Reminder That Football Is Team Game

It has been said many times, but seems to need repeating on a frequent basis: Football is a team game. Alabama Coach Nick Saban issued the reminder following Saturday's 24-10 victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville Saturday.



Alabama Coach Nick Saban was not satisfied with Alabama's passing game against Vanderbilt Saturday. The Crimson Tide got just 150 yards of passing offense against the Commodores. There were no touchdowns and one interception.

Saban pointed out that the fault was not necessarily that of quarterback John Parker Wilson, who did all the passing Saturday. The Bama coach said the responsibility is at every position.

The quarterback has to make good passes (and good decisions), to be sure. Most would say that Wilson was below par regardless of extenuating circumstances. The junior was an Alabama record-setter as a sophomore (and there have been some pretty good Bama quarterbacks in the past). Sure Vanderbilt is stronger that some opponents, but the Commodres aren't the best the Tide will face.

The week before against a much weaker opponent Wilson completed 17 of 25 passes (with a handful of the incompletions passes that were dropped by usually sure-handed receivers) for 189 yards with no interceptions.

The interception against Vandy was an excellent play by the defender, Rashard Langford, but it seemed to be an ill-advised attempt.

Saban said in addition to the quarterback, the blockers have to give good protection and the receivers have to run good routes and catch the ball. If one player doesn't do his job, Saban said, the play has a good chance to fail.

With Wilson having established himself as a good quarterback, are the rest of thecomponents in place for a good passing game?

In a word: Absolutely.

The receiving corps is as deep and talented as any in recent Bama memory. D.J. Hall heads the group. Last week he had three catches for 67 yards. He is now just 34 yards of becoming the all-time Alabama leader in receiving yards. Former All-America and NFL Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome (1974-77) holds the Tide record with 2,070 yards while Hall stands at 2,037. In 38 career games Hall has 134 catches for 2,037 yards and 11 touchdowns.

(If anyone wants to point out that Newsome's catches came when Alabama was in the run-oriented wishbone offense, that is acceptable. The advantage Newsome had is that he almost always had single coverage and the element of surprise. But he was also excellent.)

Newsome being so effective as a receiver in the wishbone points out another plus for Bama in 2007 passing offense. Opposing defenses must honor the threat of the run from freshman tailback Terry Grant.

Last year as a junior Hall caught 62 passes for a school single-season record of 1,062 yards and five touchdeowns. David Palmer held the previous single season record with 1,000 receiving yards in 1993.

Hall has caught at least one pass in 20 consecutive games dating back to 2005. The streak began at Ole Miss on October 15, 2005, when he hauled in a 10-yard reception in the second quarter. He has had nine 100-yard games during the streak. Hall has also produced three double-digit (10 or more) reception games during the steak.

Last week Keith Brown, a starter for the past two seasons, was back in the lineup, although he was down the depth chart and did not have a catch, he adds quality depth to an already strong group.

Sophomore Mike McCoy was the talk of fall camp and emerged as the starter at the wide receiver spot opposite Hall. Veterans Matt Caddell and Nikita Stover appear to be improved as well.

Earl Alexander was a surprise in Alabama's opener as he caught the first pass of the 2007 season and had four catches for 40 yards in the opener.

The tight ends -- particularly Nick Walker -- have emerged as a pass targets, not just glorified tackles, in Alabama's offense. Walker had a team best five receptions in the opener and added two more -- plus a two-point conversion catch -- against Vandy.

The offensive line is critical to success in the passing game, and this year's line has been heaped with praise by Saban. There are at least two legitimate all-star candidates (center Antoine Caldwell and left tackle Andre Smith) on that front, and with the exception of right tackle Mike Johnson it is a veteran offensive front.

Linemen aren't the only men who offer protection on pass plays. Backs must also be able to pick up the blitz, and some of Alabama's best blocks this year have come with the fullback or tailback picking up an opposing linebacker.

Alabama seems to have a diverse offensive plan, and it's likely not all of it has been divulged at this point.

The bottom line is that Saban has reason to be disappointed in how Alabama's passing game performed against Vanderbilt. And that means he has reason to expect much better in upcoming games.

The next game for the Tide is Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama will host Arkansas at 5:45 p.m.CDT with television coverage by ESPN.

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