24 November 2009
Welcome to this week's version of From The Couch. This week's version will be abbreviated. Why? Because my continuing interest in the UTC game is also abbreviated, as is, I suspect, your own.
Nevertheless, there is probably a thing or two we can learn about the future by looking back at the past. I feel like I need a crystal ball and a swami hood as I say that, but whatever. Let's talk about the UTC game.
Saban preaches focus like nothing else. Every game is the only thing on the agenda. There is a pre-game routine. It is always the same. Every player is to focus on the task before him, and the play at hand. Whether Alabama is playing UTC or Florida, the goal is always the same: be the best football player and football team you can be, and learn from what you are doing so that you can be even better next week.
It's a noble effort, and I'm sure it works to some extent, but no matter how hard the head coach tries to instill constant discipline, his team is not going to come to every game primed and ready. No coach has ever achieved that, including Bear Bryant . . . or Nick Saban.
All that was on display Saturday: for about three minutes. During that first three minutes, Alabama's offense went three and out, the defense gave up one of only three (3!!) non-penalty first downs that UTC achieved the whole game, and in fact UTC's first drive only ended via self-inflicted pain on an offensive pass interference penalty.
Even after the three minutes, the Tide offense was a little slow to unwind, as its second drive took 11 plays to gain 51 yards, only about 4.5 a pop. The Tide's first five passing plays netted two uninspiring scrambles and one completion for two yards.
HOWEVER - the end zone was only 51 yards away when Bama started that second drive. Slow and methodical or not, it ended in the UTC end zone, and after Corey Reamer picked B.J. Coleman's first pass of the next possession, the game was o-ver. The next thing you knew it was 35-0, and everything Bama had done in between, on offense, on defense, and on special teams, had worked like a charm.
UTC Was Paid More Than The GNP of El Salvador to Play This Game
Or something. I hope they got paid a lot, because they didn't take home a lot of glory, not even of the "noble effort" variety.
You watch Alabama football for a few decades, like I have, and you become accustomed to seeing opponents rise above their capabilities and lay it all on the line. The Crimson Tide is always a target, and young fellas in other teams' uniforms tend to treat playing the Tide as a lifetime opportunity.
Didn't happen Saturday. I'm not sure any UTC player other than B.J. Coleman really came to win.
Coleman deserves plenty of credit, despite the two picks. The stat line tells me that he was never sacked. My eyes told me that he was under constant pressure, not infrequently from some strong, fast dude with a crimson jersey on who was coming free - but he always got rid of the ball, and frequently gave his guys a chance to make a catch. They often didn't take the chance.
UTC's wide receiver whose first name is "Blue," the guy who had 82 catches coming into the game, had an "I'm hurt and scared" look on his face from very early on. "Blue" dropped an open 15-yarder on UTC's second play from scrimmage, apparently because he had to jump slightly to get to it - and, I'm thinking, because he had seen film of Bama's DBs laying wood. (I'm not going to bother looking up "Blue's" last name - I don't think he earned it.)
Last week, in the win against Citadel, UTC threw on 83.6% of their plays - and in fact the real number was something like 90%, because several of UTC's runs came late in the game when they were trying to run out the clock on the victory. Against Alabama, UTC ran on 46.2% of their plays - and it looked like everything past the mid-way point of the first quarter was an effort to run out the clock.
In 2008, UTC Head Coach Ross Huesman was defensive coordinator for the FCS national champion Richmond Spiders. I doubt he's going to win a lot of championships at this level unless he actually starts trying to win games instead of hoping to keep it under 50.
And then there's the rest of the game. I don't really have all that much to say, but a few good things are worth mentioning.
Nice to see the big fella go up and aggressively grab a jump ball before it got to within the DB's range. Yeah, that was an FCS DB and not Patrick Peterson, but still the dude was in good position and made a play on the ball. He just wasn't given a chance.
Bama ran a nicely-designed play to get the TD pass, one that counted on the excellent protection McElroy got against the Mocs' pass rush. Jones lined up on the right, another receiver (Maze, I think, although I couldn't see his number for sure) lined up in the right slot. Maze ran a crossing pattern while Jones ran a down and in. McElroy followed Maze with his eyes long enough to get the safety to move up and right to stay with him, then turned back and found Julio in front of his man in the end zone. Cha-ching.
