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STEPHEN’S REPORT: Focusing on the Performance of the Players

Chuck Cook- USA TODAY Sports

Alabama emerged a winner Saturday night against Wisconsin by a score of 35-17 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide outscored Wisconsin 21-10 in the second half, after taking a 14-7 lead into halftime. Alabama played three quarterbacks against the Badgers, and got a huge performance from running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake.

Quarterback Play–Overall [A-] 

Jake Coker [A]– To simply put it, Jake Coker managed the game well. He didn’t force any passes, which resulted in a turnover free game for Alabama.

Coker did an exceptional job of stepping into his throws and guiding receivers down field. He had two underthrown passes, but was near flawless for the most part. An area of improvement for him is to not take sacks when under pressure. Coker needs to throw the ball away.

Jake Coker’s statistics:  15/21 (71.4 percent), 219 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs

Cooper Bateman [B]- Bateman’s footwork was crisp against Wisconsin’s defense. His ability to complete passes on roll outs and bootlegs really helped his confidence.

He had a few moments in which he missed on some reads, but that will come with time. Bateman found true freshman Calvin Ridley and tight end O.J. Howard on a couple of passes.

Cooper Bateman’s statistics: 7/8 (87.5 percent), 51 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs

Wide Receivers–Overall [A] 

Robert Foster [A]- He caught six passes all of last season, but Robert Foster was huge Saturday night. The sophomore brought in four receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown,

He averaged 12.5 yards per catch and his 17-yard touchdown reception capped of an 8-play, 88-yard drive in the second quarter. It gave Alabama a 14-7 lead.

ArDarius Stewart [A]– The speed and acceleration of ArDarius Stewart allowed Coker to take some shots downfield. Coker didn’t connect with him on deep passes; however, Stewart did collect four receptions for 44 yards. He averaged 11.0 yards per catch.

Kenyan Drake [A]– It was the return of the roadrunner for Alabama, as Kenyan Drake accounted for 48 yards on two catches. His 33-yard reception off a screen pass led to a 17-yard touchdown reception from Foster in the second quarter.

Other guys involved: Richard Mullaney, Calvin Ridley, O.J. Howard and Ty Flournoy-Smith all were target against Wisconsin. Ridley and Howard each had three receptions. Mullaney caught two passes for 38 yards, while Flournoy-Smith snagged one grab for 17 yards.

Running Backs–Overall [A+] 

Derrick Henry [A+]- Georgia’s Nick Chubb and LSU’s Leonard Fournette are both in the Heisman conversation. Derrick Henry stamped his name in the hat against the Badgers.

He totaled three touchdowns on runs of 37, 56 and two yards. Henry accounted for 147 rushing yards on 13 carries, logging a 11.3 average. He excelled at pass protection, picking up a blitz in the third quarter to allow Coker time to find O.J. Howard for a 21-yard completion.

Kenyan Drake [A+]- Drake’s 10th carry of the game showed fans why he’s so important. He converted a long third down (26) with a 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Drake put in 77 yards on 10 carries, netting 7.7 yards per carry. His score gave Alabama a 35-17 lead.

Others guys involved: Damien Harris chimed in with 23 yards on nine attempts.

Defense–Overall [B-] 

Reggie Ragland [A]- Reggie Ragland led the team in tackles with 8.5 and recorded a quarterback hurry. He was solid against the run, as Alabama’s defense held Badgers’ running back Corey Clement to 16 yards on eight carries.

Eddie Jackson [A]– The move from cornerback to safety worked for Eddie Jackson. He finished with six solo tackles and a game-clinching interception off Wisconsin’s quarterback Joel Stave.

Jonathan Allen [A]– A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed get all the attention, but Allen is one of the best pass rushers nationally. He tallied three stops with two for loss and two sacks.

Minkah Fitzpatrick [A-]– Keep in mind that Fitzpatrick is a true freshman in his first collegiate game. He was flagged for 15-yard pass interference foul, but played well aside from that.

He finished with four tackles, one tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a sack.

Other impact players: Cyrus Jones (two) and Dalvin Tomlinson (three) combined had five pass breakups. True sophomore linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton totaled five tackles. Marlon Humphrey and Jarran Reed each had three tackles. Reuben Foster put in 3.5 stops.

Alabama’s secondary:  It created the lone turnover in Saturday’s contest, but needs to continue playing the ball. Three of Alabama’s 11 penalties came off pass interference fouls.

Head coach Nick Saban wants the players to face the ball, while battling receivers. Jackson’s interception in the fourth quarter was a product of breaking on the ball.

Joel Stave completed 26 of 39 pass attempts for 228 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Wisconsin’s huge plays in the passing game came from Stave controlling Alabama’s secondary with his eyes and finding holes in the zone.

This must improve for the Crimson Tide going forward.

Offensive Line–Overall [C]

Summary: Fifth-year senior Ryan Kelly was exceptional in run blocking against Wisconsin. Ryan Kelly consistently got to the second-level of the Badgers’ defense and blocked for 238 rushing yards with four touchdowns. He did not allow a sack of Coker.

Sophomore left tackle Cameron Robinson was tested by senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert. Schobert got the best of him on a few occasions and Robinson was penalized twice for 15 yards. On a positive note, Robinson did block for 502 total yards of offense for Alabama.

Alphonse Taylor and Dominick Jackson secured the right side of Alabama’s offensive, allowing zero sacks. All three of Wisconsin’s sacks came through the left side of the Crimson Tide’s front.

Special Teams–Overall [D]

JK Scott [D]- Whether he likes the Jumbotron inside AT&T Stadium or not, sophomore punter JK Scott struggle flipping field position. He averaged 36.8 yards per boot, including a 20-yard shank late in the second quarter. Wisconsin missed a 34-yard field goal before halftime, but Scott’s miscue put it in great position to score.

Adam Griffith [F]– Not even a feature on ESPN could solve Griffith’s kicking woes Saturday night. He missed a 44-yard attempt in the third quarter and a 39-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Griffith had the distance, but hooked both attempts.

He’s missed nine of 21 field goal tries since 2014, making him 12 for 21.

Bright spots on special teams

  • CB Cyrus Jones: 4 punt returns, 25 yards
  • CB Marlon Humphrey:1.5 tackles
  • DB Shawn Burgess-Becker: 1.0 tackle
  • DB Ronnie Harrison: 0.5 tackles

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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