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Graphing the Tide at Texas: Not great! But not as bad as expected

The stats reflect a close fought game with some momentum swings

Alabama v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

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A quick story to bring us into our first graph …

I was at this game — rare for me, as I don’t live in the South anymore — but flew to Austin to brave the heat and see this one. The atmosphere was excellent; it’s a huge stadium like BDS, but has little touches that make it a kind of “desert coliseum,” with good views of both the field and the city.

The home crowd was loud — even before this game became, um, interesting — and the folks we encountered were amenable (at least when they weren’t being cranky about calls, and some of those feelings were likely deserved). The silence at Will Reichard’s last kick was stark (and glorious), but the moments before had been some of the loudest decibel levels I’ve ever experienced at a sporting event. The Tide fans showed up as well, at least to the degree that can be expected given the tone of the game (and given our relegated spots largely in the corner nosebleeds). It was a worthwhile trip, to me.

But that game. Ugh. The unexpected trajectory had us Bammers struggling in my section by the end of the 3rd quarter. We did have a few Tide (especially) faithful in front of me, though — I was in section 125, 9, middle bench seats — that threw up four fingers on their hands: The fourth quarter was coming, thus it would be decided. I’ll admit my first reaction was cynical: had y’all been watching the same game as me? Coach O’Brien and co. hadn’t found their way out of the mud through three and a half quarters (basically since the first drive of the game), so should we have expected anything different in the 4th? Was Saban saving some new players and plays for the final frame?

But, I’d like to thank those “four finger fellas” for their outlook and persistence after all, as they were ultimately correct.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

As it turns out, the Bryce Young edition of this team still does stuff like this sometimes, where the 4th quarter is truly different, for reasons mysterious to me.

Not only did the passing game finally show up on offense, but the defense did its part, too, just sitting on the Longhorns for the 3rd quarter in a row for below-average Success Rates. Sure, that explosiveness (XR) allowed is not great, but it wasn’t terrible, either, and they ultimately showed up at the right moments and kept the opponent under 20 points.

Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

But that 4th quarter … it was great enough to make up for a lot of trust lost in the prior few. This cumulative look at team SRs/XRs shows the Tide nearly restored a statistical lead after lagging Texas for much of the game. Over that 4th quarter, these cumulative team graphs went “a surprising statistical rout by the underdog in Burnt Orange” to “a sensible set of metrics for a game won by a single point.” It was, statistically, a “good game.”

But damned if it wasn’t exhausting. And in the end, Texas was as efficient as Alabama and a few points more explosive. Which makes sense to me.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

This is one of the most bizarre charts I’ve seen out of the Tide, but it does a lot to put this near-loss stinker — and the 4th quarter rally — into perspective.

The first quarter saw teams trading blows, especially in the passing game: both teams had passing SRs floating high in the 50-80% range, with some explosive plays to boot (especially for Texas). The run game was there as support for both teams, though Alabama snuck a long rushing TD into the mix to keep the fans in Crimson happy.

But those 2nd and 3rd quarters? Woof. 3 successful plays *total across both of those quarters*, and two of them happened early. This was as awful a run for Alabama’s offense I’ve seen since … well, I guess since the Iron Bowl last year. But, anyway, it’s the worst few offensive quarters I’ve seen out of the Tide in a while. And I had to watch those quarters in person, no less!

Rushing rate (cumulative)

Listen, I was with the rest of (some of) you Gumps in the nosebleeds, screaming to run the dang ball a little bit through the 2nd quarter. But, honestly, it wasn’t working that well outside of McClellan’s breakaway TD early on. Hence, the Tide’s relatively low Rush Rate throughout the game. Maybe it was the right move, to emphasize the pass. If you flip to Texas’s Rush Rate chart, they were more committed to that #RTDB way of life; but they didn’t get much for it …

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

Because neither team ran it very well, will below-average Success Rate in the low 30s. Between Bryce’s scrambles and McClellan’s long run, at least the Tide had respectable explosiveness from their run game (more so than the pass, which is kinda sad). But Texas committed to a run game that — unless it was just there to open up the pass — didn’t do much on its own. So maybe it was the right call for the Tide to lean on the pass. It’s hard to say!

Success and Explosiveness by Down

The efficiency by Down chart looks coincidentally similar to the Quarters chart: success on the 1’s and 4’s and sad graphs in the 2’s and 3’s. The Tide put away 1st downs in a positive fashion — especially on their initial and then 4th quarter drives — but then often failed to move the chains in the middle downs. I feel like the Tide has had “2nd down blues” for a few seasons now, with lower SRs and XRs in those moments. Unfortunately, we had both that and an absence of our 2021 vintage “3rd down saves” in a lot of this game. 3rd downs weren’t great either, Bill.

I’m reasonably happy for the 4th down conversion that we got in this one — and for a 50% SR on that line — but to my eyes that should’ve been a 100% Success Rate. It’s not statistical commentary, but I think they gave a bad spot after that call reversal late (to send it back to 4th and inches) and then gave a weak spot to not reward the inches that were, I think, earned. Between those two plays, I saw a first down in there somewhere that the refs apparently did not.

(Ok, refs rant over)

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

As often happens in close games, the Red Zone efficiencies loom large. The Tide defense did a nice job of bowing up when we needed them to. The Longhorn defense moved the ball with, at times, stomach-churning ease between the 20s, but things got real in the Red Zone.

Success by Drive

Outside of McClellan’s long run, the Tide had 5 drives worth talking about. That’s not great, but at least we got 5 of them, and not 4. The Horns were much more consistent drive to drive

Top Passers

The players charts weren’t that interesting to me this week, so I’ll just call out a few highlights (see All Graphs for more). For one: Bryce averaged out at a fair game, but had a lot more “unsuccessful catches” than we usually see. That has to be a symptom of the incessant (and failing) screen game we saw in the middle quarters. This plays had me shaking my head every time they went for 0-1 yards (which was several times).

Top Receivers

And, while our true receivers didn’t exactly acquit themselves fabulously this week, it was interesting seeing RB Jahmyr’s Gibbs as one of our most successful receivers on the day. Despite his depressing rushing line — 2/7 for a 28.5% Rushing SR — this receiving performance earns him the headlining pic on the All Graphs article. And I’d love to see this intrigue out of the backfield combined with some downfield pass performance instead of being a replacement for it.

(The image feature in this article, by the way, is a combo of Henry To’oto’o and Will Anderson Jr., as a representation of what the defense did reasonably well in a hostile environment.)

And at least we got out of there with a win and alive (if not necessarily sturdy) in the playoff hunt. For my money, I think Texas deserved the win. But I’ll take the gift horse and not look too closely, thank you very much.

Check out the All Graphs article for more. As for me, I’m going to let this one lie for a while as we cruise through the easy part of the schedule. Hopefully it’ll be a good long time before you and I are reminded of these kinds of feelings during an Alabama football game.

Roll Tide, anyway … and thanks for all the in-person “Roll Tides” from those of you who were in Austin this weekend! There was a lot of Crimson in attendance, and y’all helped make it fun.