It wasn't pretty

Northern Illinois is a very good football team. But Alabama did some things to help make them look better than they really are.

Michael Turner is special. I hope to see him play again. I thought Alabama's defense hit him pretty hard. But he seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. All their backs are very well coached. They are taught how to make defenders look like bad tacklers. That is something that is overlooked in a lot of backfields.

Northern Illinois outplayed Alabama on the line of scrimmage and decisively won the fight for field position. If a team loses those two battles, more times than not, they will lose the game.

Justin Smiley's absence is felt on the field.

The game reminded me a lot of the 1999 LaTech loss. The Tide came back strong after that one. I hope the team has what it takes to bounce back strong again.

To the grades...

Quarterback: C

Brodie had several good passes dropped, but he also threw several balls that were uncatchable. To me it looked like he couldn't pick up on when NIU was going to blitz.

The team is spending way too much time in the huddle, which may or may not be Brodie's fault.

Brodie has dropped the ball at least twice now for no reason.

Unfortunately, he didn't get a lot of help up front from his offensive line, which undoubtedly contributed to Brodie's mistakes.

Running Backs: I (for incomplete)

They never really had a chance. On most plays, Bama's backs had to make moves in the backfield as soon as they got the handoff.

Line penetration meant Bama's running backs didn't really have a fair chance.

It looked like the NIU defensive lineman could have taken a couple of the handoffs.

Wide Receivers: C-

Too many good passes--passes that could have made a difference--were dropped.

Alabama's receivers don't do much after the catch. Most of the grabs they did make were really pretty routine.

Offensive Line: D-

Bama's linemen were consistently knocked off the LOS into their own backfield.

Bama's pulls looked like slow motion.

Northern Illinois didn't run that many D-Line stunts. The just simply bull-rushed.

The NIU linebackers really didn't hide their blitzes and were able to run free all night.

There was a nice hole for Shaud Williams on big run in the fourth quarter, but he was hit by two linebackers as soon as he crossed the line of scrimmage.

Special teams: D-

The only positive is that Bama's coverage isn't too bad. In two games now, special teams misfires have resulted in game changing plays. Alabama has not gotten any better since South Florida.

Even Bama's linebackers didn't have their best game.

The Tide had to use a time out to get players on the field.

On the last NIU punt, their left wide receiver was uncovered. If the punter had seen him, it would likely have been a touchdown.

Having a PAT blocked up the middle should be impossible. On their blocked punt, Bama looked totally lost. The Tide has not blocked very well on returns since Oklahoma.

Defensive Line: D

As a unit, they were consistently knocked off the ball.

Alabama let NIU's offensive line get to its linebackers almost all night.

I don't remember seeing Bama's backers get their hands up on pass plays at all.

Linebackers: C

They're excellent athletes, but they did not knock a receiver out of the backfield on his can at the line of scrimmage all night.

The group continues to hit very well on tackles, but they did a very poor job of shedding and avoiding blocks last Saturday.

Mike Shula and the Tide staff have their work cut out for them this week.

Secondary: D

Bama's defensive backs still hit hard after the catch, but I believe they should be trying to prevent some of those receptions.

The unit did not do as well in run support this week.

I would like to see some receivers knocked off their routes.

Outlook

The Tide team has a huge test this week, even before the ball is teed up. The Alabama players are hurting. Coach Shula will really be tested as far as keeping practice focused and productive. He and the staff will have to rebuild the confidence levels of the players.

EDITOR'S NOTE: David Bittinger is a veteran high school coach, now teaching in North Alabama. Each week during football season he'll watch the games with some of his coaching friends, and afterwards pass along some of their thoughts/comments about what they saw.


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