Tide rushing offense dominating versus Auburn

The Crimson Tide rushed the ball 44 times Saturday, amassing 328 yards on the ground. That works out to 7.5 yards per carry, which is beyond the "good" range and into "borderline obscene."

Most coaches would mortgage a kidney or two to get that kind of average. But strangely, Alabama's offensive linemen didn't control the line of scrimmage during the game. The line of scrimmage marks "the position of the ball at the start of each down," according to one dictionary, and the Tide line usually ended up several yards past that line. You don't convert a third and 24 with a draw play by controlling the line; you do it by obliterating it.

Despite the fact that both played sparingly in previous years, juniors Alonzo Ephraim (#58) and Marico Portis (#71) are the ‘veterans' of Bama's offensive line.

Junior center Alonzo Ephraim is the lynchpin and one of the elder statesman of a line that features three freshmen. While some were surprised by the young offensive line's performance Saturday, Ephraim isn't one of them.

"As I said before, I don't really see our guys as being that inexperienced, because the reps in practice prepare you."

Practice is all well and good, but it doesn't always translate to game success. This was the Auburn game, after all, so a little nervousness was to be expected among the younger players.

How did Ephraim keep his teammates calm? "I just talked to them for a little on the sidelines and told them to stay calm, keep your head in the game and everything would be all right. You'll make mistakes, but it's over. Put that behind you, it's time to go forward."

One of the game's keys was the Tide's second score, late in the second quarter. With it, the Tide regained the lead and took a huge momentum boost into halftime.

Ephraim credited senior quarterback Andrew Zow and the coaching staff with inspiring the line for that drive. "That had a lot to do with Zow. Zow told us to keep our cool, and we could come back out and do it. Our coaches told us on the sidelines, 'We've got enough time to score, so just take your time with it.'"

Shown giving instructions on the sideline during the Arkansas game, Assistant Coach Jim Bob Helduser deserves much of the credit for molding five first-year starters into an effective unit.

When did Ephraim feel that the line might put on an exceptional performance? "When everybody kept saying that we couldn't do it. A lot of people doubted us. They didn't look at us as a team that struggled before but was still a good team. That made us want to come out and do it, and do it even harder than what we have ever before."

While some have made great mention of the rivalry with the school to the east not meaning as much to today's generation, Ephraim isn't buying into that line of thinking. "It means a lot to us, because this is a tough road win, in a hostile environment. I mean, this is the rivalry. Alabama-Auburn. For us to come out and perform the way we did, that's a great plus for us."

Alabama fans who stayed until the end of game (which was all of them) got to see the team retake the field. Reveling in a glorious victory, players waved, shook hands with fans, and pulled out pieces of Jordan-Hare hedgerow to keep as souvenirs.

While the players obviously enjoyed themselves, Ephraim says that the team meant the encore as a tribute to its fans. "We came out for the support that we had. There were guys here because they believed in us. There were guys here in Auburn cheering for us, excited for us, screaming when we're doing good, keeping us up when we're doing bad, because they believed.

"And that meant a lot to us."


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