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Jumbo Package: Tide running game is the main concern after Mississippi State

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. After Saturday’s game, there was much consternation about Alabama’s inability to run the ball.

Over the first six games of the season, the Crimson Tide stacked solid rushing performances consistently. The “worst” output in yards per carry through the first six weeks was against Texas A&M: 5.6 yards per carry. But that was in a game where Alabama ran for 286 yards on 51 carries.

Since then, Alabama has been losing ground.

Against Tennessee, the Crimson Tide rushed for 114 yards on 31 carries for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Gibbs did have those three touchdowns, though. So it was a solid day. Just not as high on yards per carry.

Then Alabama couldn’t even get two yards a rush against the Bulldogs.

The running game was especially lacking with just 53 yards from running backs (led by 37 for Jahmyr Gibbs) and an overall total of 29 rushing yards, including sacks. It speaks to the larger issues with the running game this season. For the most part, Alabama has feasted on big runs, but the every-down tone-setters have been inconsistent at best. That’s led to too many adverse down-and-distance situations that have killed drives or prevented them from getting started. The problem and potential solution is clear to Saban.

“We didn’t play very well, you know, with any consistency on offense,” Saban said. “And that starts with what I said before, we couldn’t run the ball.”

As Suttles notes in that second excerpt, the running game has been boom or bust this year, which isn’t uncommon for zone schemes and particularly RPO heavy zone schemes. Saban has spoken about this in the past, how RPOs don’t allow the linemen to fire out to the second level. The reality is that the explosive plays created in both the run and pass game outweigh the detriment. Saturday night, they weren’t able to find many creases to create those long runs. Part of the yardage output was the field position enjoyed by the Tide most of the night, as Gibbs would have scored from 99 yards away on the stretch play where he walked into the end zone. We’ve seen him rip that same run off for huge TD scampers this season, and McClellan got one in Austin. Alabama will obviously need to run it better than they have the last two games if they are to win the West.

The defense had a fine night.

Golding countered Mississippi State’s four-receiver sets with a dime package of six defensive backs that was on the field pretty close to full-time, which meant extensive action for dimeback Malachi Moore. Mississippi State, in turn, attacked that approach with an early commitment to the running game not often seen from Mike Leach teams. The Bulldogs totaled 20 rushes in the first half, but couldn’t make Alabama pay a much of a price for playing light in the box with a suffocating secondary.

Considering all of the injuries in the front seven, they did a masterful job. Saban got ornery after the game when asked his thoughts about Mississippi State having some moderate success running the ball in the first half. He noted that Alabama was in dime, in effort to stop the pass, and it worked to the tune of holding them to six points. He also said that he’ll let them run the ball all day if they only end up with six points.

Nick Saban said that, folks, and of course he isn’t wrong. Mississippi State ran the ball better and stopped the run. We were told growing up that those were the keys to success. Welp, they just did that and lost 30-6 because they couldn’t pass. Welcome to modern football, and be thankful that Saban has always had that willingness to adapt.

Saban also spoke about Jermaine Burton, and made plenty of folks angry in the process.

“Look, I don’t know how many of you have ever been in a situation like that but I talked to him,” Saban said. “He was scared. I was scared. Some of our other players were scared. I think you learn to respect other people because we have a responsibility to do that regardless of the circumstance that we’re in. I talked to the guy, we have him in a counseling program. ... It’s about having the proper respect for other people. I didn’t think it was necessary to suspend the guy. If you knew the whole story, maybe you wouldn’t either, but I’m not going to divulge that.”

Last, Alabama fans showed out to see the soccer team clinch their first ever SEC championship, by beating Florida for the first time in a decade.

Congratulations to them. A national title is within reach.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.