Lane Kiffin Gets Credit For Tide Offense

Among the big questions in the Southeastern Conference in the off-season following 2013 was “What in the world is Nick Saban thinking about bringing Lane Kiffin into his program?” and even the impolite suggestion that Kiffin had some pictures.

Four games into the 2014 season, no one in the Alabama camp is questioning the addition of Kiffin as offensive coordindator and quarterbacks coach of the Crimson Tide.

If the addition of Kiffin was the primary Crimson Tide question, the primary Bama concern was quarterback. A.J. McCarron, who had quarterbacked Alabama to two national championships and a 36-4 record over the previous three years was gone.

Four games into the season, admittedly against fairly weak competition, the offense seems to be ticking along just fine, thank you.

Alabama hit its average in a 42-21 win over Florida Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide is averaging 42 points per game.

Nick Saban likes balance in his offense. A third of the way through the season, the Crimson Tide has 52 rushing first downs and 58 passing first downs. Bama has rushed for 1,007 yards and passed for 1,343 yards.

That’s total offense of 2,350 yards, or 587.5 yards per game. Alabama has gone over 500 yards of offense in all four games this year.

That is the most yards in a four-game period in Crimson Tide football history. Bama has been playing football for 120 years and had some pretty good offensive teams along the way, such as in 1973 when Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s wishbone had 2,243 yards in four games.

That helps answer the quarterback question, and there was a question as to whether Blake Sims or Florida State transfer Jake Coker would be the man this year.

Sims, the fifth-year senior who came to Bama as a tailback, had never been called on for passing skills in his previous three seasons. To date he has completed 71 of 97 passes for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s completed 73.2 per cent of his passes and suffered only two interceptions. He is averaging 272.8 passing yards per game and has a quarterback rating of 190.77. Just for good measure, he has run 22 times for 114 yards, a respectable 5.2 yards per carry, with two touchdowns.

Of course, that’s the big picture against a decent West Virginia team and two weaklings, Florida Atlantic and Southern Mississippi, prior to the SEC opener against Florida.

The snapshot against the Gators doesn’t change the perception. Florida had been advertised as a team with a nasty defense, and it was the Gators’ defense that led to all the Florida points. One fumble recovery resulted in a 49-yard return for a touchdown, another fumble recovery set up a short (31-yard) touchdown drive, and another interception set up an even shorter ((16-yard) TD drive.

Otherwise, though, Alabama’s doubled up score (42-21) on the Gators was about the closest statistic.

Bama had 28 first downs to Florida’s 11.

Alabama had 449 yards passing, the Gators 93.

Total offense: Alabama 645, Florida 200.

The 645 yards given up by Florida was the most yards allowed in the history of the program.

And Sims had another good game, 23-33 passing for 445 yards and four touchdowns. He had touchdown passes of 87 yards (on the first offensive play of the game to Kenyan Drake) and 79 yards (one of three TD receptions by Amari Cooper).

Sims set a new career high for passing yards with the 445. In fact, his 272 yards in the first quarter surpassed his previous career high of 250 yards for the game vs. West Virginia. Sims finished the first half with 335 yards, which is second most in a half behind Greg McElroy’s 339 yards on Nov. 26, 2010, against Auburn. His 445 total yards also ranks him second for most yards in a single game behind Scott Hunter’s 484-yard performance against Auburn on Nov. 29, 1969.

Does it help to have good players around a quarterback? You betcha! And Sims has an excellent supporting cast, none more dominant at his position than junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Against Florida, Cooper improved his school record streak of 100-yard receiving games to six. On Saturday he had10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. His 201 yards and three touchdowns were both career highs. He became the fourth player in school history to catch three touchdowns in a game. Cooper’s 43 receptions in the first four games are only two shy of his total for the entire 2013 season.

Cooper is also the Bama record-holder in career touchdown receptions with 20. The previous high was 18 by Dennis Homan from 1965-67.

The win over Florida featured a 400-yard passer, a 200-yard receiver and a 100-yard rusher. That is the only time in Alabama football history in which that trifecta has occurred. Sims passed for 445 yards, Cooper had 201 receiving yards, and Henry rushed for 111 yards.

Despite the dominance in final statistics, midway through the third quarter the game was tied at 21-21 and Bama was facing a third-and-23 at the Florida 32.

Presumably, Kiffin knew to expect a Florida blitz. The screen pass to Derrick Henry was the perfect call and resulted in a 29-yard gain, leading to a first-and-goal at the three, a Henry touchdown on the next play, and Bama in the lead for good.

Alabama converted 12 of 16 third down conversions against Florida.

Lane Kiffin doesn’t have a great resume as a head coach, running out on Tennessee and being fired mid-season by USC, but he has a chance to reinvent himself through his best skill, which is offense.

The bottom line is that no one is questioning the value of the addition of Lane Kiffin to the Alabama coaching staff. Which still doesn’t answer the question about those pictures.

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