Well, it wasn’t pretty but they managed to survive again.
There is no questioning Alabama’s effort from last night’s contest. The Tide won in the trenches and there was no lackadaisical play to be found. The execution, however, left something to be desired. Nick Saban said after the game that when you have the backup QB in everyone has to play better around him, and that wasn’t Alabama’s best football. While true, he also pointed out that they intentionally got away from the passing game a bit after the first half turnovers, and he couldn’t make a determination on whether there were passing plays to be made until he sees the film.
He’s going to see that there were passing plays to be made.
Still, there were a few other gaffes. Will Reichard missed two field goals, which is a rarity for him. He did strike both balls well and only missed by inches in both cases, but miss he did. Of course, there were three fumbles in the game, two by Jalen Milroe and one by Jase McClellan, which led to 17 points by Texas A&M. This of course means that the Aggies managed all of three points on the night when they weren’t handed a short field on a sudden change possession.
In fact, Alabama’s passing game actually produced more yards per attempt than that of the Aggies, which probably isn’t something you’d expect without looking at the box score. That in no way means the passing game was, well, passable. Milroe’s 12 completions averaged only 9.3 yards apiece, and I don’t recall any completions with air yards exceeding that number. The biggest pass play of the night was Ja’Corey Brooks’ 29 yard touchdown on a shallow cross. If Bryce Young is unable to take first team reps in practice this week, Milroe absolutely must try and form some better chemistry with his receivers.
And for the love of all that is holy, let’s hope that he learns from the fumbles.
A few additional impressions:
The offensive line dominated, and Gibbs carried the offense.
Alabama fans everywhere held their breath when Jahmyr Gibbs went into the medical tent after trainers were seen looking at his shoulder, but he was able to come back into the game. That man is a superstar, consistently finding the creases against a game Aggies’ front seven. To the offensive line’s credit, there were usually creases to be found against a consistently stacked box. Seth McLaughlin started at center again, and while the snaps weren’t perfect, the offensive line played outstanding ball. At least three of the four sacks were on Milroe for not recognizing a free rusher or holding the ball too long, and even with the sacks figured in the Tide ran for 5.6 a carry on a whopping 51 tries, with 7.3 from Gibbs leading the way.
Gibbs also tied for the team lead with three receptions. Put that man in bubble wrap, please.
The defensive front dominated, too.
The Aggies ran for only 70 yards on 25 attempts, which included a single 15 yard burst from Devon Achane, and every time Haynes King dropped back to pass he was under almost immediate duress. Will Anderson didn’t get a sack in this one but led the way with eight pressures. Jaheim Oatis continues to develop as a force in the middle, and he is quite agile for a man his size when it comes to chasing down the QB.
Yet another YOLO pass was completed against Alabama.
Yes, I know you saw it once already, but it’s worth watching again because it was a phenomenal catch.
HOW DOES EVAN STEWART COME DOWN WITH THIS?! pic.twitter.com/TR8zzjIcRg— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 9, 2022
I don’t know if Alabama really gives up more of these plays than other teams, but it sure seems that they do. Perhaps it’s because teams struggle to move the ball against Alabama, requiring them to try such plays more frequently. Whatever it is, this is something that we have grown accustomed to for many years now. Terrion Arnold had great under coverage on the play and located the ball. He just has to find a way to bring in that interception. Arnold also committed pass interference in the end zone on the same drive, which almost cost Alabama the game. Fortunately Terrion was able to redeem himself by shutting down the final play.
Next week is going to be very difficult if Young can’t play.
Captain Obvious here, but Alabama’s defense is probably not going to be able to hold Tennessee’s explosive offense to 4.5 yards per play. The Vols’ last two opponents were Florida and LSU, and in those games they averaged 39 points on 540 total yards of offense. The good news is that they also allowed nearly 500 yards a game, including a career high 300 passing yards to LSU QB Jaeden Daniels, who was coming off a 40% completion, 80 yard effort in Auburn the week prior.
Can Alabama win the game with Milroe at QB? Yes, as long as he doesn’t fumble the ball, they can. It would be more of a toss-up affair, however. Considering the struggles Tennessee has had on defense and the development of the passing offense in the several quarters leading up to Bryce’s injury, you’d have to feel pretty good about the Tide’s chances if he is ready to roll. If Alabama turns the ball over four times again, the Vols are going to be celebrating their first win over Alabama since the George W. Bush administration.
As we like to say around here, hope for the best.