05 October 2008
Coming off of three consecutive games that saw the Tide offense score more than 40 points, it was a little disappointing to see just 17 on the board at the close of the game. Some of the credit for that goes to the Kentucky defense. And some of it falls on to Bama - two missed FGs and a fumble inside the ten yard line cost the Tide 13 potential points that would have made us all feel better.
This was the first time since the Tulane game that we saw the Alabama offense struggle at all. I had gotten used to seeing Bama move up and down the field with ease that it was disconcerting to watch points come at a premium. That comparative issue is likely why this win feels a little hollow.
The reality is that Alabama is 6-0 and that's all that really matters.
It wasn't a great day for John Parker Wilson, and the grumbles from the fan base have already started again. All of the good will Wilson seemed to build in the Georgia game as evaporated due to a mediocre game. It's a classic case of "what have you done for me lately?"
It just wasn't a good night for the Tide passing attack. There was no rhythm to the passing game, and every time Bama made a big play, a drop of yellow on the field brought it back (more on that later).
What this game demonstrated to me for John Parker is how much help he needs from his offensive line and receivers to have a good game. He got loads of time to throw against Georgia, and he made good passes. He had open receivers against Georgia, and he got them the ball. Neither was the case on Saturday, and he struggled.
His interception was not a bad one. In a way they are all bad, but when compared to some of his from 2007, or to Casey Dick's against Bama earlier this year, this one was harmless. It was also a result of a great play by the Kentucky safety. The interception came close to 50 yards downfield, and as far as damage is concerned, it was harmless.
The second half was particularly bad for the passing attack, as John Parker managed just one completion in the second stanza - a 15 yarder to Julio on Bama's last offensive possession.
What surprised me is that we didn't see many of the short crossing routes, or screen passes that were so successful against Georgia. Only one pass went to the running backs, and it went for a big gain. It's possible that Kentucky did a better job of containing those plays. It's also possible that this game was used to work on other things.
Regardless, Bama will have to produce more than 106 passing yards (86 if you take out sack yards) in order to win its remaining games. Not all of that falls onto John Parker, but he'll get all of the credit or all of the blame.
- 7-17, 106 yards
Glen Coffee's 218 yards is the sixth most in Alabama history. His 78 yard first quarter run was his second game changer on the season. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry on a night where he notched a season high 25 carries. So he had a great night, right? Right? Three fumbles, including two inside the Kentucky ten yard line might indicate otherwise.
Glen recovered one of those fumbles himself, and another one harmlessly rolled out of bounds. So the final tally will only show one turnover. But I promise you that the coaching staff noticed, and the fact that Roy Upchurch was in on Bama's final three runs indicates a level of frustration with what is becoming a bit of an issue on the year.
- 25 carries, 218 yards, 1 TD, 1 reception, 15 yards
Mark Ingram was the number two guy for much of the night, before falling a little out of favor for making some of the same mistakes we've seen in earlier games. He's been so successful at times this season that it is easy to forget that he is a true freshman, and is prone to making mistakes. At this point the mistakes are effort based - he keeps trying to make too much happen individually, at times giving up too early on his blockers. He needs to be a little more patient in waiting for the hole to open.
Even still, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry, so it's not like he had a bad day. His long run of 36 yards was a powerful one where he used both strength and speed to flip the field.
- 11 carries, 66 yards
Roy Upchurch appears to be the "go to guy" for the coaching staff when other guys are making mistakes. When Coffee fumbled and Ingram failed to read his blocks, the load fell onto Roy. The fact that he is executing plays, especially those that don't involve him carrying the ball, seems to be his ticket to playing time. And he seems to have embraced that role.
There was nothing particularly spectacular from Roy on the night, and he failed to pick up a tough yard right at the end of the Tide's final offensive possession that could have allowed the Tide to really put the game away. Though to be honest with you, from where I was sitting it looked as though he got a horrible spot on that particular play.
- 5 carries, 19 yards
Yuck. Kentucky played the Tide receivers tougher than we've seen this year and the Bama corps did not respond well. I think most of us underestimated the value of Mike McCoy as a guy capable of finding a way to get open. There were far too many plays where there was nowhere for a pass to be completed, and a lot of that falls onto the receivers.
Julio was Julio again. His final numbers are less than they should have been (more on that later), but it is clear that he and John Parker have developed great timing and rhythm. His athleticism continues to be of the "wow factor" variety, and only the fact that Kentucky's Trevard Lindley is an NFL caliber defensive back kept him from having a huge night.
Through six games, he's had at least one catch in every game.
- 3 receptions, 52 yards
Nikita Stover was one of the guys that was called on to fill the void left by McCoy, and he was able to make one nice play in the passing game. Otherwise, no other wide receiver caught a pass. That's just unacceptable for a group that had the opportunity to show out in the absence of starter.
