24 September 2008
I had vowed to myself to get From The Couch up by no later than Tuesday every week, but the things at work they are a little crazy this week. So here we are pushing this dog on a Wednesday, and not only that but we might not give the Arkansas game quite as many words From The Couch as it would get ordinarily. You're probably relieved to read that, but from my perspective its a shame, because the view from the couch was most pleasant indeed on Saturday.
If I had more time, I would look it up and tell you the last time that Alabama scored six or more touchdown from 25 yards out - I suspect it's been quite a while - or four or more touchdowns from 62 yards out, which may have been even longer. But I guess you don't have to know all that to know that it was sure fun to watch all those long scores this time. The Arkansas game was probably not Bama's most dominant performance of the season, but it might've been the most fun.
If you take away the effects of the one 12-yard sack on John Parker Wilson by subtracting one carry from Bama's total carries and adding 12 yards to the total yardage, then the actual running game racked up 340 yards on 34 carries. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in advanced mathematics to figure that out at 10 yards a pop.
None too shabby. The passing game was only needed to keep the defense distracted from our steamroller of a ground attack. Unfortunately, that's all it achieved.
This was one of those John Parker Wilson games that I have said I would take, because he didn't make the kinds of mistakes we've seen him make too often. Looking at the stats, though, makes me wonder whether avoiding brain poots is really enough.
Wilson threw a couple of pretty nice balls, avoided mistakes, and executed well. On at least one occasion, he did something I've said he never does, i.e., slide sideways a couple of steps in the pocket to find time to throw. But you have to think that a quarterback facing a defense like Arkansas, having all day to pass most of the time and supported by a stupendous rushing attack, ought to be able to hook up more than 74 yards on 14 attempts.
That's just not going to do all season, starting Saturday I'm afraid. We will need more than 74 in the air against UGA.
I'm also less impressed by the fact that Wilson showed the scoreboard to an Arkansas linebacker than is, apparently, the general population of Tide fans, but if it helps the senior QB stay confident, we should buy extra scoreboards for him to point to.
I was a bit disappointed that we let the air out of the ball after McElroy threw a single pick. I'd like to see our second string get some game time executing the full offense. And I'm afraid Saban sent McElroy a pretty loud signal that he is not trusted.
Either Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch are each a bit faster than I had thought they were, or Arkansas's defensive backs are a step slow. I suspect it's the latter.
Regardless of all that, it's worthy of note when a running game averages 10 yards a pop and racks up four touchdowns to boot. Everybody ran well, and I didn't see a blocking running back get beaten by a blitzer, either.
think Mark Ingram is a better runner than Glen Coffee, but that's starting to become one of those opinions that kind of goes against the evidence. I'm not much of a believer in going against the evidence, hunch or not, so I'm going to stop recommending that Ingram get more carries, at least on a temporary basis.
Regardless, I certainly have to give Coffee credit for running hard and smart Saturday. His 88-yard touchdown run started with a plugged hole, but the junior tailback bounced it outside, only to cut back upfield inside an Arkansas defensive back who had the sideline sealed. Not only was the double cut move very nifty, but each of the cuts was absolutely necessary to springing him for the following footrace, which he won.
I have to admit, I was surprised to see him win the race. After that, we'll see how long my Ingram-Coffee opinion lasts. It is still there, but it has been dealt a blow.
They didn't get a whole lot of action, but the group looked good. Earl Alexander appears to be moving up the target list, with five catches in the last two weeks, and is showing a physicality he has lacked in the past. He is obviously a talent. As is Julio Jones, whose powerful running for a second-quarter touchdown surprised no Bama fan.
It is starting to look as if the blossoming of Nikita Stover is just not going to happen. Nikita played just enough to drop a pass and stumble the other time he was thrown to.
With only six completions on the day, clearly there aren't many names to call here. But we had wideouts open downfield more than six times.
Nick Walker grabbed one pass for six yards, which both (1) extended his streak of catching a pass in each game, and (2) continued the trend toward "normalcy," with normalcy defined as Bama not throwing much to the tight end.
It's not news that both of the big seniors blocked well. I guess it's also not news that Preston Dial and Chris Underwood again did not impact the game's statistics.
If you ever get the time, try watching a replay of a Bama game one day and just focus on Andre Smith the whole time. It's a fun thing to do if you are a Bama fan. There have been a few grumbles about Andre's not quite living up to the hype the past two years, but brother this year he is living up to the hype, and not much else needs to be said.
I don't know if Marlon Davis had trouble loosening up the hamstring in the first half or what, but he let his man blow right by him on a couple of first-half pass plays. We will need better performance than that when Geno Atkins is coming up the middle. Atkins already has 11.5 hurries from a defensive tackle position.
Otherwise, criticism of this group would be ridiculous. On running plays, these guys fire off together as a solid wall. On passing plays, other than the two alluded to above, Wilson frequently had time to spare.
This defense is starting to build an identity:
Running up the middle is next to impossible.
