Sunday, November 18, 2018

Tire Store Report -- The Citadel

We agree with those grades, Commissioner.  You just cannot really tell much about your team when it schedules this level of competition.  We aren't going to open the "why" can of worms on that today.  Suffice it to say that we'd prefer a system where everyone played at least top division competition in every game every year.   Alabama played a lackluster first half and could easily have scored sixty in this one if it had cared to try.  Which it just sort of didn't.

A couple of points bear mentioning.  Alabama continues to not get penalty calls because, we suppose, the officials just feel like they don't need to call them.  Saturday, though, they ignored a very cheap shot on Quinnen Williams as well as a couple of horse collars.  The disputed touchdown in the Vanderbilt Mississippi game was troubling.  So, SEC officiating is about as efficient and trustworthy as a set of Florida election officials.  In other news, water is wet, the sun sets in the west, and Gus Malzahn bears a striking resemblance to cast members on The Muppet Show.

Despite having attended operas, tractor pulls, ballet recitals, boxing matches, rodeos, red mass, tent revivals, and three-day seminars on the tire business (you'd think they'd run out of ways to say "round tires roll better") we don't have the words to describe the state of the kicking game.  Every part of it has failed this year at some point.  The one thing we just cannot get past are the missed extra points.  Those are practically free points for the taking and we are leaving them on the field.  Shoot, Saturday we very nearly gave up two points the other way.  We hope that doesn't jump up and bite us between now and the end of the season because hope is about all we have left.

On another completely random topic, we hate how the centerpiece of Bryant Denny Stadium looks and plays.  We don't understand how a University with the facilities that this one has for its athletic teams (from football to wheelchair basketball), can tolerate a playing field like this one.  Gracious.  We have recruiting rooms and a press conference room and a weight room and an academic center and an indoor practice field and a nutrition center and ice baths and waterfalls and locker rooms and sky boxes and zone seating and statues and marble floors, and I don't know what all, but we can't seem to grow grass in a field that drains.  I have read about what the problems are.  Apparently an aquifer runs under the stadium.  It rained a good bit last week. And I've heard the analogy that because of the stands, getting grass to grow on the field is like trying to grow grass at the bottom of a well.  And I know that the grass has to somehow survive the scorching hot temperatures of the end of August to the relatively frigid temperatures of early December, but my goodness. 

There were more divots in between the hashes than in the fairway after the local country club tournament.  The cameras found numerous examples when the announcers started talking about it.  The point is not just asthetics.  Saturday's slippery conditions cost Alabama yardage and more than once.  Waddle slipped once on a pass route and once on a kick return, both resulting in his going down without being touched by a defender.  Ruggs slipped and fell turning a pass upfield.  We'll spare you our full list of examples.

One other thing, on Waddle's great catch going out of the end zone, not only did both feet slide out from under him in what looked like plain old mud just past the sideline of the end zone, he nearly hit that stupid fence around the edge of the field.  It's padded now, but that space also fills up with photographers and reporters.  So it's not just looking bad, it's not just playing bad, there are parts of the playing area that are flat out dangerous, to players, press, and probably some priviledged fans. 
The University is about to spend money on the stadium for gigantic video boards, a "plaza" for people to, we don't know, walk around and chat while the game is going on,  glass exterior partitions on the lowest level (down here in the Tire Store office we call those our "windows") the need for which we really cannot understand, etc. all to the tune of eleventy million dollars.  Maybe, just maybe, it would be a good idea to drop some of that money on the part of Bryant Denny Stadium that all the other stuff is about -- the playing field.

Speaking of playing at BDS, the 2018 edition of the Crimson Tide will take that field for the final time on Saturday afternoon ranked #1 in the country, SEC Western Division Champions, undefeated, and facing the team from the East Alabama Male College.  We owe that team some licks after last year.  Let's pay up.

Roll Tide, everyone.  And have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


Citadel Grades

Why do the Alabama’s of the college football world play programs like the Citadel? Why does Auburn play Liberty University?

There really is no good reason for it. What is there to gain? So you beat a non-FBS opponent 50-17, what do you get out of it? Experience defending against the triple option? Nobody in the SEC runs the triple option. Getting your younger players some game experience? This was week 12, if you don’t know who can play, the weekend before the Iron Bowl is too late to start finding out. Covering the spread and not getting anyone seriously injured are about the only goals one can reasonably set for such a lopsided contest.

There surely are some people who were delighted Alabama played the military college of South Carolina. No doubt a pickup bed full of Villagers rolled Toomer’s Corner when they learned the score at the half was tied at 10.

