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Eight “getting defensive” Graphs from the Miss State game

The Tide hosted the shutout, but Mississippi State actually did slow down the high-scoring Bama offense.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

Listen, I know we enjoyed the defensive shutout that the Alabama Crimson Tide laid on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday, so I really wanted to feature a defensive player on the title graphing article from this one.

But, the defense did well overall but without a particular defensive player head and shoulders above the rest. I tried to feature Will Anderson Jr. on the All Graphs article from this game, but couldn’t find any good photos of him accruing these stats; so I ended up going with Phidarian Mathis for that one. Phi had his big mitts up all night and generally made things difficult for the Bulldogs’ offense.

But, for the main article, I had to go with the offense yet again, because DeVonta Smith gave us yet another Smitty game. This is becoming something of a routine, but in a relatively difficult game for the Bama offense, DeVonta’s performance was truly standout.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

Ahhh... it’s pretty satisfying to see that Miss State Success Rate line struggle to even get liftoff in the first place: the Bulldogs’ first successful play (a pass) came late in the 1st quarter (their tenth offensive play after a number of drives), and their next successful play didn’t come until the second quarter. Their next successful passing play didn’t show up until the 3rd quarter.

Wow. It’s almost impressive that Miss State managed to claw their way back to a (bad, but not horrific) 33% overall SR by the end of the game. You could fairly call all of that “garbage time,” but it’s interesting that a team that accrued zero points managed to make up ground on offensive efficiency in the second half.

A potentially underrated storyline out of the game, though, is in that Alabama SR line. Sure, you always want to be on the plus side of that average line, and a 52% overall SR is good. But, that’s ~10-15 percentage points below what this offense has been putting up this year!

That SR was actually right on par with the 53% SR Alabama climbed to by the end of the Georgia game. I suppose that makes sense given that these are two of the better defenses in the league.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

Alabama’s reduced efficiency out of this game was mostly on the passing game: Mac Jones and company struggled early with passing success, only getting 3 successful strikes in their first 11 attempts. I didn’t feel this way watching the game live, but now I’m hoping that this is more a comment about Mississippi State’s defense than an indication that this passing game is struggling without Jaylen Waddle.

For what its worth, the passing game did right itself late in the 1st quarter and we stuck it out at a near-league-average passing SR for the game. Fine, but not great. And we Gumps are suddenly used to our passing game being great.

The running game was efficient and pretty excellent, though: 7 of the first 11 rushes were successful, and we only had concurrent unsuccessful rushes (two in a row) twice in the entire game. [insert Forrest Gump football gif here]

Success and Explosiveness by Down

I mentioned earlier that the overall SR lines for Alabama were similar to our earlier game vs. the Georgia Bulldogs. Our opponents’ overall efficiencies weren’t all that different between the games, either (39% for Georgia, 33% for Miss State). It’s a bit odd that State managed to get that kind of efficiency without scoring a single point.

I think this Downs chart partially explains it. In a trap that Alabama has fallen into before, the Bulldogs (Mississippi version) racked up positive efficiencies on early downs, while collapsing on 3rd down. That’s actually the opposite of the Georgia trend, where those Bulldogs had their most success on 3rd down; it helps explain why Mississippi State was blanked, while Georgia was rewarded with an early lead and points in a much closer game.

It also just reinforces how important 3rd downs are. I hate 3rd downs.

For Alabama’s part, we were fine, but weaker on 3rd down than we’ve been in most games this year. It’s at least good to know that Alabama can easily win a game without having an unusually good 3rd down SR; because if and when that metric takes a hit, the dominos can fall quickly.

Top Runners, Alabama

Najee Harris is getting so, so good. He reverted back to his usual “zero explosive plays, but a lot of efficiency” routine this week, and wasn’t the “guarantee” back he’s been the last few weeks, but this is a solid stat line overall. He was also, to my eyes, very fun to watch in this game ... he didn’t hurdle, but some of those jukes were unusual (and cool).

And ... wait, who’s this #24 fella!? Trey Sanders came out (apparently with the 1st team offensive line) and put together a very efficient—and even explosive—performance. This is an exciting development! Sanders didn’t catch anything out of the backfield, but having more weapons to replace fallen warrior Jaylen Waddle will be critical for the 2020 season.

Top Receivers, Alabama

Speaking of Waddle: unfortunately, the receiving personnel table kinda reinforces a “we’re struggling without him” storyline: without Jaylen in the mix, we relied much more on the special talents of our #1 receiver DeVonta Smith than on the replacement player(s) like Slade Bolden and John Metchie III.

But at least Smitty is helping us distance ourselves from the pain. We’ve been happy this season so far to see so many Tide receivers accrue explosive and successful catches in each game, but in this one, Mac Jones wasn’t able to spread the love so much.

I know that Metchie was at least queued up for another explosive play, but he instead drew a PI call from a DB who knew he was beat. Hopefully he and new-starter Slade Bolden can get back into this chart soon and give us that well-rounded receiving corp that Alabama performs best with.

Rushing rate (cumulative), Miss State

As for the Mississippi State offense ... wow, I guess they much have a coach like Mike Leach. This rushing rate never got above 28% in meaningful time, which is crazy considering how unsuccessful their passing game was all game long.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

For the second week in a row, the Tide defense kept their opponent from having any Red Zone snaps during the game. Way to go, boys!

(Yes, Tennessee did manage to get a few TD’s on long plays, but this stat still indicates that the defense is doing something right lately).

Top Tacklers, Alabama

Per my earlier comment, it wasn’t easy to extract a “standout star” from this overall solid defensive performance.

Dylan Moses accrued the most stops (tackles on unsuccessful plays), with his 3.5. A few young DB’s like Brian Branch and Malachi Moore tied with Moses as tackling leaders; though you don’t always want to see defensive backs accruing a lot of tackles. For example, see how experts, Josh Jobe and Patrick Surtain II barely show up on this chart.

A good mix of the front seven were disruptive in this one, with DJ Dale, Phidarian Mathis, Christian Harris, Will Anderson Jr., Joshua McMillon, Christian Barmore, and Christopher Allen all showing up in the chart. I’ll take all of the “front seven stopping plays” stats that I can get my grubby little hands on.

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I’m heartened to see the Tide defense put together a really good game, though I’m still feeling cautious about the offense was so reliant on a few bright lights like Smitty and Najee. I also want to take care that we see that 3rd down stat line for what it was: the likely difference between a shutout and merely a decisive victory.

Check out the All Graphs article for more data from this game.

Stay safe and Roll Tide. I’ll see you after the bye week.