With very few exceptions, the most important thing for a football team is to earn a victory, and Alabama did that in impressive fashion Saturday night at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The third-ranked Crimson Tide defeated No. 20 Wisconsin, 35-17.
Also important for Bama was the apparent end to the “quarterback issue” – the question of who would take over the quarterback position. Maybe. Fifth-year senior Jacob Coker made his first college start Saturday night and was very solid. Still, Bama Coach Nick Saban said it was an on-going process, and that he was also pleased with the work of Cooper Bateman, who worked the last quarter of the game.
Saban said, “But I think the big thing about a first game is, ‘Okay, here's where we are. Here's the things we did well. Here's the things we need to improve on to get up to a standard.’ And that's certainly what we're going to focus on and try to get our team to continue to improve.
“I was not particularly pleased with the way the second guys went in the game and played at the end of the game. We wanted to play a lot of players. They left their good players in, and I didn't think our guys played with the kind of poise and competitive character that is our standard and our expectation. But they'll certainly learn from that, and we'll get better and improve.”
Although every aspect of the team will be under the coaching microscope, there were those areas in which the Tide did well.
The offensive line protected Coker well and opened holes for the running game, particularly for Derrick Henry, who averaged over 11 yards per carry and scored on touchdown rns of 56 yards, 37 yards, and two yards.
The defensive line bottled up what had been expected to be a strong running game and made the Badgers one-dimensional.
Saban was pleased the Tide had no turnovers, but also lamented a lack of takeaways – only one late interception.
Alabama also needs to address penalties, The Tide was flagged for 120 yards worth, several of them pass interference calls.
There were some issues in the kicking game. Adam Griffith missed a couple of long field goals, but Griffith also kicked off well. Bama made a few bad decisions on kickoff returns. Most perplexing was the punting of JK Scott. Scott led the nation in punting last year, but did not have a good night against Wisconsin.
Alabama’s coaches are examining the tapes Sunday and the team will be back in the meeting rooms and on the practice field Monday to start the process of improvement.
The Crimson Tide will be home in Bryant-Denny Stadium hosting Middle Tennessee State Saturday. Kickoff will be at 3 p.m. CDT.