Football Is Not Always As Seems

There are a couple of things going on with Alabama football that may be misconstrued by casual observers. When the number one team in the nation has only five sacks, some might think the defense isn't affecting the quarterback. When that same top-ranked Bama is 13th in the Southeastern Conference in offense, one might look to the most visible blocker.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has a better grasp than approximately 100 per cent of observers of Crimson Tide football and he sees things somewhat differently than others might.

Some, including Saban, would say that Alabama hasn't looked like those national championship teams of 2009 and 2011 and 2012. But the 2013 team is undefeated in its first four games and ranked first in the nation. This week is homecoming at The University with Bama hosting Georgia State at 11:21 a.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

At his Wednesday press briefing Saban was asked his assessment of Alabama's defense affecting opposing quarterbacks and was also asked if junior Crimson Tide offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio seemed to be having his struggles this year.

Alabama is eighth in the SEC in passing defense, allowing 74 completions in 135 attempts for 54.8 per cent success with five touchdowns and four interceptions.

Most think, as Saban pointed out, that "affecting the quarterback" means "sacking the quarterback." Although Saban has downplayed the importance of the sack, it is unquestionably an affective deterrent to the completed pass. Alabama has just five sacks for 30 yards in four games, which puts the Tide in a three-way tie with Mississippi State and Ole Miss for 11th in the league, ahead only of Texas A&M.

Quarterback pressures are an important barometer of a defense affecting the quarterback, but Alabama has only nine this year. To be sure, every school's statistics crew does not do a very good job on this somewhat subjective statistic.

Denzel Devall and A'Shawn Robinson has two sacks each for Alabama and Ed Stinson and Ryan Anderson have combined for a sack. C.J. Mosley and Robinson both have been credited with two quarterback pressures, while one each have been credited to Landon Collins, Vinnie Sunseri, Adrian Hubbard, Brandon Ivory, and Xzavier Dickson.

On the plus side, the Tide is second in the league in defense on third downs, allowing just 29.6 per cent success (16 conversions in 54 situations), and that's usually an indication of effecive pass defense. Pass defense, again as Saban has pointed out on numerous occasions, is not just the secondary. A particularly important component is putting pressure on the quarterback.

"I think we've affected the quarterback," Saban said. "I don't think we made a lot of sacks, which is what you are probably asking. Because if you look at the number of times we flushed the quarterback in the pocket or don't really finish on the quarterback. We've probably done that 10 times. We should have, could have, whatever you want to call it had a sack, affected the play, affected the quarterback but didn't really get a sack. Sacks are not necessarily the most important.

"Affecting the quarterback is. We pushed the pocket pretty well. Batted some balls, made it tough on the quarterback in the last game. He scrambled and ran a couple times and threw incompletions. So we affected him, but we didn't really get a lot of sacks.

"We did the same thing at Texas A&M. We had the opportunity to sack him a couple times, and we couldn't get him on the ground. So it's something we need to improve on. What I'm talking about with ‘improve on' is finishing on the quarterback. If we finish on the quarterback then we'll do a better job affecting the quarterback."

On the other side of the ball, Alabama is ninth in the SEC in passing offense, 13th in rushing, and 13th in total offense. Bama's quarterback has been sacked seven times, ranking ninth in the conference.

And so, it was asked if Bama star offensive lineman, left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, is struggling. Among other things, Kouandjio has had several holding penalties this year.

Saban said, "I think Cyrus has played very well overall. I think that a lot of expectations get created with these guys. I hate it that Mel Kiper and all these guys say this is the No. 1 guy at his position. I mean they don't even have an idea. Most of the teams haven't even evaluated them yet when they are underclassmen.

"But what it does it creates it the expectation that this guy is the best left tackle that ever played the game. So every time he gets beat he's not playing very well. But the fact of the matter is he still plays pretty well.

"Has he got beat a few times? Yeah. Is that that unusual for any player? Probably not. I'm sure if you ask him he would tell you things he wants to improve and do better. I think there are things we would like him to improve on and get better, but nobody here is disappointed in how he has performed and you know we'll keep on trying to help him be as consistent performer as we can."

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