First-year Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeir called three pass plays and one run from inside the six-yard-line in the dwindling minutes, despite the Crimson Tide being known as a team that wins with its rushing attack. Facing fourth-and-goal from the two, A.J. McCarron was instructed to throw and he did so, into tight coverage, and was intercepted (his second of the game) at the goal line.
Head coach Nick Saban has essentially said no comment to any and all questions regarding the play calling, but Wednesday evening, he was asked about Nussmeir in particular.
"I think he's doing fine," Saban said. "We're pleased with the progress that we've made offensively and the consistency that we've played with. Are there things we can do better? No doubt. Are there some situations in games that maybe we could have managed differently and done better? I don't think there's any doubt."
Despite having a new offensive coordinator, Alabama's offense looks very similar to how it did under Jim McElwain, who is the head coach at Colorado State now. Tight end Michael Williams said he's always thought so, too.
"I've been saying ever since this summer that I don't think [the offense] is any different," Williams said. "Other than terminology of different words and a couple different formations, it's all the same.
"I feel like coach Saban has a system and you either buy in or you don't. So I guess everybody buys in and the system has been working pretty well for us in the last couple years, so I don't think too many people will argue with it."
Sink or swim
If it hadn't been for injuries, several other true freshmen probably would have gotten playing time this season, namely wide receiver Chris Black (shoulder) and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (knee).
Both have been practicing after recovering from their respective surgeries, and Saban sees potential in both, but is going to keep their redshirts on for the remainder of the season.
Wednesday, Saban mentioned that Tomlinson will be an asset next year after the Tide loses several starters to graduation or the NFL.
"Just watching him day-to-day, he has really good quickness," Saban said. "If he wasn't hurt, he's probably a guy who can help us because he's one of those quick-twitch guys that—especially when you play a game like last week when you're playing against the spread and you need guys who can run and chase the quarterback—I think he would do a good job in a role like that.
"But we're this far down the road and he's coming off an injury and we made some of those decisions early on. Unless we lose some players, we probably need to sink or swim with what we've got right now."
Junior cornerback John Fulton, who started last Saturday against Texas A&M and recorded five tackles and a career-high four pass break-ups, has turf toe and has not been practicing this week. He's been sporting a black no-contact jersey and Wednesday, a boot.
Saban said he is "very questionable" for this weekend's game against Western Carolina.
So who will take his place?
"Geno Smith is a guy who probably will play some in this game, have a role in this game," Saban said of the true freshman corner. "Geno has made nice progress this year and to be honest with you I wish we could have played him more.
"You always sit back and wish maybe I'd have played him more somewhere along the line so he could have gotten a little more experience. But really in the past couple weeks, sometimes with young guys, kind of all of a sudden, the light goes on and they get it and they start playing with confidence and feel like they know what they're doing and quit making a bunch of mistakes. That happened to Geno in the last couple of weeks."
According to Saban, Alabama's secondary has been "thin" all year--at the start of the year the Tide lost Jarrick Williams (knee) and Travell Dixon (transferred)--so Smith stepping up will be important depth-wise for the rest of the season and next year.
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