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In a much needed pick me up after last week’s heartbreak, the Alabama Crimson Tide used a dominating defensive performance to blank the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in a 34-0 rout in preparation for their matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs next Saturday.

While the Tide’s game against the Warhawks wasn’t exactly must-see TV like what we’ll witness next week, the game itself had a great deal of relevance and here are some takeaways leading into a huge week for the Tide:

1. Alabama’s Defense is Dominating

Since the spring, every analyst and fan who follows the Tide closely knew with what they had returning, that this defense had the makings of something special. While there have been flashes all season long, yesterday we saw it all come together with a  complete and utter dominating performance akin to the 2009 and 2011 defenses, both who brought national championships back to the Capstone. From the defensive line, to the linebackers, to the secondary — this unit gave the Warhawks fits all day long and the word suffocating really doesn’t do it justice as they held them to a grand total of 92 total yards of offense. The fact the Warhawks needed to use a Tim Tebow shot put pass from their punter to get their first first-down of the game is all you need to know.

2. Jake Coker Needs More Work

ESPN’s Kayce Smith gave a scintillating report into the inner-dwellings of the Tide during the game as she stated Jake Coker received 100% of the first-team reps all last week in preparation for the Warhawks. This news may have been the best for Tide fans, who still may not be completely sold on Coker, but at the very least know the coaching staff has finally made a decision on a quarterback and is sticking with one guy. However, what was witnessed yesterday was a mixed bag of results depending on who you ask. While the stat sheet leaves much to be desired as Coker finished with 17-31 for 158 yards and three touchdowns ending with a QBR of 23.8 — dropped passes, timing issues, indecision, and sacks taken were still an issue and one ill-advised throw which resulted in an interception did not help matters. However, the silver lining in this is Nick Saban stuck with Coker despite a shaky first-half and allowed him to work through some issues. He responded by completing 7 of 10 passes with two of his three touchdowns (one which was dropped) in the half. The full week of practice with the first-team was a great move and it is imperative Coker uses the second-half as motivation to continue to get better.

3. Adam Griffith’s Confidence is Gaining By the Kick

The look on Adam Griffith‘s face after missing yet another kick against Middle Tennessee was enough to crush every parent’s heart as it was clear he was lost, confused, and frustrated at his performance in the season thus far. Yesterday however, Griffith’s walk had a little more pep to his step and while his demeanor is a bit more stoic, his approach to his two field goals looked more like the player Alabama recruited in 2012 as one of the nation’s top kickers. Griffith split the uprights on both of his attempts as perfect as could be and they weren’t necessarily chip shots. Both were from the right hash which is not the easiest kick for right-footed kickers and did so with ease. A confident Griffith bodes well for an Alabama team still searching for an identity offensively. Alabama fans know all too well the importance of a strong place kicker.

4. Nick Saban is Unafraid to put the Future on Full Display

There have been times in the past Nick Saban has been ridiculed for not playing who fans believed to be superior players due to their classification. So far this season, that has been nothing of the sort as not one, not two, but three true freshmen were seen on the field at the same time during meaningful moments of the game. That’s right, freshmen defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison received ample playing time in the secondary and both shined on a day where gloom was certainly in the atmosphere. Fitzpatrick led the team in tackles with 7, while Harrison earned his first career interception and returned it 12 yards. The other freshman was five-star defensive tackle Daron Payne. The stat sheet doesn’t reflect anything spectacular, however, his presence on the field should be all you need to know with the amount of depth on this defensive line, and he’s a clear staple.

5. Alabama’s Offensive Line Needs a Tune-up

Since the Tide opened up against the Wisconsin Badgers, what seemed to be a strength of the team has regressed to becoming a weakness. For a team that is still needing more leadership on the offensive side of the ball, the Tide has little room for error with the group that could make or break this team. There have been moments this year where Cam Robinson, Ryan Kelly, and others have simply dominated their opponents and allowed Derrick Henry to look like a Heisman trophy candidate. Then, there are moments like yesterday where miscommunications and flat out poor individual performances caused offensive breakdowns and the aforementioned turnover. A positive in this is that with film study, and a kick in the pants (figuratively) by Mario Cristobal can cure this unit in need of a remedy.

Brandon Williams is an Editor and Columnist for Touchdown AlabamaYou can follow him on Twitter, @BWilliamsTDAL, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google

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