The Alabama Crimson Tide enter the offseason off of a deflating, mistake filled 45-31 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners. Why the loss? Losing the turnover battle by three, and some truly spectacular plays by Oklahoma gave the Sooners everything they needed to win the ball game. There is a huge positive for Tide fans, though, and that is embodied in Derrick Henry. The young man from Yulee, Florida had his coming out party by racking up a pair of touchdowns, and over 150 all-purpose yards.
The turnovers do not require very much explanation. Giving up an interception returned to inside the twenty yard line, and a strip, scoop, and score provided the two touchdowns that Oklahoma needed to win the game. The long interception return was an egregious mistake. AJ McCarron stared down his receiver from the snap, and made reading the play, and jumping the route, a very easy task.
The strip fumble deserves a bit more examination, and it actually typified the brutal game that Cyrus Kouandjio had against the Sooners. Oklahoma’s defensive ends were undersized, and could only speed rush. When an end speed rushes, he simply wants to run around the tackle. A common tactic for a tackle to use to counteract a speed rush is to mirror the end’s movements, and then engage with his hands to push the end around the pocket and away from the quarterback. On the strip play, Kouandjio was able to adequately mirror, but his hands were poorly placed. That failure of technique directly resulted in the game-clinching score.
There will be a lot of attacks on the Alabama defense, and rightfully so, but the play from Oklahoma, particularly quarterback Trevor Knight and his wide receivers, was exceptional. On the long passes which played like a broken record for Alabama fans throughout the game, they were perfectly placed. Even if Alabama’s corners had been in perfect position for all of those throws, they had absolutely no play on the ball.
The one very bright spot for Alabama was the play of freshman phenom Derrick Henry. Henry broke through arm tackles and dragged defenders all over the field. If he found even a little crease of daylight, he took off and was able to outrun the Oklahoma defense for long scores. Fans were asking where Kenyan Drake was throughout the game, and the answer is that Kenyan Drake has been passed by Henry on the depth chart. It is entirely too early to speculate as to whether Henry will pass TJ Yeldon during spring ball, but the fact that it is even a question underscores how good Henry was for the Tide in the game.
The end of the AJ McCarron era ended with heartbreak, and sadness. Alabama will have the entire offseason to chew on the losses to Oklahoma and Auburn. The last time that Alabama had to deal with circumstances like this, the team rallied for two national titles. How this team responds will be a major storyline in the next few months.