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9 “sluggish” graphs from Alabama vs Arkansas

It took a bit to get the engine revving, but ... it revved.

NCAA Football: Alabama vs Arkansas Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

It was tough choosing the players to feature in Graphing the Tide this week: the charts don’t show the usual suspects (namely DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris) standing out. Lots of players got touches, and we had a few surprising ones come to the top of their statistical categories.

I wanted to put a defender at the top of the main article, but I couldn’t find a picture of top tackler DL Byron Young from this game, so instead I went to the second top tackler—LB Jaylen Moody, who came in for an injured Christian Harris—and put him at the top of the All Graphs article.

So for this article, I went with the top receiver from this game ... and it’s a tight end! Miller Forristall has been playing for the Tide for years, but I don’t recall ever featuring him in a graphing article. He had a solid game, with 6-for-6 successful receptions for a 100% SR as the leading receiver.

It’s great seeing some new faces to feature from what was otherwise a bit of a slog that turned into a blowout.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

Speaking of a slog ... the Alabama Crimson Tide came out slow and very inefficient. Mac Jones bailed us out early with a few 3rd-and-long conversions in the 1st quarter, but otherwise we were draining our overall Success Rate as the unsuccessful plays piled up. It’s still strange seeing the Tide bail themselves out on 3rd—as things weren’t that way for much of the Saban era—but it’s been this way since Tua, so I’ll take it as long as it doesn’t come back to bite us.

For what it’s worth, the Arkansas Razorbacks put up a fight in the 1st quarter! They weren’t a perfect picture of efficiency (both offenses were below average for basically the entire quarter), but heck if they weren’t beating the Tide on SR for the first ~33 plays of the game.

But, the Tide Demolition Machine kicked in after that, and a monster 2nd quarter restored our SR averages to a high ~60% range. From there, the backups came in to stay remarkably consistent around that line.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

Like I said, that second quarter was massive—it was one of our best quarters of the year (which is nice timing after what might have been our worst statistical quarter).

The backups started phasing in through the second half—especially with the switch to Bryce Young at QB late in the 3rd—and, interestingly, they held on well to some strong efficiencies. I feel like we saw enough duds to where the Tide SR would drift more in garbage time—and honestly, I just didn’t feel like the backups played that well when I watched it live—but they were technically efficient, especially running the ball.

The piggies were all over the place, though: that second quarter was a total blank on successful plays—so you could say that the Tide defense also had one of its best quarters of the year in the 2nd. This effect is shown even better on the Play Map ...

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

The Tide Play map is an odd cluster, with a lot of concentrated success in the 2nd and early 3rd quarters. As the announcers kept noting, the Arkansas strategy appeared to be bend (a lot) but don’t break ... and that’s what this output suggests. Tons of success on plays gaining single-digit yards, plus some modest explosiveness right around the 20-yard mark.

It wasn’t until the end that we really got a big play; this one from Jase McClellan (which was awesome). This game looked much different than the high-upside bomb-fests that Joker Jones and DeVonta Smith tend to give us.

Flip over to the Hogs’ chart, and you see the absolute opposite timing ... and a very bad game out of their offense. I did mention before that the Razorbacks came out fighting in the 1st quarter—and I meant it!—but whew, after those four successful plays in the early first quarter (resulting in 3 points), Arkansas did not have another successful play until late in the 3rd quarter, down by 40+ points. Wow!

That’s just a nice job by the defense.

Rushing rate (cumulative), Alabama

Look at that beautiful, beautiful balance. The Tide found themselves passing more early in the game—perhaps to get kicked into gear to generate some momentum—but as they started burning clock they settled into a more run-heavy strategy.

That said, they didn’t go into total clock mode: they sprinkled in just enough passes to keep things basically 50/50 and efficient, both of which are good.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

Seeing the success by play type, it makes sense why we were passing early: for one, it was just working. After a rut late in the 1st quarter (I recall a few of those rare Mac Jones errors), we see a spree of 10 consecutive successful passes, then a strong close-out. Overall, the Tide QBs only accrued 12 unsuccessful passes in the entire game ... in a game where we scored 52 points. Not bad.

