01 September 2008
Total and complete dominance. When we talked about the way that a defensive line was supposed to play in Nick Saban's 3-4 defense we might as well have be writing about the way that the Tide played against Clemson. Assignments were carried out exactly how they were supposed to have been, with the gaps on the line filled to give the linebackers room to work. But the guys were so dominant that they actually made plays themselves.
Clemson's offense averaged 161.1 yards per game on the ground last season. Despite bringing back virtually the same group of skill players they managed ZERO
yards rushing in the game. If you take away the 28 yards that Cullen Harper lost on sacks, and look at just the plays that were called rushes, the Tide allowed just 28 yards on 11 attempts - an average of just 2.5 yards per carry.
You can look even closer than that to see how dominant it was:
James Davis averaged 81.85 yards per game last year, he managed just 13 yards on six carries - with six of those yards coming on a trick play where he lined up at QB. So that's seven yards on five carries in which he took a hand off. On those five carries he had one that lost a yard and four that gained two yards each. He was completely eliminated from the game, almost entirely by Terrence Cody
. Of those five plays Cody had either the solo tackle or an assist on three - including his first rush of the game that went for a loss.
CJ Spiller was an after thought on offense, which really made no sense. His explosiveness was evident to everyone on his kick-off return for a TD, except evidently the Clemson offensive staff. He carried the ball just twice in the game, with eight yards coming on the same trick play that later earned Davis his longest run. Only once in the entire game did Spiller accept a hand off from Cullen Harper and Cory Reamer
dropped him for a loss of one on that play.
Talented freshman Jamie Harper was given the start in an attempt to get him involved in the game early. He fumbled on his first carry and was not heard from again. The Tigers' other eight rushing yards came on reverses to wide receivers.
Simply put, the Clemson rushing attack was completely eliminated from the game. The fact that Alabama got a big lead early certainly had an effect on that, but the fact that Cody controlled the middle of the field in a way that I don't think I've ever seen had a lot to do with it as well.
In all the Tide defensive line totaled 11 tackles, two for a loss, with one sack and two quarterback hurries. Those are great numbers for guys that are supposed to be "gap fillers".
Technically Brandon Fanney
is listed as a linebacker but he spent most of the day with his hand on the ground as an additional lineman. He added a tackle to that group, and his efforts at forcing plays to the middle linebackers can not be overlooked.
racked up his third career sack in one of the better games of his career. Lorenzo Washington
should have had a sack but Harper idioticly threw a blind under-handed pass from near his own goal line that could have very easily ended up a pick-6 for the Tide. It will go as a QB hurry for Washington but is a great indication of what he can do from a play-making standpoint being outside - he was in the backfield as though he was not even blocked.
, Luther Davis
, and Marcel Dareus
didn't do anything spectacular, but they were a part of the group and deserve mention.
I don't know what the Tide's rushing defense will look like later in the season, but it is tough for a team to have a better start than allowing a goose egg from the opponent. Typically when that happens it is because you played a directional school that couldn't run effectively against a good high school defense. But this was a top 10 team from a BCS conference that will likely end the season as one of the ACC's better rushing teams.
What to work on for next week: I guess stamina. They dominated so much that they weren't on the field very much. There wasn't as much of a rotation as we'll see in some games, because there just were not enough plays to warrant rotating guys out.