I always hate trying to recap the paycheck games because the talent disparity is so great that it’s tough to glean much. Alabama’s players are expected to throughly dominate across the board, and to their credit they did just that.
The offense started off like gangbusters, as Jalen Milroe hit Jermaine Burton on a deep ball and subsequent touchdown for an early 7-0 lead, and Alabama was never challenged on the scoreboard from that point. If there is a criticism to be made, it’s that the team seemed to hit a lull once up by 28. Tim Smith oddly vacated a gap that Chattanooga RB Gino Appleberry exploited for a 40 yard score, the Mocs’ only touchdown of the afternoon. The offense sputtered a bit around that same time frame, and the defense allowed Chattanooga to drive the field once in the third quarter to earn their field goal.
Outside of those two possessions, however, the defense was dominant. Chattanooga QB Luke Schomburg managed only 107 passing yards on 21 attempts and, while starting RB Gino Appleberry went over 100 on the day, he gained only 64 yards on 21 carries outside the aforementioned busted run fit.
Nick Saban was most pleased that many players got to play in this one. Robbie Ouzts and Justice Haynes each scored their first collegiate touchdowns. Jam Miller got plenty of run. Ty Simpson got into the game and went a strong 4/6 for 50 yards. He also showed off his wheels again, ripping off what appeared to be a 79 yard touchdown. Unfortunately for Ty, replay showed that he dropped the ball on the 1 yard line. Luckily there was no clear recovery, so the Tide got the ball at the 1 and Haynes promptly plunged into the end zone. It was yet another learning experience for Simpson, but there is reason for optimism should he be forced into action (flagged!)
Dylan Lonergan even got into the action, completing both of his pass attempts for 12 yards and scrambling once for five. All told, eight different players ran the ball, nine caught it, and three threw it. That’s what happens when you win by 56.
Defensively, it was much of the same. Saban was able to empty the bench and he did just that. It’s highly possible that some of the success the Mocs had near the middle of the game had something to do with the mass substitutions, but there was no reason to put the starters in harm’s way any more than necessary.
The big revelation of the game was Caleb Downs replacing Kool Aid McKinstry at punt returner after yet another muff, and subsequently housing one. Caleb is a bona fide superstar as a true freshman. He played receiver in high school, and you have to believe that he’d light it up there as well if Saban ever had a notion to use him in that way. Those who were concerned about Kool Aid getting injured in that role will likely be on pins and needles every time 2 catches the ball, but his ability jumped off the screen.
Will Reichard scored 12 points on one field goal and 9 extra points, and now needs only ten more to break the all-time NCAA scoring record. Alabama is guaranteed to play three more games at this point, so it will be a major surprise if he doesn’t get there.
The most important goal in these games is to emerge healthy, and the Tide didn’t have any notable injuries. They will now roll into the pasture to face an Auburn team that was just beaten soundly at home by New Mexico State. Alabama should always expect to get their best shot, of course.
Nobody ahead of the Tide lost yesterday. Oregon’s only ranked win, #22 Utah, lost by four touchdowns to Arizona last night so they will likely have zero ranked wins when the committee ranks teams on Tuesday. Florida State went down 13-0 to North Alabama and then lost their starting QB. To the Seminoles’ credit they did rally to log a blowout, but their strength of schedule is dubious and they’ve now lost their starting QB. Does the committee have the courage to rank a surging Alabama team ahead of either of those in light of this new information?
My gut says no, but we shall see. All Alabama can do at this point is keep winning and hope for the best.
It’s officially Auburn Hate Week, folks. Behave accordingly.