Najee and the OL found themselves playing catch-up after opening with five unsuccessful rushes in a row (that might be a record this season), and then going 50/50 for a few more plays until rounding into form and finishing well.

Early in the season (see the Mizzou game), we saw the second team come in and deflate our metrics in garbage time; but in recent games that effect has fallen off considerably. The second team running game, particularly, has been more efficient late in these games than they were during the few few games.

Top Runners, Alabama

Najee Harris had his least efficient game this season! Which, honestly, wasn’t a terrible game, given that he got an explosive rush and two touchdowns for his this-time-limited opportunities. But after how reliable he’s been this season, it was a surprise to see.

Brian Robinson Jr. benefitted from extended time in in this game, and he delivered: that 9-for-13 effort is a 69.2% Success Rate to make him the most successful rusher in the game.

The other backups had some fun, too: Jase McClellan put up a fairly good 50% SR but picked up the biggest play of the game with a hugely explosive 80-yard run in the 4th. Roydell Williams actually fared well in limited attempts, too, except for that fumble down near the goal line. That seems to happen to our backup tailbacks this year for some reason (though overall our turnovers have not been bad this year).

Top Passers, Alabama

Mac didn’t have his best game, and had to take what the Arkansas defense would give him. So that means we didn’t see as much passing explosiveness as we’ve gotten spoiled on gotten used to this season.

That said, he still had an efficient game: that 65% passing SR is still very, very good. Remember, “success” on a pass means that not only was the pass caught (the traditional metrics show attempts / catches), but that it was caught and gained a successful amount of yardage. Way to hold up through a rough quarter, Mac.

Bryce Young came in and did a few interesting things, too, including completing an explosive pass, but once again wasn’t given that many opportunities to show up here.

Top Receivers, Alabama

Now this is an interesting chart! We’ve been watching The DeVonta Smith Show all season long, but this time he’s only the 4th-highest (!) contributing receiver. I guess if a defense plays deep zone, it mitigates some of that Smitty magic (though apparently it doesn’t protect you from still losing a game by 49 points).

But we made up for it elsewhere: this is a wonderfully diverse table of successful passes, with 7 Tide receivers delivering successful plays (out of 10 total receivers receiving attempts). Great distribution.

Slade Bolden had something of a comeback, putting up an explosive play in a 4-for-5 effort with an 80% SR. John Metchie III played more of the “alternative deep threat” role, with a 50% XR (and 3-for-3 big plays on his successful attempts). Freshman WR Javon Baker also showed up in a few moments, taking in one explosive play of his own in limited action.

But the most exciting group was the tight ends! Jahleel Billingsly had a more limited game than his last few attempts, but Tide veteran Miller Forristall had a big game, with a 100% SR and a leading number of successful receptions.

And ... wait, is that Brian Robinson Jr. showing up again as a big skill position contributor? I recall seeing a few of these catches live, but I didn’t realize that Robinson added 4 successful catches (at an 80% receiving SR) on top of his game-leading 9 successful rushes. That’s a huge game! It almost makes me want to revisit my decision to put Forristall as the image header ... but, you know, I bet we’ll have more opportunities to feature Mr. Robinson in the future, especially next season. I would be surprised if we have another opportunity to feature Forristall , though, before he graduates from the program. Feel free to surprise me on that one, Miller, I’d love to see it.

Top Tacklers, Alabama

This is a lovely defensive chart, full of Stops (tackles on unsuccessful plays).

The front seven rotated well and distributed the load, with Stops coming from Christian Barmore, Byron Young (and his game-high 5 tackles), Will Anderson, Justin Eboigbe, Dylan Moses, Jaylen Moody, Phidarian Mathis, DJ Dale, Joshua McMillon, Jamil Burroughs (freshman DL with 1.5 stops), Shane Lee (remember him?), and Tim Smith.

The defensive backs also showed some moxie in getting upfield, too: Daniel Wright and Malachi Moore each had 1.5 stops, and Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams each had 1.

I hate seeing Christian Harris go out after literally the first tackle of the game: I hope the best for him during any (hopefully little) needed recovery. In the meantime, this defense is looking pretty darn good.

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Stay Safe and Roll Tide.