Saban’s Friends Should Go Easy On Him

Analyze this, we’ve all heard. After Alabama 59, Texas A&M Goose Egg, what’s to analyze? How did the Crimson Tide go from a team that had Bama Coach Nick Saban getting his chops busted by “people I talk to” over a one-point win against Arkansas to a total dismantling of the Aggies? We can look at the things that needed to be done and judge how they were done.

There is no such thing as a perfect football game. When the Alabama coaching staff started breaking down the plays of the Crimson Tide’s Saturday romp over Texas A&M in Bryant-Denny Stadium, they no doubt found some minus plays for some players.

It was, though, about as close to perfect as could be hoped for.

When Bama’s first offense departed the game after the first second half possession with the score 52-0, Alabama had an advantage of 556 yards to 50 for A&M. At the end, the Tide had almost perfect balance – 298 yards rushing, 304 yards passing for 602 total, and A&M with only 172.

Prior to the game, we thought about certain points that might be critical to success against the Aggies.

The first was how freshman Bama offensive tackle Cam Robinson would fare against freshman A&M rush end Myles Garrett. To be fair, Garrett did not always line up against Robinson. Nevertheless. Garrett was in on three tackles for the game, none of them sacks, and he came in needing just one sack to break the SEC freshman record held by Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina.

There was a question as to whether Tide quarterback Blake Sims would be able to make A&M pay if the Aggies double covered Bama star wide receiver Amari Cooper. Yes and no. For one thing (and for whatever reason), Texas A&M mostly tried to cover Cooper with just a cornerback. Big Mistake. Sims found Cooper eight times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. But Sims completed 16 of 27 passes, so that means he went to other receivers eight times, too.

Alabama has historically had trouble against the passing game of fast-paced offenses, as Texas A&M’s is perceived. The obvious – the “Texas A&M 0” part of the scoreboard – is that Bama’s defense did just fine. There were a number of factors in the success of the defense, including the Alabama offense running 80 plays to the Aggies’ 55 and the Tide having an early lead that built and built. But Most would have taken Kenny Hill being held to 17 of 26 passing for 138 yards and Hill being on the receiving end of five sacks and an interception.

Alabama went into Saturday leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing, but the Tide runners had been fairly quiet in recent weeks. Top runner, T.J. Yeldon, didn’t rank among the top ten in the SEC and hadn’t scored a rushing touchdown since the opening game. Yeldon just did fine against A&M with 13 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns as Bama rushed for 298. Yeldon did not have a run in the second half. Derrick Henry, who played one series in the second half, had 10 carries for 70 yards and a touchown

Christion Jones had been having his problems with punt returns and it was noticed that the Alabama student section gave him a standing ovation after A&M’s first punt, which Jones made a fair catch on. He returned only three of the nine punts by the Aggies, but one of them was a 47-yard runback that set up a touchdown.

Penalties are often caused by a lack of concentration, and Bama had been having far too many of those in recent weeks. Tiders had their thinking caps on Saturday. Zero penalties. Although we hadn’t mentioned avoiding turnovers – how obvious can one be? – the Tide had zero in that column, too. Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin suggested a few things to watch. He pointed out that the Aggies had wide receiver Malcome Kennedy back from injury, and that Kennedy had playd a big part in previous games against the Tide. Kennedy had four catches for four yards, and two of the catches and all of the yards came on the first two A&M offensive plays.

Texas A&M also thought to be successful the Aggies would have to stop the Alabama running game between the tackles. Bama’s offensive line dominated the A&M defensive front and the Tide did whatever it wished.

Maybe we should have suggested as a key to watch, “Players having fun.” Saban had mentioned that the previous week. And, boy, did the players have fun, including an impromptu sideline dance midway through the game.

And so for a week at least, those courageous friends of Nick Saban who dressed him down after the Arkansas game can move on to some other fictional setting, perhaps to emerge after the Crimson Tide’s next game, at Tennessee Saturday. Or, if Alabama continues to play as it did Saturday, we may not hear of them again.

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