Ajax couldn’t wash off the dirty dose of reality that the South Carolina Gamecocks shoved into the Alabama Crimson Tide’s face last Saturday in Williams-Brice stadium. Steve Spurrier’s evil alter ego, “Darth Visor,” arose from the ashes and brought the “house” down on Nick Saban’s (normally) hard-nosed Alabama football team. Yes, the Tide was schemed and finessed in their losses to Florida and Utah back in 2008, but – after 19 straight wins doing it their way – Bama was finally overpowered and out-hustled by the Gamecocks, and beaten at their own game.|
A large portion of the blame for this particular loss goes to the Alabama coaching staff. Their ill-conceived game-plan and lack of adjustments during halftime to some of the things that South Carolina was doing offensively seemed out of character for a Saban-coached team.
Let there be no doubt that South Carolina wide-receiver Alshon Jeffery was the best player on the field. He’s 6’4”, 237 lbs., has deceptive speed, absolutely great hands, and is very difficult to cover man-to-man. In fact, some of Alabama’s young defensive backs found that out as they watched Alshon snag several critical passes on his way to two major touchdowns. Neither Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart nor DB coach Nick Saban ever found a way to stop him – they couldn’t even slow him down.
Actually, the Tide coaching staff knew - going into this contest - that earlier in the season Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet had already proven that Alabama’s rookie cornerbacks could be burned for big yardage, especially when given time.
They also knew that Carolina triggerman Steven Garcia has a tendency to be error-prone when under extreme pressure. Yet, for some strange reason, Alabama coaches decided to limit the stunts and blitzes and play for interceptions. Garcia had all day against the three and four-man rush and the results speak for themselves.
Alabama’s pass defenders also tried covering Mr. Jeffery one-on-one. Any time Garcia found Alshon facing single coverage, he just tossed the ball in the big man’s direction and Jeffery made the Tide pay dearly. Talk about a game changer! Jeffery caught seven passes from Garcia and averaged 18 yards per catch!
Speaking of the number “seven”; Greg McElroy was sacked an astounding seven times during his “struggling” performance. Most were a result of Greg’s holding the ball for far too long, standing idle in the pocket, and completely missing open deep-routes. Quite frankly, G-Mac’s inability to pull the trigger has grown since he threw the two picks against Florida last week.
Before the start of the season many pundits said that the Alabama football team’s chances for a great run would depend on the offense’s ability to carry the load, especially while the youthful defense matures. Saturday in Columbia became a disaster because – in spite of McElroy throwing for 300+ yards - he froze up when it counted.
Those seven plays - where Greg had guys open deep, or could’ve moved the pocket to create throwing lanes – just seemed like they were wasted opportunities. Also, he was reluctant to just throw the ball away to avoid a sack.
There are a couple of things I would’ve done differently in that game. First, I would’ve pulled Greg and inserted A. J. after it became clear that Mac wasn’t getting the ball out of his hands. The intended results would serve to give the very talented back-up a shot and also to allow McElroy time to gather his composure.
I say this because Saban brings in high caliber athletes so that he can put the best players in position to help the team win the game. Truthfully, Greg was hurting the unit’s offensive production. Besides, McCarron has great potential. And, with the way G-Mac was “bombing”, A.J. couldn’t do any worse.
Finally, I guess the score at the end of this game does tell an accurate story. Alabama got caught in the middle of a shoot-out without any bullets. After falling behind so fast the Tide had little or no quick-strike capabilities, mainly due to the lack of a deep threat. The quarterback couldn’t get the ball out of his hands. Actually, with this defensive backfield still experiencing growing pains, there may be another shoot-out in the future.
Maybe next time Saban will treat the quarterback position like he does all the others. Maybe next time the defensive backfield will be ready; and just maybe Greg McElroy will brings some bullets with his gun.