How Alabama’s First Game Looked to the Old Sportswriter
By: Larry Burton
With the aches and pains of age there also comes wisdom and sometimes you see things a little clearer through aged eyes than the wide eyed enthusiasm that comes with youth. So here’s what these almost 61 year old eyes saw.
First of all, though the 51-14 score makes most fans want to turn cartwheels, I saw some of the same problems that Saban spoke of at the half and after the game.
One the bad side there were too many penalties against Alabama. This looked very untypical of a Saban era team at Alabama. That may be a little more “fixable” than other problems and a little faster fix than the others too.
Secondly, there were some blown coverages that were glaringly awful. The good news is that saw a lot more of them that the Louisville quarterback did and perhaps most other folks saw too. This was because the Cardinal quarterback was often running for his life and never saw his all too open receivers. The casual observer saw a great defensive play, while Saban and I saw the potential for what could have been.
Some of the cornerbacks and linebackers still have to get their assignments down and make better reads.
Secondly, something I thought would not be a huge step back ended up proving me wrong. Alabama punted 3 times for a pretty sorry 36.3 yard average. That too needs some work. Skyler DeLong is capable, I’ve seen some boomers come off his foot so I think this could be fixed too.
I don’t think you could call kicker Austin Jones day bad, but one for two isn’t great either. Still he’s a step up from where we were last season.
While the punt and kickoff return team didn’t look bad, the cover teams clearly need a little more work which makes me say something I didn’t think I would say before kickoff. I just assumed that now the team finally got a full time special teams coach, that this kind of bad play wouldn’t be so obvious.
Also on the bad side, at least for Louisville, I once again saw that trash talking didn’t pay off. Remember how Louisville’s player said the Louisville offensive line would dominate Bama’s defensive line? The Cardinals ran for 16 yards all night for an average of less than a yard a carry. Crap like that just doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you a joke. Just keep your darn mouth shut and let your play do the talking.
Lastly on the bad side, Jalen Hurts did little to show he’s a serious contender for continued play. He looked as bad as all the other times he was on a big stage. Missing open guys, making easy throws into difficult catches and so forth. The sad truth is that is Tua went down in a big game, I’d rather see Mack Jones have to win the game than Hurts. Still, Hurts is only one play away from becoming a starter again. We all know injuries can happen at any time. Still I’d like to see him try slot receiver sometimes. Having both of them in the huddle would certainly shake up a coordinators mind.
Now for the good.
Tua wasn’t just a one half wonder. He is everything that every Alabama fan hoped he would be. But what makes it wonderful is that Alabama doesn’t seem to miss Calvin Ridley at all. There is an embarrassment of talent at receiver that really showed up and proved that point.
Damien Harris is in full stud mode as is Josh Jacobs, so Alabama’s main one two punch is just deadly and the big uglies that open holes for them seem to be able to do that. Yes they missed a couple of assignments and Bama’s quarterbacks were hassled, but it was few and far between.
Overall, Alabama’s offense with Tua at the wheel could be unstoppable against any team no matter how good a defense they have.
Secondly, forget the talk that Alabama has too many defensive pieces to replace. Alabama has yet another in the long line of great defenses. Deionte Thompson put on a clinic in how to play safety, Quinnen Williams shows us that the defensive line is very solid in the middle.
Other than a few blown plays in pass defense, this defense was almost equal to how great the offense looked.
Remember how players from Louisville talked smack about they were going to “manhandle” Alabama’s front lines? Well that didn’t happen. And remember how Alabama didn’t have anyone in the secondary that could stay with any of Louisville’s receivers? That didn’t happen quite that way either. There was hardly any Cardinal player that wasn’t put over the knee of a player in Crimson and spanked.
Had Saban not showed Christian Mercy, Alabama could have easily won by 80 and shut out Louisville.
But this was not a case of the SEC’s best playing a top ACC school. Louisville may at best be a 9 win team this season and finish somewhere in the high middle of their division.
But as I said earlier, there are things to fix on this team and while that sounds like something bad, it’s actually very good. If a team that just pulverized and humiliated a good ACC team still has that much work to do, can you imagine how good they actually can be?
I saw a team that is on the verge of becoming perhaps the best team in the Saban era and possibly one of the best of all time.
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