: but, but, Najee Harris and the six-ton offensive line were supposed to have us running that dern ball all over the field this season and they just can’t get it done paaawwwllll!
And, yes, we’re not seeing the total run dominance that a lot of us love and seem to seem to expect: this wasn’t the crazy 77% rushing success rate that the Tide dropped on ULL last year.
However, our running game this weekend was actually very efficient, at a 63% success rate, and was higher than what we put onto relative cupcakes Arkansas State (60% rSR) and Ole Miss (51% rSR) last year. And if we didn’t count those last three clock-burning backup runs against New Mexico State, we’d be looking at a 69% rSR for the game. That’s good, y’all.
Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama
And, yep, there it is again: after the first few drives, the rushing success rates actually pace ahead of the passing SR’s for the remainder of the game. Sure, our passing brought some joys to the table aside from “efficiency,” like an enormous 27.3% passing explosiveness rate (versus an only-pretty-good 15% running explosiveness rate).
But the way we gumps have been chirpin’ after these first few games, you’d think our running backs and guards had all turned into spuds. The fact of the matter is: we’ve left some opportunities on the table, and we’re not running roughshod over every twerp on our schedule, but more often than not, our backs and offensive line are getting what they need to keep the chains moving; plus, this efficiency likely helps create opportunities for those beloved big plays from Tua and his merry men.
Top Runners, Alabama
Sure, we see here that ,a few plays help inflate that rushing SR and XR, including Tua’s scrambles and that run-but-kinda-a-pass to Henry Ruggs III that opened the game. But the core of this success was from those two big starters, Messieurs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr., with very good 67% and 64% rushing success rates, respectively.
Hopefully the rest of the running game will round out soon, and we’ll see more explosiveness out of this gang. In the meantime, though, griping about our running game is a very #BamaProblems activity. Not that we won’t do it anyway!
Check out all of the graphs from this game here, and Roll Tide, all.