1. Offensive Line [F] – It’s the first game of the season and it’s understandable that nervousness and pre-game jitters occur, but when you return two starters to your offensive line (one of them is projected to go high in the NFL Draft) from a championship season last year, you have to be able to at least get some leverage against an opposing defense. Alabama’s offensive line struggled greatly in this game. Though Virginia Tech’s front seven is legit, the Crimson Tide should have been able to create some holes for the backs and generate a running game. Last season against Michigan, TJ Yeldon rushed for over 100 yards. Against Virginia Tech, he only had 74 yards rushing (4.4 yards per carry). This was due to the O-Line not moving the Hokies off the ball. The Crimson Tide usually pounds the ball for over 200 yards per game. However, the Hokies held Alabama to 104 yards rushing. It wasn’t just run blocking, the offensive line struggled with protecting AJ McCarron. He was under pressure, knocked around and sacked three times in the game.
2. Defense [A]- While the offense was going through the motions and having a post-BCS title hangover, the Tide defense tightened up their chinstraps, put on their big man pants and came to the Georgia Dome live and ready to play football. Alabama’s defense stifled Virginia Tech and Logan Thomas had a horrendous game statistically. He was 5-26 (19.2 percent of passes completed) passing for 58 yards and an interception. As far as efficiency goes, the Tide defense negated that from Thomas as his quarterback rating for the game was 30.3. Despite the one huge play for Virginia Tech that being the 77-yard touchdown run from Trey Edmunds, Alabama allowed just 212 yards of total offense to Virginia Tech. Defensive back Vinnie Sunseri even turned in a touchdown for Alabama off a 38-yard interception of Logan Thomas.
3. AJ McCarron [C]- Whether it was the surgery he had on his ingrown toenail or his receivers just not focused in the game, McCarron did not look like himself. Some of his throws were not accurate or on target. When pressure came, he held on to the ball instead of throwing it away to preserve a possession and it cost him three sacks. He was very frustrated with his offensive line and the running backs because they didn’t follow the protection scheme. Give Bud Foster and the Virginia Tech defense a ton of credit. They loaded eight men in the box and dared McCarron to throw the football. As far as statistics go, McCarron’s numbers were modest to say the least. He was 10-23 (43.5 percent of passes completed) passing for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He wasn’t efficient at all in this game and his quarterback rating reflects that at 90.0 for the game.
4. Special Teams [A+] – Pop Quiz, who had Christion Jones on their list as an impact player and MVP of this game before kickoff? Whoever did kudos to you, you deserve a million dollars. This game went from being Alabama vs. Virginia Tech to the Christion Jones show early in the first quarter. He accounted for three touchdowns in the game, including a 74-yard punt return and a 93-yard kick return for a touchdown. Jones had 14 touches for 258 all-purpose yards. Off special teams alone, he amassed 212 yards (Team had 216 yards of total offense). This was the bulk of Alabama’s offense and if Jones hadn’t put on a clinic, the Crimson Tide could have lost this game.
For Virginia Tech, this loss hurts. They played well defensively and give them credit because they were overlooked, underrated and underappreciated. Despite that, they came out and completely overpowered the talented offensive line of Alabama. Though they lost, the fact that the Hokies hung in there with the two-time defending national champions should give them hope going into the rest of their season.
Though a win is a win, Alabama would have wanted a pretty win than an ugly one. The offensive line has a lot of work to do and they can be sure that Nick Saban is going to have them watch this game tape over and over again to see their mistakes and what they can improve upon as they move forward.
Alabama will need to convert more on third down; they were 6-16 (37.5 percent) in that category in the game. Defensively, the Tide played lights out and special teams won the game for them, but they need a well-oiled machined offensive line if they even want to think about another national championship.
For now though, Alabama starts the season 1-0 as they defeat Virginia Tech 35-10 handily covering the 20 point spread and keeping the Boys of Vegas happy and their money safe.