Sunday, November 15, 2009

Week 11 thoughts: push you around

I watched Saturday night's game in Starkville on a 3-inch screen at a birthday party in Opelika (guess who was on the big screen — and no, I don't mind, because that's kind of emblematic of the life of an 'Bama fan living in that part of the world). So everything I'm about to write is based on impressions from that party and the subsequent CSS replay, which wrapped up about 30 minutes ago. Here goes, anyhow.

— It wasn't hard to tell the difference between Alabama & Auburn Saturday, for anyone toggling back & forth or watching the two games simultaneously. The difference: the fourth quarter. Alabama got stronger as Saturday's game went on; Auburn wilted. That's been the story all season.
Now, I'm not here to cast aspersions on Gene Chizik or Auburn's program — it's in its infancy, and we should have a clearer picture as to how good a program he's building a season or two from now.
Nevertheless, it is very clear what kind of program Nick Saban's building at Alabama (OK, has built). This is a mean, physical, nasty football team, one that thrives on physicality, brutality ... and one that will absolutely wear you down and push you over in the fourth quarter ("dominate the guy in front of you and MAKE HIS ASS QUIT!").
Nowhere has this mentality been more evident than on the road in SEC play. Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State — Alabama walked into a hostile environment (OK, so the Kentucky fans didn't care all that much) and simply dispatched the home crowd. They did it coolly, professionally, brutally ... and the other guys simply couldn't match them. It's beautiful to watch if you like well-played football (and kind of boring if you're a casual fan who wants to see an exciting game).
Saturday night was emblematic of those games: State, a well-coached team with a solid game plan, moved the ball early with some success. Alabama adjusted, leading to a dominant second quarter. After halftime, when State experienced more success after some adjustments of its own, Alabama simply weathered the storm, then scored 14 more points to put a stamp on the game.
Consider, for example, the number of tackles Mark Ingram broke on his 70-yard run to ice the game. Answer: 0. Ingram was barely touched on his way to the end zone. The Tide, simply wore State out, then took away its heart. That's what good teams do.

— A big game by Marquis Johnson, as noted by BSR:
Forget about Utah and Florida last season, and think about where he was two years ago. That speaks volumes about how good Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are at coaching defensive back technique.

— I think, if I were Auburn, I'd stay away from any kind of jersey gimmick for next Friday's game in Jordan-Hare. For whatever reason, that seems to aggravate this football team.
(Speaking of which, does anybody actually consider what black-on-maroon will look like before greenlighting a decision like that? I'm no fashion expert, but isn't that a little ... harsh?)
— Underrated big game from Trent Richardson and Marquis Maze, both of whom turned in big efforts that netted first downs on eventual scoring drives. Richardson even made up for his own poor decision in the same play — on a 3rd-and-1, he attempted to bounce the play instead of just burrowing his head and making 2 yards, nearly lost yardage, then mustered up all his strength and stretched for the first down anyway. Alabama scored one play later. Well done, freshman.
— In the notes from BSR & RBR, they noted that the TD passes to Hanks and to Julio Jones came essentially on the same play (the first time the safety ran with Quintorris, the second time he jumped the short route to Hanks — both times we wound up with a receiver wide open).
— The refs who were conspiring in our favor failed us miserably Saturday, though it may have been the right call all along.
— Finally, as Scarbinsky noted today, Alabama still has yet to its best game, which is discouraging for ... well, everybody left on the schedule.

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