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Colorado State Grades
Posted by Woody Woodruff on Sunday September 22 2013 @ 06:37PM CDT
[ The Commissioner's Blog ]
The Commissioner had duty this weekend and asked us to try to fill the gaping hole left by his unavailability. This will be a poor substitute, but in the words of the current (and pretty frustrated) head coach, it is what it is.

Alabama won the game against the Colorado State Rams led by the Tide's former offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain. That is about the most that can be said of this effort. Despite the scoreboard reading 31-6 at the end of the forth quarter, Alabama did not dominate its opponent, it did not play to its own standard of excellence, and it certainly did not get the game experience for second and third team athletes that many hoped and expected.

There are certainly some reasons to think that this might have been the outcome before the game kicked off, indeed, some of them should have been apparent as soon as this season's schedule was finalized.

--Alabama still runs the offensive system McElwain helped develop and install. Few people alive not on the current coaching staff probably understand it better.

--Whomever Alabama played the week after Texas A&M was going to get to play a tired (emotionally and physically) team -- or as Si from Duck Dynasty says beaten up "physically and metaphysically".

--Six players who started the game last Saturday did not start this one. Yeldon's disciplinary suspension hurt, as did Belue's turf toe and Williams' absence, but none hurt more than the losing Steen from the offensive line, see below.

--I'm not sure anyone was particularly happy about a schedule that opened with a solid neutral site opponent, followed by an off week, then the toughest road game of the season, followed by opening at home against what should have been a tune up opponent, over a month after classes started.

--Cornerback, which might generously be called a work in progress, rotated around like it was A Day, not almost a quarter of the way through the season. It was a little hard to keep up, but true freshmen saw the field and apparently there was some sort of quarter-by-quarter rotation, mostly without regard to success.

--This game was clearly one of the high points of the season for the Rams, in terms of both prestige and gate receipts. Credit them for coming in with excitement, an excellent plan, and playing through the final whistle.

waited all evening for a payoff that really never seemed to come. It wasn't exactly disappointing, but it had that flavor. There was a breathtaking sunset.

Yesterday was not a beautiful day in Tuscaloosa. The day opened very cloudy, with what the WVUA weatherman described as a soaking rain. Clouds and a muddy Quad persisted into the evening. The stadium was relatively full, except for a very curious block of empty seats in the southwest corner. The crowd was relatively lively, considering the competition, but it was as if it

On to the grades themselves:

Offense: C-. It is hard to award a grade this low when you look at a scoreboard with 31 points on it. But 7 of those points were courtesy of special teams. The offense just looked out of synch. McCarron was harassed and sacked. He made some poor reads and tried to force the ball into coverage. Cooper's toe injury did not help us. After a great week last week, Fulton appeared to run rather tentatively again. This is a big key. Saban-led offenses, going back at least to his LSU days, have always featured two backs. Yeldon is outstanding, but no one has stepped up to be the second "punch" at that position. Converting third downs was as scarce as confident Michigan fans (though to be fair, one third down wasn't considered a conversion because we scored a touchdown). We badly need Steen back from his concussion-like symptoms. Mostly, this group needs to display the consistency it did last week. I'm willing to believe that the Aggie's defense is just not very good -- but it is as good as Colorado State's. Special gold star for Kenyan Drake who scored a rushing touchdown, converted our first third down on a 22-yard catch (in the third freakin' quarter) and blocked a punt. But the totals rate the low grade, 66 net yards rushing, 272 yards passing, and 16 first downs. Did you know Alabama is 56-0 in the Saban era when the Tide rushes for more than 140 yards? Well, apparently all the opposing coaches know it, too. CSU regularly had eight or nine in the box and we continued to pound our heads against that wall. At least it felt good when we stopped.

Defense: B+ The Stop Squad allowed CSU 13 first downs, 64 offensive plays, and 228 yards passing. Run defense was much stouter, allowing only 51 total rushing yards. There was also a sack and several tackles for loss. In a surprise to no one, C.J. Mosely led all tacklers with four solo and five assists. I know, I know. We are spoiled. In the age of parity allowing an opponent only one trip inside the red zone and no touchdowns is an excellent achievement. The down grade comes as a result of the defense's inability to get off the field on third downs, resulting in Alabama losing the time of possession battle, or to adjust to the trips formation/screen pass that CSU ran, by our unofficial count, 3,476 times last night. Don't be surprised if Mississippi opens with it.

Special Teams: A-. Slight downgrade for missing a makeable field goal. It was longish, but distance was not the problem. It looked pretty, but never had a chance. The other field goal was uglier than a three-color bowling shoe, but I'll take ugly conversions over pretty misses every time. Blocked punt for a touchdown automatically merits an A. We were clearly in the head of the opposing punter. Jones scares me to death fielding those bouncing punts, but saved us lots of yards doing so. We kicked off short on purpose again, and it paid off, thankfully. The numbers bear it out, Mandell punted five times for a 45 yard average and had two that the gunners had a chance to down inside the 10. CSU's kickoff returns averaged less than 20 yards.

Coaching: B. A win, leading to a 3-0 season, and getting the team at least ready to play CSU a week after the epic drama of Texas A&M, and doing so without 6 starters, rates at least a good. Suspending Yeldon (after he wrote a public apology note that was all over the internet and presumably did some, um, extra conditioning) sets a tone and was a good gesture. But there is lots of coaching work to do. The rotating CB scheme was to some purpose, we assume, and we hope it is obvious by this time next week. However, not having an answer for the CSU passing game and, frankly, the fact we didn't beat the stuffings out of an opponent we should have dominated earns a lower grade. The coach said after the game that this version of the Crimson Tide is still searching for an identity. We are not sure what that is coachspeak for, maybe leadership, maybe becoming dominant in some phase of the game, maybe just attitude, maybe all of that. Whatever it is, we need to find or develop it and the coaches are charged with helping the players do that. Tempus fugit.

On to the University of Mississippi Admiral Akhbar Rebel Black Bears, who will have had two weeks to rest and prepare for the game. Alabama will have to turn in a better effort next Saturday if they hope to prevail.

The Correspondent from the Tire Store

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