Alabama Endures a Sobering Saturday, But Endures Nonetheless
By: Larry Burton
If fans thought the Ole Miss loss would serve as a wake up call to the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, they were mistaken. At least the defense appears to have woken from their sleep and served up some big plays as did the special teams defensive unit in an all important extra point block. But the offense looked as if they were sleepwalking.
This season was to have been the Alabama offense that was to going to be unstoppable, with more firepower that it seemed possible to use. However, for the second week in a row, the offense just couldn’t get that firepower to actually fire. Sims was 11 for 21, barely over 50% for 161 yards. Yeldon ran for just 45 yards for a paltry 2.8 yards a carry. Henry ran for only 25 yards himself with just a 3.6 yard average. Lastly, Amari Cooper did his Heisman hype no help with two catches for just 22 yards.
The stars on offense didn’t shine very bright on Saturday and Saban looked ready to explode over all the mistakes made on offense and the special teams.
What makes last Saturday’s loss and this Saturday’s dismal performance worse is the finger pointing and blame game that is appearing on internet sites and call in shows. The truth is there’s lots of credit and blame to go around to everyone, in other words, it’s football and such things just go with the territory.
It’s not Kiffin’s fault, he didn’t fail to spring running backs with his blocking ability, he didn’t overthrow, under throw or throw three ball to the wrong team who fortunately for Alabama dropped them. He didn’t fumble either. To lay it all at Blake Sims feet isn’t entirely fair either although teams appear to have realized he’s no deep or middle threat.
Perhaps Sims and Kiffin need to break the mold that Sims has been cast in and change things up.
Sims has become known, for better or worse, as a guy who isn’t good at middle and deep routes., Kiffin’s been giving him plays he feels Sims is comfortable with instead of stretching his abilities. All teams track tendencies and Sims is known for being someone who seems to throw 80% of his passes to one receiver and 80% of his completions with throws that don’t go six yards past the line of scrimmage.
Both men need to change that up and apparently last night they may have begun that journey. With only two completions to Cooper last night, Sims started seeking out other targets and that was one of the bright spots for the offense as tight end O.J. Howard pulled in a big 47 yard catch and run, DeAndrew White pulled in four passes, one of them for 21 yards and another for a touchdown. In all Sims found six different receivers, so that’s a bright spot.
But still, Sims needs to work on the deep ball and middle routes. He needs to be less predictable and right now both Ole Miss and Arkansas quickly figured out that to stop Sims from being overly productive, all you have to do is defend the bubble screen to Cooper. Sims threw to Cooper four times in the first half and only completed one. Arkansas simply shut down the biggest and most productive part of Alabama’s passing game and that left Sims rattled until halftime.
The third quarter didn’t go much better with a series of sacks, missed throws and punts, but in the fourth quarter, Sims started looking around and found the fullback Jalston Fowler, freshman receiver Cam Sims and wideout DeAndrew White and proved that he could do the job if given time to scour out secondary targets and that resulted in the go ahead touchdown.
Though the game continued on and the defense ended up winning the day as both the offenses sputtered through the remainder of the game, Alabama endured. It wasn’t pretty, it didn’t gain them any traction in the polls, but they endured and didn’t lose.
Kiffin and Sims will find new routes to the end zone and whether center Ryan Kelley returns this week or next season, things will get better at that position just from familiarity of playing with the first team. Not enough people know that much of the offense’s lack of sharpness come from his absence. The blocking calls still weren’t sharp, but they will get better. Fumbles, that aren’t an Alabama trademark, will cease. If you’re a stat person, they’ve already had their season’s worth.
Next they face an even more dangerous team, Texas A&M, who defeated these same Razorbacks by a bigger margin than Alabama did. They also have a more challenging offense and record of playing Alabama tough.
Saturday was a game they may not have won with style points, but since they endured this contest and came away with a hard fought win. They have one week to look themselves in the mirror and make the decision to be more than they were this past Saturday and they’ll certainly need to be.
Saban will tell his team that each week presents a different team, with different challenges. He will tell them they will need to find different paths to achieve success through one correct process and I believe they will. Great people learn from their mistakes, great people adapt to tough situations and great people endure. So do great teams.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter