20 October 2009
This makes 21 straight Bama games that I haven’t started watching until an hour or so after kickoff: long enough to let the DVR get ahead so that I can fast forward through the commercials. In the interests of caution, I always check when the broadcast starts to make sure it’s actually recording. I do not answer the phone while watching a DVR’d Bama game, so if any of my loved ones are reading this, please do not have any emergencies during the game.
If you do, dial 911, not my number. Sorry.
As for the game, Bama played its sloppiest contest of the season, if not of Saban’s entire tenure, making mistake after mistake after mistake – yet won handily against a ranked SEC foe. That tells me this was a gross mismatch; yes, even against a tough team we outmatched them by a mile.
But even though that’s probably really ‘nuff, I’m going to run on for paragraph after paragraph about the details. And you, poor obsessed creature that you are, will read all of it. You really oughta see somebody about that.
Why am I starting out with the aspect of the game that really sucked, when most of the rest of the game was wonderful? Because that’s what we’re all thinking about, that’s why. Have you ever been for a walk on a beautiful day when you were well-rested, well-fed, healthy, the temperature was perfect, the scenery was wonderful – and you had a tiny little pebble in your shoe? What were you thinking about?
Same deal here, so let’s talk about what we’re thinking about. In short, the line did a terrible job of protecting McElroy, and McElroy did a terrible job with the little time he got.
Does McElroy Want It Too Much?
Most of us have seen the post-game quotes from McElroy where he has said “I put so much pressure on myself I can’t see straight” and has promised to improve. Generally, I like the idea of an athlete who recognizes his problems and sets out to confront and overcome them. But there were signs in Saturday’s game that McElroy’s unwillingness to concede any failure bit him.
There was a sequence during the middle of the third quarter where, on back-to-back plays, McElroy stumbled and misfired throwing across the middle to Hanks, and then flung a swing pass over the head of an open Roy Upchurch. Greg looked disgusted with himself, kicking the ground in frustration and walking off with slumped shoulders.
On Bama’s next possession, on the next pass play after those two, #12 showed his determination to atone for those miscues when he stood in against a strong rush and threw an accurate bullet pass to Colin Peek over the middle for a first down just before taking a shot. It was probably his best passing play of the game. But on the next called pass, when a South Carolina lineman beat Drew Davis and came free, McElroy held the ball too long and, instead of tucking it, was hit with the ball in the cocked position, fumbling it away. It’s forgivable to fumble after getting blindsided, but a righty QB should never let himself get hit in the cocked-ball position by a rusher coming from his right.
That sequence could be a sign that Greg was trying too hard to make up for his mistakes and was too unwilling to concede the failure of a play. In fact, all four of McElroy’s turnovers came when he tried to hard to make something happen instead of just accepting four sacks:
(1) The one I just described (which was the fourth turnover of the game).
(2) The initial turnover came when, with a pass rusher coming free at him and only two steps away, McElroy tried to hit Roy Upchurch when Upchurch had not cut yet. There was no way to tell when and how hard Upchurch was going to cut, so McElroy should’ve just thrown it at the receiver’s feet for a throw-away, or taken the sack. A pass should not be thrown over the middle based on a guess.
(3) Later, when McElroy turned left on a bootleg to find a South Carolina defensive back in his face, he tried to hurriedly deliver to Darius Hanks. He didn’t have time and should have taken the sack. Instead he floated a ball to the sideline. It was pure suicide, and only a great play by Julio Jones prevented a touchdown.
(4) After a terrible snap, McElroy tried to hand it off to Trent Richardson before getting control of the ball. The result was a backfield collision and Gamecocks’ ball. Vlachos gets most of the blame for the snap, and
Return Game Penalties
I’ve read some folks saying that some of them were phantom calls, but I couldn’t see that from the couch. Really, I don’t have all that much to say about it except that it was way too many and took a lot of the oomph out of a great return performance from Julio Jones in relief of Javy.
So I’m just getting this out of the way so I can get to the positive stuff. Move along.
On a related, positive note, Julio would not have been returning punts if the staff thought he was still injured. (As tightly as the Bama staff guards injury status, we have to read tea leaves like this for all we’re worth.)
Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson
I said last week that it was no longer appropriate to lump Ingram and Richardson together because Ingram had clearly stepped well out in front. Well, I didn’t exactly see anything on Saturday to change my mind.
But I’m still lumping ‘em together. One last time, to make a comparison that I think is instructive (number of plusses = size of advantage, on a 1-4 plusses scale):
SPEED – TR++. Ingram has good speed,
POWER – TR++. Ingram has excellent power,
LATERAL MOVEMENT –
INTANGIBLES – Folks love to talk about intangibles. To me it’s usually an excuse for not really understanding what’s going on, because the game is played on the field, where bodies collide, not in the rarified air of intellectual hypotheses. So far as I can tell, both these guys have “want-to” out the wazoo. I’m not giving anybody an edge here.
