Football perfectionists, Alabama football fans and critics seemed to agree that something was lacking in Alabama’s first performance of the season.
For friends who were watching the game at separate locations, group texts- or at least mine- went like this;
“Our O line needs some work y’all. I mean damn.”
“Worst O line since Shula”
Perhaps the ‘worst O line since Shula’ was a little much, and whether or not that is the sentiment for all ‘Bama fans is debatable. But what isn’t is the fact that in the 35-10 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies, there was a lot to improve on.
Thirty-five points made it onto the scoreboard for the Tide on Saturday. Two of those touchdowns were scored on offense. The rest came from special teams courtesy of a punt and kick return thanks to Christion Jones (the returned punt only 1 minute 39 seconds into the season), and a lovely pick six at the hands of Vinnie Sunseri.
After the game, Saban did admit that experience on defense let players adapt better to game situations that weren’t necessarily covered in practice, something the offense, who has 3 new starters wasn’t able to adapt to as quickly.
The tide finished with 206 total yards of offense, a number below what the team averaged in both rushing (227.5/game) and passing (218 yards/game) last year. Alabama had 96 yards rushing on Saturday, which was the first time since November 5, 2011 that Bama was held to less than 100 yards.
As fans were screaming at televisions everywhere- ‘why is AJ McCarron throwing off his back foot?!’ the quarterback threw one interception, and was sacked four times.
“We didn’t have a solid pocket, our QB didn’t feel comfortable, timing and passing was off….” Nick Saban started, “We didn’t handle their pressure, their movement very well… those things all add up to being not so good.”
Not so good indeed. Alabama fans are spoiled, this we know, especially now, because a 35-10 victory can be seen as a winning disappointment. But Nick Saban says everyone is accountable to the lackluster performance.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in our locker room whose satisfied with the way they played,” Saban said after the game.
I’m going to stop right there and say maybe Christion Jones begs to differ. He single-handedly returned the ball twice for TD’s on special teams and caught a pass in the end zone. Almost 150 all-purpose yards and 21 points in a single game isn’t exactly dis-satisfying. But Saban, of course, has method to his madness, and means to say that it’s not just Alabama’s newcomers and players with lack of experience who let the offense down in the Georgia Dome.
“We need to improve in the offensive line,” Saban said. “But I don’t even think that the guys who had a lot of experience playing, played as well as they needed to play in the offensive line. Don’t think we’re talking about the inexperienced guys not playing well I think we’re talking about the entire group realizing they need to play a little better, play a little bit better together, be a little bit more physical. We have too good of skill players not to give them more opportunities to make plays in the game, so, I think the entire group needs to do a better job.”
Offensive lineman Cyrus Kouadjio echoed that sentiment but with a little bit more of a positive attitude.
“The problem I think we had was you know, its our first game and a lot of guys we didn’t know how it was and the calls were a little iffy,” he said. “It’s great that it’s the first game and it can kind of test us to see where we’re at. You know, it’s perfect, we got a bye week to iron out the kinks then back at it.”
While I wouldn’t have used the word “perfect” to describe Saturday’s performance or lackthereof, Cyrus does however bring me to my next point. Thank goodness we have recognized issues now, and have hopefully lit the fire underneath our offense and entire team to realize the college football season has in fact arrived, and the fact that Johnny Football is looming in the future just like his NCAA and police record- undeniable and potentially punishing.
To start off the post-game press conference Nick Saban said something that made me smile because it’s something that has remained consistent for as long as he’s been in Tuscaloosa.
“We need to create an identity as a team.”
He went on to say that the squad didn’t exactly do that during the game. But he’s trying to instill an important mentality, “You have to be a little more relentless as a competitor,” he said. “You can’t be satisfied with where you are.”
Before Saturday’s season opener, the Tide watched Michael Jordan in the last championship he ever won. As Saban asked the crowd of reporters as he described that moment with his team, “what did he have to prove?” That was Jordan’s 6th championship and yet, “he played like he still had something to prove,” Saban said.
So the question to this Alabama team is, what do you have to prove? What are you playing for? Because you can’t be satisfied where you are.