31 August 2008
We were told that we would see four different guys carry the ball and that they would stick with the guy who had the hot hand. That's exactly what we got and it was the first time in a long time that we saw Bama have more than one guy run well in a big game.
Possibly the star of the offense for the Tide was true freshman Mark Ingram. He ended up averaging 5.6 yards per carry on his 17 carries, giving him a total of 96 yards. Throw in two catches for five yards and you end up with 101 yards on 19 touches. The stats don't tell the whole story, though. He ran with a purpose, making Clemson defender after Clemson defender miss. He was responsible for three 3rd down conversions, two on rushes, one on a reception. He also had a huge 29 yard run from the Bama 15 yard line that allowed the Tide to continue the 8:54 4th quarter drive that basically iced the game.
Glen Coffee wasn't far behind. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry on his 17 carries, giving him 90 yards rushing. Throw in a reception for nine yards and he ended up at 99 total yards on 18 touches. He was the guy Bama went to time and time again on 1st down, where he had 42 of his yards on 9 carries - an average of 4.7 yards per carry. That gave the Bama offense favorable down and distance situations many times, which allowed the playbook to be much more open on 2nd and 3rd down.
Roy Upchurch was the guy in the 4th quarter. Of his 37 rushing yards 31 came in the 4th quarter when Bama was trying to run the clock out and Clemson was stacking the box. He was also a weapon in the passing game pulling down 4 receptions for another 30 yards. His role in the offense will likely expand if he continues to average 5.7 yards per touch.
This was mostly a wasted game for Terry Grant. He is evidently struggling with some kind of shin problem that really limited his ability to make cuts. He only carried the ball 4 times and one of those lost 5 yards, so he ended up in the negative for the game. He did see an expanded role in special teams, however, playing on the kick off coverage team.
All in all the four Alabama running backs ended the game with 46 carries for 221 yards, an average of 4.8 yards per attempt. They also added seven receptions for 45 yards. We knew that the Bama backs would play an integral part of the Tide offense, but the fact that they accounted for 266 of Bama's 419 yards of total offense was a bit of a surprise.
What to work on for next week: There's not much really. They could be more effective in the red zone, though Bama did opt for play-action to the tight end once inside the ten, and opten for a QB sneak one other time. A zero in the touchdown category for the running backs is not ideal, but when you when by 24 points it is probably being a bit picky.