On one hand, I'm pleased with the improvement I saw against the Crimson Tide in the 13-10 loss. On the other, we are still killing ourselves with a little numbness between the ears at the most inopportune times.
The offensive line had, by far, their best effort of the year, containing a talented and experienced Alabama defense for enough time to allow the skill players to operate some and not giving up a quarterback sack against a team known for pressuring the opposing QB. That is definite improvement. It was also critical that Alabama had to, at least, respect the Rebs' running attack and could not just load up on stopping the passing game or the run. Mico McSwain showed he is becoming a better zone runner, even though he still does not press the line sometimes and give plays time to develop before making his move. The receivers were solid and Micheal Spurlock was a respectable 19-32 for 210 yards and the lone Reb TD on the day.
But the perplexing part of the offense was the two delay of game calls that absolutely crippled the chances of scoring a TD after moving it to the Bama 2 ½ on second down. As coaches and players said, there is no excuse. There may be explanations, but they are kind of lame, in actuality. Be it miscommunication between the sidelines and the field, be it taking too much time to call a play, be it confusion in the huddle with some younger players, be it a quick start of the play clock, whatever the reason(s) it was not good enough. One, you can almost live with. It happens. Back-to-back, heaven forbid. I don't know if I've ever seen that before and you could not find a worse time for that abnormality to occur.
There were other thoughts about the offense in terms of getting a little conservative in the fourth quarter, but those are strategical decisions that I don't know enough about to comment on, and don't pretend to, but the delay of games were nightmarish and, to me, ultimately cost us the game.
On defense, I really couldn't ask for more. Sure, the bust on Kenneth Darby's long run was a major mistake, but we see that 50 times a week watching ESPN's highlight show of all the college games. Sure, the last-minute drive was not what I was expecting after a whole day of not allowing the Tide to drive down the field, but I credit an experienced senior QB (Brodie Croyle) for making a play when he needed it the most and Tide Coach Mike Shula for the terrific call of a draw play to Darby a play or so later for that more than "blaming" our defense.
Football is about making plays. Alabama made, essentially, one more than we did and did nothing mentally to beat themselves. We can't say that for the Rebs. If ever a game was more "even" physically and was decided "mentally," I haven't seen it. Even the placekicking that all fans are moaning over this morning is more mental than physical because I know every kicker who has been run out there can kick the ball effectively – they do it every day (well, almost every day) in practice. It's the mental toughness or discipline to repeat what they do in practice in a game that is obviously missing.
On one hand, I woke up feeling good about the future. On the other, I felt terrible about yesterday.
On one hand, I can forgive physical deficiencies. On the other, it's hard to comprehend and defend the continued mental errors and mistakes.
On one hand, I am amped up about the coaching job being done to this point. On the other, there seems to be a case of sideline organization that needs to be fixed.
There has been a talent-vs-coaching debate going on among fans for the last several weeks and most have taken one side or the other – not enough talent to win or the coaching has been subpar.
I've avoided that debate because personally I think it's neither. I think the coaching staff simply had things to straighten out and learn and so did the players and for us to have thought it was going to be something that instantly took place was being too anxious and overly optimistic about our real situation.
While I am disappointed about yesterday in a game we definitely should have found a way to win – and Ed Orgeron backed that sentiment to the fullest postgame, and I believe there are still mental modifications to get corrected, there is definitely enough talent and coaching on this team to start winning.
And I believe yesterday clearly showed that.
I will sulk another day or two over yesterday's outcome, but I will smile about the future.
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