So what’s it all about, Alfie? Well, it seems that I gave the exact same number of plusses to each guy – yet Ingram’s stats are much better and even I have said that he is so far ahead of
There are two possible conclusions: (1) despite fans’ infatuation with speed and power, lateral movement and vision are actually much more important to a running back; or (2) I’m full of poopy. My vote is for (1), but your mileage may vary.
Setting the Tone
Steven Garcia is a master at scrounging something up when under great duress, and he eventually got the South Carolina offense to whip up a semi-respectable second-half showing (yardage-wise, that is).
But before that happened, Bama (1) scored a defensive TD on South Carolina’s second play from scrimmage, and (2) held the Gamecocks to 11 yards offense in the games first 24 minutes. Even while Garcia and mates were gutting things out in the third quarter, I don’t think anybody in the stadium ever really believed they had a chance to win once that tone was set.
Even though the persistent Garcia finally managed to make a small portion of chicken salad (i.e., a non-embarrassing 278 total yards for the Gamecocks), I put this defensive effort right up there with the one from last week. From my vantage point, South Carolina was extremely lucky to only give up two turnovers.
A few weeks back, I wrote that the defense was about as good as last year’s, and that disappointed me slightly. Since then, ball security has become an increasingly pressing problem for opponents – Bama has forced 10 turnovers in the last three games – and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think our guys are flying around the ball and hitting like a ton.
This defense might yet reach the legendary status I have been hoping for. Speaking of which. . . .
A lot of people have noticed that McElroy was lucky he didn’t throw 4 or 5 picks. Garcia, though, was lucky he didn’t throw 8 or 10. His balls were floating free through the middle on a consistent basis.
The one that was run back for a TD, by the way, was one of the most inexplicably awful passes I have ever seen. You usually give the “miscommunication” excuse on a ball that’s nowhere near any offensive player, but Garcia, under no pressure, was staring straight at the receiver who was running in another direction when he, instead, drilled an open Mark Barron.
I reviewed the end of the TD return several times and I couldn’t say whether Barron dropped the ball before he crossed the goal line or not. I’m inclined to say he probably didn’t – but it was way closer than it should be, and I guarantee you that Mark is not having an enjoyable first part of the week in practice.
Basketball Moves From Our D
Johnson’s six pass break-ups for the game is a real “wow” stat. Coming into the game, Mark Barron led the team in pass break-ups – with six for the entire season, an average of 1.0 per game.
Is quite an athlete, and that one-handed catch he made on the sideline was nearly as amazing as his one-handed TD grab against
While Jeffery may be quite an athlete, Justin Woodall is an amazing athlete, almost Trent Richardson-level, and one who is starting to look pretty comfortable in Saban’s scheme. I get the feeling his second half of the season is going to contain some fireworks.
Holding? I Said Holding?
I counted at least five blatant holds by South Carolina that weren’t called. Marcell Dareus and Eryk Anders each had it happen to him twice.
On the one they did call, the refs didn’t really have any option. First, the right tackle tried to grab Dareus around the chest from behind and hold him – like he did all night. But when that didn’t work, he grabbed a double handful of jersey and pulled Marcel backwards to his knees. That drew a flag. At least it was one that really counted. Instead of 1st and 10 on the Tide 22, South Carolina wound up with 3rd and 20 at the 50.
Speaking of flags that weren’t thrown at South Carolina, the Gamecocks apparently have a philosophical dispute with the idea of stopping play when the whistle blew. They frequently did not.
9:45 Left in the Third Quarter
With 9:45 left in the third quarter, Alabama had committed four turnovers and had 103 yards of penalties in just 35:15 of game time. In the remaining 24:45, the Tide had zero turnovers and zero yards of penalties.
Limiting the Damage
Last week Ole Miss pretty much dominated the third quarter, but the score for the quarter was 3-3.
This week South Carolina outgained us 159-150 for the second half – and got outscored 7-0.
Frank Beamer has made a career out of outscoring the other team while his team is getting outplayed. It’s even better when it works the way it has been for us. Outplay and outscore them for most of the game, and then outscore ‘em again in the other part.
Don’t Mess With Julio – Or Trent
Julio Jones and Trent Richardson each stiff-armed two guys to the ground during a play at two different points in the game, Trent on a first-half swing pass and Julio on a third-quarter punt return. Not only that, but each guy got extra style points for one of the stiff arms.
After stuffing one South Carolina defensive back with a stout stiff-arm, Trent side-stepped the next – then used the guy’s own momentum to literally send him flying through the air.
And it was a little surprising to see South Carolina’s punter get up and walk off the field after his encounter with Julio Jones. Julio caught the side of the guy’s helmet on a dead sprint and actually sent him flying to land shoulder-first after a semi-cartwheel. Kudos to the little guy who did manage to shove Julio the two inches or so necessary to get him out of bounds.
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