Throwing downfield is a gamble.
The line usually gets a decent push with a four-man pass rush, even though the pass rushers stay reliably in their lanes and don't create huge holes with looping pass rushes.
Blitzes are not common, but are usually well-timed and effective.
We can be moved on between the twenties with outside running and quick passes in the flats, but our defensive backs tackle well, so the movement is generally in short chunks, which gives the offense more chances to make a mistake before they score. (See Dick, Casey.)
Movement gets tougher in the red zone.
Terrance Cody is intimidating, and centers get tired of battling Cody and Chapman the whole game.
Catch a pass across the middle, or run up the middle, and you might get hurt.
See above re defensive identity. Did you notice Arkansas running up the middle successfully? Me neither.
You have to give Jonathan Luigs credit for occasionally taking on Cody one-on-one and keeping him out of the play, but the difference between Luigs and an ordinary center wasn't all that great when it came to Alabama's newest mountain. The big guy wasn't running loose in the Arkansas backfield much, but he wasn't going anywhere when they tried to shove him back, either.
Brandon Deaderick seems to have become a little less visible as the season wears on. I wouldn't say his job is in jeopardy, but it is noticeable that Luther Davis' playing time has picked up and Davis has made some plays.
But one thing you have to give Deaderick credit for is basically doing the job of what you might call a weakside nose tackle on running plays. Deaderick stuffs the line like a nose tackle, which has channeled a lot of running backs into Brandon Fanney's waiting arms. That whole Brandon thing we've got going on makes it difficult to run off tackle on that side.
I wouldn't be surprised if Hightower continues to start, but if he does I think it will be largely for symbolic reasons, at least unless he starts showing marked improvement. Prince Hall is clearly a cut above Hightower in activity and field coverage, and it doesn't hurt that he is one of our best hitters if not THE best.
Prince was out there most of the time from approximately mid-second quarter on, and I'm figuring he will play even more against Georgia. If he didn't make as many big plays Saturday as Hightower has made all year, it was close. The biggest was on the Hogs' fourth-down running attempt, where repeated replays convinced our crack team of analysts on The Couch that it was indeed Hall who made the initial, very solid hit that stopped the running back in his tracks. Whether Prince could've made that play solo we'll never know, because the initial hit was quickly and boisterously followed by a veritable tide of crimson.
I'm hoping to get to see more of Cory Reamer one of these days, but Saturday obviously was not going to be the game (since he doesn't play when we are in the nickel, which we live in against passing teams). He has made a lot of plays when he has been on the field.
Chavis Williams showed why he is a pass-rush specialist, and not a pass coverer, on Arkansas' second touchdown.
Eryk Anders is a good blitzer.
Work is calling out to me - "glen55, get your rear in here" - and I gotta get this baby out the door, so these guys won't get the attention they deserve.
Receivers who watch game film before the Alabama game will know who Justin Woodall is. They might even dream about him. And wake up in a cold sweat. And think twice when they run routes across the middle.
The guy also looks like a pretty decent pass defender for a dude of his size. Although I'm a little wary about exactly what kind of props to give him for his long TD interception return. That was just a weird play, and I'm not sure exactly how Woodall got such a good break on that terrible, terrible pass. But he did, so you have to give him at least some credit.
You also have to give him credit for making it look easier to run right by Casey Dick and make him fall down than Javy Arenas made it look. (On the other hand, Arenas gets style points for inducing Dick to land on the Reynolds Razorback Stadium turf keister-first.)
Speaking of Arenas, it wasn't his two pass deflections, his solid tackling, or his suspenseless TD interception return - tell me, did you ever really think Dick was going to bring Javy down one-on-one? - that impressed me the most. It was an early blitz when Arkansas' right tackle slid outside to take him on. As the tackle edged right to cover a loop blitz, Javy cut inside and gave the guy a push to the outside. Even though Arenas was only half the guy's size, the push made the tackle teeter on one foot and a-l-m-o-s-t fall down.
Marquis Johnson has turned into a much more physical tackler than I would ever have guessed. Unsurprisingly, Rashad Johnson ended his string of games giving up a big gainer and turned in another game of solid pass coverage and run help D.
I know I don't have to tell anybody this, but just for the record, Chris Rogers' pick was absolutely sensational. Probably a better catch than any Bama wideout has made this year, at least if you take away Marquis Maze's leaping grab in the Clemson game that was called back for a penalty.
I'm still officially worried about kickoff coverage. Leigh Tiffin has nice instincts for getting in the way of the play, but he has way too many cleat marks on his chest for this part of the season. Tiffin was credited with two kickoff tackles, got run over by the returner another time, and got cleared out of the returner's way by a nearby blocker another time. We really really really really don't want to see Tiffin heavily involved in four kickoff stops a game.
Kudos to the Hogs for not allowing Arenas to break free even for a piddling 20-yard return.
And kudos to P.J. Fitzgerald for his spiffy 45.2 punting average, and on high kicks allowing good coverage no less. Long may it last.