(for Stover) - 1 reception, 9 yards
Nick Walker extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to eight (including the final two games of 2007). He has been a steady and consistent part of the passing attack this season, and John Parker seems to have a ton of confidence in his ability to make a catch - Walker took the ball out of the hands of a defensive back for one of his catches.
The coaches seem to have that confidence also, as a play-action pass to Nick was called on a third and less than a yard. It went for 24 yards on a great call, throw, and catch combination that should keep teams from totally selling out to stop the run on third and short.
- 2 receptions, 30 yards
I'll break this one down into two categories - rushing and passing - because the night couldn't have been more different for the guys up front.
Three holding penalties, three sacks, and two throw-aways by the quarterback indicates a very bad evening for the pass rush. You can withstand those type of numbers if you are attempting 35 passes, but when your final tally is 17, this is just too much. Some credit goes to the Kentucky defense, who seemed to be able to get effective pressure with just four or five guys on a consistent basis.
The run blocking was a different story, tough. When your running backs combine for 303 rushing yards, the big guys get an awful lot of credit. There were consistent gaping holes in the Kentucky front that had previously only allowed an average of 73.3 yards per game. A lot of the great work was done over the left side, but the Tide staff appears to be gaining more and more confidence in the ability to get yards on the right side.
The injury bug bit Andre Smith again, though he was able to remain in the game. He was clearly not 100% as he struggled, especially with pass blocking, for the rest of the night. The injury appears to have been a hyper-extended elbow that should have plenty of time to get better before Bama takes to the field again in two weeks.
In the final analysis, the offense put up 388 yards against a team that came into the game allowing an average of just 227.25 per game. The fact that they only managed 10 points as a unit is a bit alarming, but as I mentioned above, two missed FGs and a fumble inside the ten yard line made things look a lot different than they could have been.
Now, having said all of that, I'm going to do something that you won't see from me often...
The Southeastern Conference needs to seriously address whether Hubert Owens and his crew are capable of officiating games in this league - much less games that have national championship ramifications. Both
of these teams came into Saturday undefeated, and they were given an absolutely dreadful crew to officiate their game.
Two huge plays by the Bama offense, both passes to Julio Jones were called back on questionable calls.
The first was called back on an ineligible receiver downfield penalty, with Nick Walker identified as the guilty party. Another look at the play shows that Nick never left the line of scrimmage. He was uncovered, which could be called as an illegal formation penalty, but the call if ineligible man downfield was incorrect.
The second was called back on an offensive pass interference penalty on Julio. I'll admit that Julio might have pushed off. That's a judgment call for the officials, and I won't really argue with the judgment. What I will argue with is the fact that the flag was thrown at least five seconds after the infraction occurred. This was clearly
a case of an official caving to pressure from the Kentucky sidelines. This simply can not
happen. If an infraction occurred, the flag needs to come within a reasonable time, and this was unacceptable.
Not long after this play came a flag that was eventually waved off because of how ridiculous it was. Kentucky's punt returner signaled for a fair catch incorrectly and far too late, and Alabama's Rashad Johnson was flagged for kick-catch interference. The real problem with the penalty is that Rashad neither interfered with his ability to catch the ball, or touched him... so no flag should have been thrown. The other problem is that an inappropriate fair catch signal, as indicated by Hubert Owens, is a delay of game penalty, and wasn't called.
On Kentucky's first touchdown drive, the play that immediately preceeded the touchdown was a 36 yard screen pass to Derrick Locke. Cory Reamer read this play perfectly and took a great angle on Locke that should have resulted in a three to five yard game. Unfortunately the umpire Daniel Pulley moved directly into Reamer's path and threw the best block of the night. I'm not asserting that Pulley did this on purpose, but one of the differences between good officials and bad officials is their ability to stay out of the way of players making plays. Pulley not only failed to stay out of the way, but he literally moved into the way. Awful.
Alabama's punt unit got a delay of game penalty during the period of time that the play clock was not functioning and the time was being kept on the field. In this situation one of the officials signals with his hands how much time is left on the play clock, so that the players on the field will know. The problem with this particular penalty is that the official wasn't signaling time. He simply threw his flag to call the penalty. Unacceptable.
This is an Alabama team that came into the game averaging 3.6 penalties per game, and they managed to be called for ten on Saturday. I'm not going to say that all of the flags were bogus. In fact, Bama played poorly, and many of those flags were very legitimate. But over all this crew had a horrible, horrible game, and the SEC needs to seriously look at whether these guys are capable of continuing to officiate games in this league - they were that
Okay, rant over. I'll finish with something positive.
The crowd came to play Saturday. There were times in the game where the Kentucky offense struggled to communicate and that is directly because of the noise level in the stadium.
If you were there, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. In a three point victory every little bit helps.