It was far from pretty (the opposite, in fact), but Alabama managed to pull a victory out of the depths of despair. There were plenty of concerns for the Tide to talk about in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s take a trip back into a few plays that made a difference in this game that the broadcast maybe didn't talk much about.
2nd quarter, 14:14 on the game clock, second and 6.
Following a 4-yard run from Jase McClellan where he had to leave the game with a neck injury scare, Bryce Young dropped back to pass and tried to fire a pass to Ja’Corey Brooks on a comeback route. Problem was, there was a defender right there in the way for what very well might have been a pick-6. Brooks, though, made a diving swat from behind the defender to knock the ball out from behind and prevent the pick. It was a high effort play, and Brooks went on to make a couple of clutch catches in Alabama’s frantic final couple of drives in the 4th quarter.
3rd quarter, 13:45 to go, 3rd and 14 for Texas
In the grand scheme of things, this didn’t matter too much, as the Longhorns wound up having to punt, but it was a microcosm of the sloppy frustration the Alabama defense displayed for a little while in the 3rd quarter. On this play, Hudson Card dropped back to pass and Malachi Moore blitzed from the slot. He came in hot for the sack... Too hot. Rather than making the easy tackle, Moore launched himself for the big hit, and Card easily sidestepped him and scrambled for 7 yards.
The defense missed sack after sack on Card, getting them more and more frustrated and whiffing more tackles/not identifying screens and then getting personal fouls. For Moore, he’s a guy that was once a Freshman All-American who lost his starting job to Brian Branch, and is still trying to carve out a role for himself as the 6th DB. Whiffing on a sack isn’t a great way to do that.
4th quarter, 1:47 to go 1st and 10 for Texas.
The Longhorns were driving the ball down the field, working to drain the clock down as much as they could before kicking the go-ahead field goal. Veteran running back Roschon Johnson skittered around right end, dodging the first tackle attempt and gunning for a first down that would put Texas in position to start using up all of the Tide’s timeouts.
Instead, Terrion Arnold, the redshirt freshman cornerback, squared up wrapped up around the guys legs, dragging him out of bounds and stopping the clock. Alabama followed that with a run stop (that Arnold was also involved in) and a sack, giving the offense the ball back with a minute and a half and an extra time out to work with to win the game.
1st quarter, 1:00 to go, 1st and 10 for Texas
This was a big play that I’m sure everyone remembers. Quinn Ewers dropped back as Will Anderson took on a triple team. He launched one down the right sideline, and Xavier Worthy made a great catch with Khyree Jackson all over him (including getting a facemask). This isn’t really to criticize Jackson, though it’s really been a few too many times we’ve seen this on him going back to last season.
The real stock down belongs partially to either Pete Golding or Jordan Battle. The Longhorns blocked with 8 players, and Alabama only rushed 4. This meant that the Tide secondary dropped 7 players to only 2 wide receivers running routes. And SOMEHOW, Khyree Jackson got left alone on a streak with Texas’s fastest player.
Essentially, 6 different guys covered the slot receiver running a crosser. Including Jordan Battle, who came up from his deep spot, rather than staying on top of the deep guy. I believe this is on him... And if not, it’s on Golding for creating a coverage scheme that allows that to happen.
2nd quarter, 4:08 to go, 2nd and 10 for Texas
Texas runs a draw to Bijan Robinson. Tim Smith blows into the backfield, but the real hero was Jaheim Oatis. The big guy basically jukes out the center and tosses him the other way, then catches Robinson as the much, much smaller guy tries to get around him laterally. Brian Branch was coming in hot from behind and probably would have cleaned it up for minimal gain, but it was still an impressive display of athleticism from the freshman.
3rd quarter, 13:15 to go, 1st and 10 for Alabama
This play was far from the only issue along Alabama’s offensive line, but it might have been one that annoyed me the most. The Tide was trying to find any sort of groove on offense, and Bill O’Brien was giving the run game another shot with an off-tackle run to the right with Jahmyr Gibbs. J.C. Latham runs his guy out of the play, Emil Ekiyor moves to the second level, and Cam Latu seals off his man and turns him away from the gap that’s opening up. Beautifully done, and Gibbs was gearing up to cut inside of Latham to rack up a huge chunk of yards.
Problem was, Darrian Dalcourt got bullrushed all the way from the center position right into the way of the hole that was supposed to open, blowing up the play for no gain. Again, linemen miss blocks all the time. But at the end of 2021, we saw Seth McLaughlin come in to replace an injured Dalcourt, and McLaughlin seemed to perform much better with blitz pickups, at the expense of being a smaller guy who got bull rushed by Georgia’s Jordan Davis.
But if Dalcourt is going to retain the starting job and still miss blitzes (which happened earlier in this game too), he HAS to prove that he has a strength/athleticism advantage. And getting bullrushed like that isn’t a good way to do it.