Capital One Bowl Preview: An Alabama Retrospective, Part Two

Yup, we didn't see this coming either.

When we last left the Crimson Tide, they were 4-0 after escaping Fayetteville with a victory and ranked #1.  Their stint at the top would not last long.

GAME 5 - ALABAMA 31, FLORIDA 6 in TUSCALOOSA

Another game, another quick start for 'Bama.  With the help of two first-half interceptions thrown by Florida, the Tide scored on its first four drives en route to a 24-0 lead going into halftime. Once again, Alabama demonstrated its balanced offense; the first touchdown was scored thanks to a big Trent Richardson run for 30 yards and an accurate Greg McElroy (4-6, 42 yards).  On the second touchdown drive McElroy didn't pass once as Richardson and Mark Ingram carried the ball to the end zone.  In the second half though, the offense stalled out.  Alabama only mustered two first downs on its next three drives, punting each time.  The defense made up for its sputtering counterpart by, much like many SEC teams this season, holding Florida to a couple field goals and returning a John Brantley pass for a touchdown.  Up 31-6, Eddie Lacy and Ingram ran the last 4:22 off the clock for a decisive victory.

REASONS TO BE ALARMED - The secondary is still making big plays, the offense basically took a half off and still notched a 25-point win, the running game averaged 5.0 yards a carry against a team ranked 27th in rushing defense.

REASONS TO HOPE - The Alabama offense had only 273 yards on the day - IF IT BLEEDS, WE CAN KILL IT.  In case you were wondering, the punting's merely OK (40.2 yard average on 4 punts).

GAME 6 - SOUTH CAROLINA 35, ALABAMA 21 in COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA

Alabama hit a 32 yard field goal on its opening drive, but from there out in the first half it was nearly all South Carolina. The Gamecocks scored touchdowns on their first three drives to go up 21-3 thanks to a Stephen Garcia performance that can best be described as "gnarly, bro" - 17-20 for 201 yards and three touchdowns and a pick. While South Carolina had a decent rushing attack this game, Alabama's running backs were mediocre.  Ingram and Richardson combined to average 3.8 yards a carry.  Greg McElroy put forth a superhuman performance, both in his throwing (27-34 for 315 yards and 2 TDs), and his will to live (was sacked seven times).  South Carolina was up by two scores with seven minutes left when Alabama's next drive went thusly - 22 yard completion to Julio Jones, incompletion, incompletion, sack for -13 yards.  The Tide punted and SC ground down enough time to make any talk of a comeback academic.

REASONS TO BE ALARMED - Greg McElroy is still an effective quarterback even when being drawn and quartered by a defensive line, I don't know what species Julio Jones is but it sure ain't human (8 receptions, 118 yards, 1 TD), the defense did make SC fumble thrice but didn't manage to recover the ball any of those times.

REASONS TO HOPE - THEY CAN BE BEATEN!  Stephen Garcia showed that it's possible for a quarterback to look good against the Tide, the SC defense rendered Richardson and Ingram merely human, the kicking game leaves something to be desired (a missed 31-yard field goal and an extra point).

GAME 7 - ALABAMA 23, MISSISSIPPI 10 in TUSCALOOSA

Alabama's offense still appeared to be a bit hungover after the South Carolina loss.  While Greg McElroy didn't lose any of his accuracy (17-25 for 219 and two scores), his offensive line was still struggling with its protection.  McElroy took four more sacks in this game.  Ingram and Richardson were a bit better in running the football in this game, but 4.1 yards per carry is still a bit less than what Alabama's accustomed.  Luckily for the Tide the defense regained its form previous to South Carolina.  The Rebel offense was held to 247 yards on offense, and Jeremiah Masoli could only complete 18 of his 40 passes for 110 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.  This game was never really close. While Ole Miss was within two scores late in the third quarter, they lacked the explosiveness on offense - due to personnel on the Rebel side and 'Bama's suffocating defensive performance - to pose much of a threat.

REASONS TO BE ALARMED - The Tide secondary is back (six pass breakups and an interception), Greg McElroy takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin', The kicking game is looking more solid (Cade Foster made kicks of 44 and 49 yards in the game - although the other kicker, Jeremy Shelley, made one form 19 and missed from 42).

REASONS TO HOPE - Ingram and Richardson had a less than impressive rushing performance against a team ranked 79th in yards per carry against, the defense created QB hurries (10) but not many sacks (2, but that may be more to Masoli's quickness than the inability of the D to finish).

GAME 8 - ALABAMA 41, TENNESSEE 10 in KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE

Midway through the first half Tauren Poole broke a 59 yard run to put Tennessee ahead 7-0.  From there the Volunteer offense gained 228 yards the rest of the game.  'Bama's three scoring drives in the first half were more than 40 yards but only one resulted in a touchdown; the second half was more to the Crimson Tide's liking:

UA   3rd  A30  14:52  Kickoff  T00  13:20  TOUCHDOWN  4-70  1:32    
UA   3rd  A35  08:41  Missed FG  T00  08:26  TOUCHDOWN  2-65  0:15    
UA   3rd  A20  04:42  Interception  T00  00:57  TOUCHDOWN  9-80  3:45    
UA   4th  A20  11:50  Punt  T00  07:40  TOUCHDOWN  8-80  4:10 

That's the first four offensive drives in the second half for Alabama, and they scored those touchdowns in a variety of ways: Two 1-yard runs from Ingram, a 65-yard scamper from Richardson, and a 5-yard pass to Richardson by backup quarterback AJ McCarron.  That's OK, I'm sure the Volunteers did well themselves...

UT   3rd  T25  13:15  Kickoff  A35  08:41     Missed FG  10-40  4:34    
UT   3rd  T36  08:20  Kickoff  A11  04:42     Interception  9-53  3:38    
UT   3rd  T33  00:50  Kickoff  A45  11:50     Punt  8-22  4:00    
UT   4th  T20  07:40  Kickoff  A32  03:39     Interception  7-48  4:01    
UT   4th  A27  01:19  Downs  A15  00:08     Downs  5-12 

1:11 

Oh.  At least the drives were sustained. 

REASONS TO BE ALARMED - Did you just read this recap?  The secondary is still breaking up passes (8 of 19 Volunteer incompletions can be attributed to 'Bama pass breakups), Ingram and Richardson are back up to speed, I"m about ready to dub Greg McElroy "Mr. 2/3rds" (21/32, 264 yards).

REASONS TO HOPE - It took a half for the Tide to really get going, Shelley is still an inconsistent kicker (he missed a 25-yarder when the ball glanced off the left upright), for whatever reason 'Bama couldn't pressure Tennessee (two hurries and two sacks).

Up next - Baton Rouge is where dreams go to die, and follies in the Iron Bowl. 

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