During intermission, Coach Saban reminded the team that none of the players on the Bulldog squad could make the Tide roster. From all press accounts, Saban did not scorch the paint off the locker room walls at half time. He pointed out what everyone knew, the position coaches made adjustments, and the players, especially one of the more vocal leaders on the defense, Anfernee Jennings, took over from there. 

Alabama opened the second half with a fumble on the kick return and gave the Pups excellent field position. The Tide Defense forced a longish field goal attempt which failed to score. From that point forward, with one blown assignment on defense, and two botched PAT tries, the second half was “Built by Bama.”

Tua threw for two TDs. Irv Smith, Jr. caught a pass in the middle of the field and juked a would be tackler in a scoring play that should be featured in this week’s edition of “Mama, there go my ankles.” Jalen returned to action to the delight of the crowd, and found DeVonta Smith in the end zone for a score. The defense turned in another Non Offensive Touchdown with an 18 yard scoop and score [Anfernee Jennings].

 In the first half the team was suffering from a bad dose of rat poison.  Because it might prove to be a rat poison antidote, here is how I grade the game [automatic one whole letter grade reduction for quality of opponent]:

Offense:          C+       Despite a dreadful first half, the Tide gained 561 yards of total offense [school record tenth 500+ total this season] earned 21 first downs, and converted 3 of 5 third downs. The offense also lost a fumble in the fist half, thus ending a promising drive, but scored a touchdown on each of five possessions in the second half.

Tua completed 18 of his 22 pass attempts for 340 yards and 3 TDs. His 3 TD passes in the game brought his season total to 31, surpassing A.J. McCarren for the school record of touchdown passes in a season. Jalen completed 3 of 4 pass attempts for 31 yards and a TD.

Henry Ruggs, III was the leading receiver with 114 yards on 6 receptions. Jaylen Waddle caught 6 passes for 90 yards and 2 TDs. Jerry Jeudy added 77 yards on 6 receptions. Irv Smith, Jr.’s aforementioned ankle-breaking run resulted in a 68 yard TD. Josh Jacobs and DeVonta Smith rounded out the list of Tide players who caught passes.

Damien Harris was the lead rusher with 83 yards on 7 runs. He left the game after landing head first at the end of a 73 yard run. He did not return to the game, and as I write this set of The Grades, I have not seen any report on his condition. Najee Harris contributed 51 yards on 4 carries. Tua gained 37 yards on 4 rushes, and Ronnie Clark netted 14 yards on 3 runs. All total, Alabama gained 190 net yards rushing.

The Tide had seven sustained drives [80, 86, 72, 85, 63, 80, 55] that produced 6 TDs and a field goal. You might be thinking the overall grade is too low. I don’t know any other way to emphasize how poorly the offense played in the first half, where it only had four possessions and the drive chart reads: “TD, Punt, Fumble, FG”.

Defense:          C-          The Citadel gained 275 yards total offense; all on the ground. The Dogs earned 13 first downs, converted 6 of 17 third downs, held the ball for 36:23, and scored 17 points. Twice the Dogs were able to convert 4th down attempts. The Dogs’ running back Dante Smith gashed the Tide defense for 130 net yards.

Anfernee Jennings was the leading tackler with 11 stops and scored on a fumble recovery. Mack Wilson made 9 tackles, Deionte Thompson recorded 8 stops while LaBryan Ray and Dylan Moses each recorded 7 stops. The defense recorded 5 tackles for lost yardage and forced a fumble which I was recovered for a touchdown.

Special Teams:

Punting:            C        Mike Bernier only punted once for 34 yards. The coverage unit allowed a 4 yard return.  Jaylen Waddle slipped on what could have been a big return. Instead, the Tide realized no yards returning punts.

Place Kicking:             F          Two missed PATs. 

Kickoffs:                      F          A lost fumble on a kick return.

Coaching:                B-         Sixty-two players saw action in the game. None of them were ready to play at the opening kickoff. Some late-game personal foul penalties were dealt with very quickly by the staff as soon as the offending players reached the bench. The kicking game continues to be …. well …. “atrocious” is a word I haven’t used in a while but seems a fitting description. Saban did make a personnel change after the second failed PAT.

Well, enough is enough. Twenty four hours is far too long to celebrate beating The Citadel. This year’s Iron Bowl presents all kinds of opportunities: for a perfect regular season, for revenge, for an important milestone on the Road to 18, for a rational universe.

Alabama vs Auburn is not just some run-of-the-mill rivalry. It is the struggle between Gog and Magog; between light and darkness; between culture and agriculture.  Practice hard this week, Y’all. Put in the extra time in the film room (if you don’t have a film room, YouTube has hours of Tide highlights). Stay focused. Give thanks on Thursday for your families, your faith, your freedoms, and being a Tide fan.

Drive safe. See Y’all in Tuscaloosa!

Roll Tide, Y’all.

The Commissioner