Not quite the homecoming he’d hoped for, but his Ram’s exceeded expectations. (Photo AP)
What We Learned From the Colorado State Game
By Larry Burton
This was supposed to be a game where an old friend and former coach comes into town, gets to see many of his old pupils, get beat and leave town with a big check and get to see how his team stacks up against one of the top teams in the nation. It was not meant to be a contest.
But that doesn’t mean that you can not only progress as a team and as an individual play and learn much.
One thing you had to notice early on was the McCarron doesn’t start fast. Both his recognition skills and touch just aren’t there early on. Much could be said about the offensive line. This season, Alabama as a team overall reminded me of my grandfather’s Ford pickup truck, starts and runs rough for the first few minutes and once warmed up, it runs just fine. McCarron sputters for the the first couple of series in most games in seems.
He had some good throws, going 11 for 15, but the bad throws stuck in your mind and he didn’t convert a third down the entire first half. This is something that’s driving Saban crazy. If McCarron has problems converting against the Colorado State Rams, a team that lost to pitiful Colorado and Tulsa teams, how would he have done against Ole Miss or LSU?
Also early on, you should have come to the conclusion that Jim McElwain is pretty good coach and had his boys prepared for 100,000 screaming fans instead of the 14,000 people they played in front of at home last week. He them ready to play man to man on defense and in prime time national exposure. Such things would usually leave a less well coached team star struck.
Ram quarterback Garrett Grayson didn’t even flustered when receivers dropped passes that should have been caught and though not known as a runner, made a first down with his own legs. Even when the rams were down 14-0 early, they played tough and didn’t seem to give up as they could have after that big play blocked punt. Such things would have taken the air out of most team’s sails.
We also learned that Saban benches starters for things other coaches may simply shrug off. He kept his word and T.J. Yeldon on the bench for the first quarter for a silly unsportsmanlike penalty.
We learned that although Foster missed a field goal attempt, the Alabama special teams are just that, perhaps very special. Big plays on special teams as well as big plays from Vinnie Sunseri were bailing out the Tide again just as they had in other game. Though Vinnie didn’t contribute a touchdown in the first half, you found yourself just waiting for it to happen.
And while the defense didn’t allow the Rams to cross mid-field in the first half, there were still some plays that made the Tide fans uneasy and Saban screaming.
In the second half, McCarron’s first pass was perfectly on target. Clearly the first half had warmed him up. Or so you may have thought until he threw what could only be called a stupid pass that was intercepted. Not only was the receiver not in position to catch the ball, the only person that could have caught it was the defender. That wasn’t a sputter, but a backfire.
Alabama was a 39-40 point favorite in this game and we learned that Alabama can play down to the level of the competition and with 7:40 go in the third quarter, Alabama was only ahead by 14 points and the offense had only scored one touchdown. If Alabama was keeping Ole Miss from seeing anything good on film it was working.
When the third quarter closed, Colorado’s offense had two scoring drives, the same as Alabama’s offense, but they had converted four third down conversions while Alabama still had none. We learned that Alabama’s offense is not killer, thriller offense that most thought it would be at the first of the season. Were it not for a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, the third quarter score would be 10-6 and this is against one of worst teams Alabama has played this year.
Whether it’s true or not, we learned Alabama was still was still in a daze on offense after the game with Texas A&M. Does Alabama have let down games after big wins? With this being their first game since one, it might be fair to ask that question and assume there’s some truth to it. So on Saturday night the Bama fans learned that it’s a good thing that all the big games are spread out so well.
With 11:55 to go in the game after a fumble recovery at the Colorado State 30, McCarron seemed to want to make up for the sputtering and hit DeAndrew White for a touchdown and a one play drive to go ahead and put the game out of reach for such an over-matched team. So did we learn McCarron can always hit the deep balls but sputters on the small passes to get first downs?
It’s a good thing they hit that long one because when they got the ball again the sputtered again and failed to convert yet another third down. In fact, they didn’t convert a third down until three minutes to go.
What we learned that the 31-6 score certainly didn’t tell the whole story. The Alabama offense made it the win seem less than fulfilling. The only consistent thing was good Alabama defense. They say all championship seasons have a let down game or two. If you’re an Alabama fan, you should hope that this is one of them.
In this game we learned it was a good thing this wasn’t Ole Miss Week. That game could very well be a high scoring affair and one that the offense had better be running on all cylinders, not sputtering as it did tonight.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter