STEPHEN’S REPORT: Focusing on the Performance of the Players
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Alabama improves to 2-0 on the season, after Saturday’s 37-10 victory over Middle Tennessee State at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Its offense started slow, but Alabama picked up the pace in the second and third quarter, scoring a combined 28 points. Junior running back Derrick Henry was consistent from week one to week two, totaling 96 rushing yards and three scores.
Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine now distributes the grades for this week.
Summary: Alabama did affect Middle Tennessee State’s quarterback Brent Stockstill, despite not registering a sack. It collected five quarterback hurries and six pass breakups. The Blue Raiders were held to 86 rushing yards on 31 carries, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt.
The Crimson Tide adjusted to Middle Tennessee State’s scheme much better in the second half. Senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland led the group with nine tackles, one for loss and a forced fumble. Outside linebacker Denzel Devall finished with seven total tackles, while Reuben Foster had six stops and two pass breakups.
A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed had five tackles each. Senior safety Geno Matias-Smith had five tackles and a fumble recovery. Marlon Humphrey put in four total tackles.
Senior cornerback Cyrus Jones chimed in with three tackles and an interception. Alabama forced four total turnovers against the Blue Raiders (three fumbles, one interception).
Offensive Line–Overall [C]
Summary: Alabama’s offensive line established the run game early against Wisconsin, but struggled imposing its will on Middle Tennessee State. Senior right tackle Dominick Jackson and sophomore left tackle Cameron Robinson both had rough outings.
The Crimson Tide’s front line blocked for 220 rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt, yet it netted 6.4 yards against Wisconsin. Middle Tennessee State didn’t record a sack; however, it did affect both Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman.
The Blue Raiders had six quarterback hurries.
Momentum started to build in the second quarter, as Alabama’s road graders did get running back Derrick Henry into the end zone twice. He scored once more in the third quarter.
Wide Receivers–Overall [A]
Kenyan Drake [A]- Whether it was a run play or a shovel pass, Kenyan Drake made it work. The senior led all receivers with 91 yards and a touchdown on five catches. His 14-yard touchdown reception from Cooper Bateman came in the third quarter with 10:54 remaining.
O.J. Howard [A]– The biggest improvement in college football is from week one to week two. Howard did just that against Middle Tennessee State. He caught four passes for 68 yards, including a 42-yard reception in the second quarter on Alabama’s fifth possession of the game. Howard’s catch eventually led to Henry’s two-yard touchdown run on a 10-play, 75-yard drive.
Robert Foster [A]– Sophomore Robert Foster has emerged as Amari Cooper’s successor for this season. He caught four passes for 49 yards and a score. His 14-yard touchdown reception gave Alabama a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He’s developed a rapport with Jacob Coker.
Calvin Ridley [A]– The true freshman started to chirp some in the second half. Ridley grabbed four passes for 37 yards, including a 16-yard reception in the third quarter to set up Henry’s 28-yard rushing touchdown.
Running Backs–Overall [A]
Derrick Henry [A]- He has six rushing touchdowns in two games. Just let that soak in.
Henry got stronger as the game went on, and totaled 96 rushing yards with three touchdowns on 18 carries. His scores came on runs of two, one and 28 yards, netting 5.3 yards per carry.
Damien Harris [A]– Harris has some nice runs against the Blue Raiders, but the best one was a 41-yard burst up the middle in the fourth quarter. He had the highest yards per carry average (6.9), and accounted for 55 rushing yards on eight carries.
Harris turned in his best George Teague impression on defense, when he ran down Blue Raiders’ defensive back Jeremy Cutrer at the 20-yard line. Cutrer intercepted a pass off Bateman and returned it 77 yards.
Quarterback Play–Overall [D]
Jacob Coker [D]- Coker regressed from last week to this week.
He wasn’t in rhythm and made a lot of ill-advised throws. Coker held the ball too long when he was pressured, and threw his first interception of the season in the second quarter. His overall statistics were 15 of 26 passing for 214 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Cooper Bateman [D]– Bateman’s decision making was questionable on multiple passes, but especially in the fourth quarter. He threw an interception, while Alabama was on Middle Tennessee State’s 8-yard line. Jeremy Cutrer broke on the ball and returned it 77 yards.
Alabama led 37-3, prior to Bateman’s mishap. The Blue Raiders cashed in on the opportunity with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Austin Grammer to Rod Ducksworth. Bateman’s overall numbers were 11 of 17 passing for 98 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Sophomore punter JK Scott improved this week, logging five punts for 201 yards.
He averaged 40.2 yards per boot, and pinned Middle Tennessee State inside the 20-yard line once. Senior running back Kenyan Drake put in 202 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
True freshman defensive back Ronnie Harrison totaled two stops and a blocked punt for safety in the second quarter. Alabama will enter conference play next week against Mississippi.
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.