Ingram's Long(est) Run
Mark does a good job of getting into the second level, but he is starting to really shine when he gets there. He made no less than four back-and-forth cuts in the second level during his second long TD run, and looked very comfortable doing so - not as if he were just randomly bouncing around, which is what you usually see, but more as if he were scoping out the defenders in front of and around him and cutting in ways he knew they weren't ready for. And then when they adjusted, he'd do it again. That score looked easy but it wasn't.
Poor #21 was between Ingram and the goal line the whole time but never really had a prayer to lay a hand on him. Ingram didn't give him a chance.
By the way, I absolutely love that SI cover photo of Ingram. It's a very nice photo, artistically, because it happened to capture Mark's eyes looking relatively in the direction of the camera.
But that's not why I love it. I love it because it captures Ingram's real talent as a running back.
Mark Ingram is not as fast as Trent Richardson, and he is not as strong as Trent Richardson - although he is quite fast, and quite strong. But for several reasons, he is a significantly better running back than Trent Richardson right now . . . and for one reason, he may remain a better running back than Richardson indefinitely.
What I'm talking about is Ingram's change of direction. For a guy his size, it is, quite simply, sensational. And his change of direction and elusiveness are fully captured in that photo if you know what to look for.
Start with his eyes. They're looking downfield - straight at a defender, I have no doubt.
Other than his eyes, almost everything else about him is selling right. The ball is right. His shoulders are right. His head is right. Even his left arm is pulling to the right.
But check out his hips. His hips are left. All the while the entire rest of his body is saying right, right, right, right, right, I'm going right, fool, you'd better be ready for me to go right - his hips are quietly preparing to go left, and hard. And I'll bet you 5-1 that dude he is looking at straight ahead is about to be grabbing air.
Garbage Time - The Offense
Like most of you folks, I'm dead curious to know how the youngsters on the squad are going to do in the future. Unfortunately, garbage time in a game against an FCS opponent is not a good opportunity to learn that. A hard-fought intersquad scrimmage is more revealing than second-half play in a game where both teams are just trying to wind down the clock.
But still, you take a few things away. And, outside of guys like Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch who play regularly anyway, most of what you take away from the offense ain't too good.
Even though UTC's D had to be wearing down, Star Jackson was not given the time by the second-string OL that Greg McElroy got in the first half - and he didn't do all that much with the time he was given. Earl Alexander and Brandon Gibson didn't do anything to shut the door on the talented group of receivers the Tide is redshirting this year, either.
One thing I have to say, though: the forum messages I've seen here and there announcing that Star Jackson will never make a good QB are absurd. Yes, Jackson still looks a bit befuddled by the speed of the game - but the recruiting analysts told us he was talented, but a project, when he was still in high school, and that wasn't so very long ago. There's every chance in the world the light bulb will come on sometime during the next couple of years and he will be a capable signal-caller by the time his eligibility expires at the end of the 2012 season. He's just a freshman.
Garbage Time - The Defense
Much better news. And yes, although UTC appeared to be tanking it a bit in the second half, you can't ignore the fact that they got zero first downs and only 18 yards of total offense in an entire half against our second-string defense.
This is all kinds of good news for 2010. The smart money says - or at least it has been saying - that the Tide's D will take a backward step in 2010 due to the departure of so many starters and key reserves. A performance like Saturday's from the youngsters - coupled with the knowledge that the Tide is in the middle of ongoing "process" of upgrading the talent, assisted by a more-than-capable defensive coaching staff - is reason for optimism that the 2010 D might be in a similar league to this year's version. Bama's a serious national-title contender again if that's true, because, by contrast with the D, there will be very few significant departures from Bama's 2009 offense.
Among the noteworthy performers off the bench were Josh Chapman, who finally looks healthy again, and Robert Lester, who is going to be part of an abundance of riches at the safety position next year.
|< Prev||Next >|