07 September 2008
What we should learn from Alabama's sluggish 20-6 victory over the Tulane Green Wave is that Alabama is still a very thin team. Injuries to several key players put Alabama in a position where younger, less experienced players had to be used. In every one of those cases the replacement player struggled to provide consistent play, which hampered the Tide all night.
This was felt the most on the offense, where Bama had to replace 2/5 of its offensive line and never managed to establish any type of rhythm with the ball. The domination at the point of attack shown against Clemson was gone. The crispness of the passing game was replaced by John Parker Wilson running for his life.
Bama totaled just 172 yards of offense against Tulane, a far cry from the 419 yards we saw the previous week. Both the rushing attack (99 yards) and the passing game (73 yards) were ineffective against a Green Wave defense that spent the entire night in the Tide backfield.
Star of the Offense:
There really weren't many candidates. Marquis Maze had a nice game with a career high four receptions, but 22 yards doesn't earn you player of the game. Glen Coffee averaged 6.1 yards per carry, but had a big fumble that could have given Tulane a chance to get back into the game.
Ingram, on the other hand, put up a solid game that should give him more opportunities as the season goes on. After being used very little in the first two and a half quarters of the game, Ingram became the Tide offense for a critical touchdown drive to close the third quarter.
His lone reception on the day came on third down, giving Alabama a chance to continue its best drive of the day. He carried the ball four times on that drive for 39 yards and his first career touchdown. Once again we saw Ingram refuse to go down on first contact, running with the kind of wild abandon that makes fans giddy about the idea of watching him run for the next four years.
In all he carried the ball 11 times for 63 yards, an average of 5.7 per carry. That gives him 159 yards on 28 carries through his first two collegiate games.
Things started poorly for John Parker Wilson and never really got any better. After throwing incomplete on his first two passes, the Tide senior never found a rhythm and ended the game just 11 of 23 for 73 yards.
He was sacked four times on the night, and according to the stat sheet he was hurried another three. I'm not sure what the statistical folks consider a quarterback hurry, but there were far more than three pass attempts that saw Wilson have to throw the ball out of bounds or at the feet of receiver behind the line of scrimmage.
The encouraging thing is that despite the fact that Wilson had what most people would consider a bad night, he never made the big mistake that allowed Tulane to get into the game. Unlike last season where a bad night would usually include an interception or a fumble, John Parker protected the ball.
Yes, he over threw a couple of deep balls that could have given Alabama the type of scoreboard separation that we all wanted to see. At some point in time this season he will have to connect on the deep ball for Alabama to have the room on underneath routes that it needs.
The average per carry was solid for the two Tide backs. But just 20 rushing attempts for these guys kept the overall numbers from being where we would like them to be. The backs were once again involved in the passing game, pulling down four of Bama's 11 receptions.
Where this unit struggled was in pass protection. The Green Wave came after Alabama with a variety of stunts and blitzes and the backs failed to consistently keep pressure off of John Parker Wilson. Teams will likely continue to come after Wilson and it is crucial that the Tide backs improve considerably in this aspect of the game.
Receivers and Tight Ends
There's not much to talk about here. Nick Walker, Travis McCall, and Julio Jones pulled down one catch each, while Marquis Maze had four receptions. The rest of the night was plagued with dropped balls, tight coverage, and passes being thrown out of bounds to avoid sacks.
Maze made a fantastic juggling catch on a third down on Bama's lone touchdown drive. He also ran backwards on a crossing route trying to earn more yards; the type of play that inexperience can sometimes cause.
Through two games the Bama wide receivers have barely been involved, and that must improve. Julio Jones leads the way with five catches, Maze follows with four, Mike McCoy has just two, and B.J. Scott one. That's it for a Tide receiving corps that was expected to be very productive.
Losing one starter from the offensive line is bad enough, but when Bama lost Marlon Davis early in the game it put the Tide offensive line in a bad position. With all due respect to David Ross and Brian Motley, the Alabama offense was not able to recreate the physical dominance from the Clemson game.
There were far too many plays where the running backs had to make someone miss in the backfield. There were far too few holes at the point of attack for the Bama backs. Pass protection was terrible all night. Simply put, the offensive line was bad.
The injury to Marlon Davis isn't expected to be serious, and Andre Smith could be back as soon as Saturday. Those two guys should allow Bama to dominate up front again, which is an absolute necessity. Alabama is simply not talented enough to consistently move the football without good line play.