Almost every season Alabama manages to get the fanbase all riled up despite a win, and going to Austin as 20 point favorites only to barely scrape by fits that bill. Much has and will be made of Quinn Ewers’ injury, but Hudson Card played well in his own right and didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Being that Ewers completed one ball on a floater after his arm was hit and went down on a wild, fall away heave that should have been intentional grounding rather than roughing the passer, it is impossible to know if he would have played mistake free football as Card did.
No matter, the game went how it went and Alabama somehow managed to survive in a game where they were thoroughly outplayed for two and a half quarters. Luckily they started and finished strong to come away with a win that was much tougher than it should have been. A few first impressions:
Discipline must get better.
Saban ranted about it in the press conference, and you can bet that practice is going to be hell this week. Complain about the officiating as you will and you’ll have some valid points, but this team committed far too many stupid penalties. Then, after the game, Saban chewed some players who were seen flashing “Horns down” after barely escaping. Not good, and something tells me Nick will be communicating that. Make mistakes at this rate on a weekly basis and the Tide won’t need to worry about the trip to Atlanta in December.
The passing game was dysfunctional, until it wasn’t.
Bryce Young was absolutely stellar, completing 79% of his passes... in the fourth quarter. In that last frame he threw for 136 yards and ran for 41, a respective pace of 544 and 160. Unfortunately there were three other quarters in which the Tide managed an anemic 77 yards through the air. The good news is that if you had to choose an area of opportunity to have early in the season, the passing game would be preferable since it tends to get better with reps and film study.
Of course, it would be much better not to have such a weakness at any point. The most glaring issue today was a complete lack of a downfield threat. Traeshon Holden led the Tide at only 11 yards per catch, a number that is normally reserved for possession receivers. Until Alabama is able to make teams respect the deep ball, there is going to be plenty of traffic in the short and intermediate areas. RB Jahmyr Gibbs accounted for a third of Alabama’s completions, which is a good news/bad news situation.
There were quite a few coverage sacks in the game, bringing back memories of the LSU game from last season. In the first half, Kobe Prentice failed to sit down in a zone causing Young to throw a dangerous ball behind him, and I wonder if that caused Bryce to begin to hesitate against those looks.
Drops were a concern along with the timing and protection issues. We can only hope that some trust was discovered in that fourth quarter.
The offensive line still has a long way to go.
The most memorable gaffe of the day was the miscommunication on an A gap blitz that nearly got Young decapitated, but outside of one 81-yard burst by Jase McClellan in the first quarter, running lanes were tough to come by. Alabama’s running backs combined for a paltry 42 yards on their 16 other carries, which simply isn’t good enough. Pass protection was pretty good overall, though Bryce got caught holding the ball too long on a few occasions.
Will Reichard is nails.
Reichard remains perfect on the season while allowing next to nothing on kickoff returns. His kicks today were critical, as he opened the scoring with a 52 yarder then closed it out with a clutch 33 yarder. Nick Saban called him a “weapon” this week, and he didn’t disappoint.
Kool Aid needs a running mate.
He didn’t have a perfect day, but in this offensive age Kool Aid McKinstry looks like the real deal at corner. It’s safe to say that he has a starting job on lockdown and is looking for someone to nail down the other side. Terrion Arnold seems to have a bit of a leg up at this point, but we will continue to monitor it.
The run defense continues to be stellar.
May as well close on a high note. If you’d have told me coming in that Bijan Robinson would be held to 57 yards on 21 carries, i’d have assumed that Alabama won this one walking away. Texas used a ton of max protect to keep the pass rush at bay, but the way the interior of the defense stood up against one of the best backs in the nation can’t be overstated.
As they say, a win is a win. The Tide should have a couple of breathers the next two weeks in Louisiana-Monroe and Vanderbilt to prepare for a very difficult stretch in October. If this team is to win another national title, the passing game is going to have to be better which will require every position group to improve. Time to get to work.