Knowing the Enemy 2015
by Bryan Follins
Record: 7-1 Overall, 4-1 SEC
It is no secret how Alabama wins football games. So, how does Alabama lose football games? The last four Tide losses have been to Oklahoma, Ohio State, and twice to Ole Miss, in the last two years.
Sugar Bowl 2014
Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
In this game Alabama had five turnovers. Oklahoma passed for 348 yards. Alabama passed for more yards, but they were behind all night. Oklahoma led 31-17 at the half. The Tide was playing catch up all game. They rushed for 129 yards, but they could not use the running game to control the contest.
Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight was 32 of 44 passing while throwing for 348 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. Knight was a mobile quarterback who stretched the Tide defense for the entire game. Alabama was constantly on its heels.
Oklahoma scored touchdowns, they did not rely on field goals. Alabama does not lose often if a team kicks field goals against them.
Oklahoma, however, rushed for only 81 yards in the contest.
Alabama vs Ole Miss, October 4, 2014
Ole Miss 24, Alabama 17
In this game, like against Oklahoma, the Tide controlled the stat sheet, but not the final score. In this game, like the Oklahoma game, the opposing quarterback, made big plays to stop Alabama. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Wallace made big throws and his receivers made big catches. Wallace threw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The final touchdown throw was after a critical Tide turnover late in the contest. The Rebels used the turnover to score a touchdown, not a field goal. Ole Miss rushed for only 76 yards in the game.
Alabama vs Ohio State, Jan 1, 2015
Ohio State 42, Alabama 35
On this night, Ohio State featured balance. They started a big freshman quarterback, Cardale Jones, who threw for 243 yards and a touchdown. Jones threw one interception. That was all. Ohio State also featured a running attack, as the Buckeyes ran for 281 yards in the game. Ezekiel Elliot ran at, and over the Tide for 230 yards and two touchdowns.
The Buckeyes converted one of the Tide turnovers into a touchdown, but more importantly, they scored touchdowns, seven of them.
September 19, 2015
Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37
Ole Miss threw the ball well. They passed for 341yards in the game. They rushed for only 92 yards in the contest. Rebel quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He had no turnovers.
Once again, the Tide had more total yards but lost the game. They turned the ball over five times, three on interceptions.
Common threads in the four games for the winners:
They had an offensive game plan which featured the pass. In all four wins, Alabama’s opponents threw for at least 240 yards. They stretched Alabama’s defense.
They scored touchdowns, more touchdowns than field goals.
They limited their turnovers, while forcing Alabama into more turnovers.
They had quarterbacks who made plays, especially throwing the football.
Alabama gave up big plays, on the ground and in the air. They were susceptible to playmakers.
It is no secret about the Tide defense. Their front seven is built to stop the run. They rotate eight players along the front four. They are fourth in the nation in total defense. They are tied for sixth in the nation in sacks, averaging 3.38 per game.
They have allowed 197.3 yards per game through the air.
There will not be many players on this team with high individual statistics. They use a lot of good players. Junior defensive back Eddie Jackson is tied for fifth in the country with five interceptions.
Senior linebacker Reggie Ragland calls the plays on defense for Bama. Ragland is sixth in the SEC in tackles with 71, 42 unassisted. He has five tackles for losses (tfls) including two sacks. Junior linebacker Reuben Foster also has five tfls with 39 stops, 24 solos. Senior linebacker Denzell Duvall, a Bastrop, LA native, has three tfls this season.
Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen has six sacks on the season. Senior defensive lineman Jarran Reed has 39 stops, 10 solos, and three tfls. Senior defensive lineman D.J. Pettaway has four tfls on the year.
The Tide plays a lot of good football players. Depth is no problem for them.
The Alabama offense features a very good running back in junior Derrick Henry, who has rushed for 1044 yards this season, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. The 1044 yards makes him ninth in the country in rushing yards. He has scored 14 touchdowns. Henry is at his best when he is running vertically. The key is to get him running horizontally, which reduces his punishing rushing style. Senior Kenyan Drake backs up Henry. Drake has rushed for 265 yards this season, averaging 4.6 yards per rush. He is also a good pass receiver, with 181 yards and 16 receptions on the season. He averages 11.6 yards per catch.
Freshman Calvin Ridley is the leading receiver for the Tide on the season. Ridley has 525 yards in receiving. Once again, not many players on the Alabama team have gaudy overall figures. It is because there are so many weapons. Sophomore ArDarius Stewart has 331 yards in receptions on the season, averaging 10.7 yards per catch. Junior tight end O.J. Howard, averages 11.2 yards per catch with 290 yards in receiving this year. It seems like Howard has been playing at Alabama forever. Senior Richard Mullavey, a transfer from Oregon State averages 9.6 yards per catch. He is a sneaky possession receiver.
The Alabama offensive line has not been dominant like in the past, but they get the job done. Senior center Ryan Kelly and sophomore offensive tackle Cam Robinson are the best of the bunch. Both started last year, and the Tide has others to plug and play. They have no shortage of good players and the offensive line is no exception. They were outplayed by a younger Tennessee defense in their last game, but performed well late in the game. One thing a little different about this Tide offensive line, is that they have not been consistent in pass protection.
Senior Jake Coker is the typical Alabama quarterback, not great, but efficient. He follows the script by handing the ball off, and taking advantage of good receivers at his disposal. In other words, he allows other players to make the plays most of the time.
LSU vs Alabama, November 8th, 2014
Alabama 20, LSU 13 (OT)
On this night the LSU defense shut down Alabama’s two biggest weapons, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper. The Tiger defense held Alabama to 13 points through four quarters. No other team did that to Alabama in the 2014 season, not even the teams that beat them.
The Tigers controlled the ball for 38 minutes in the contest, an unbelievable stat against Alabama. The Purple and Gold lost the game. Some argue it was because of the prevent defense the Tigers were in at the end of the game. A more likely reason, or reasons were:
LSU had 251 yards of total offense for the game. As chronicled in the Tide’s last four losses, their opponents threw for a minimum of 249 yards.
The Purple and Gold scored one touchdown. Alabama is not going to lose with their opponent scoring one touchdown.
LSU passed for only 76 yards, not good enough. There was no balance in the offense.
The quarterback did not make plays, nor did the game plan allow him to make plays. If a team beats Alabama, players have to make plays, especially the quarterback. In the four losses chronicled above, each team had a fearless quarterback who made plays.
The Tigers have the weapons to win the game against the Tide. It will up to them, including their brain trust, to do it.
Bama insignia courtesy of Campus Riot.