Bill: Travis from Crossville, you’re on Vol Calls, keep it clean brother…
Travis: [Bleep] you Bill. Quit acting like you care about UT.
Bill: Fine, Travis, do you have a question or comment?
Travis: Yeah, I’ve got a question. Is Nick Saban some kind of evil alien super villain like that guy in the Avengers movie, Thanos? Is Saban really Thanos? Because that would explain a lot.
Bill: Like what?
Travis: Think about it: Dave Hart. Derrick Dooley. Jeremy Pruitt. What do they all have in common? Not to mention Butch Jones.
Bill: Butch Jones?
Travis: Yes. Bill. Butch [bleep] Jones. Just when we are about to get the last [bleep] brick in the wall; get all the trash taken out; retire the [bleep] trophy for champions of Life, Saban hires him away.
Bill: Uh….Travis….Butch Jones was actually fired, but…..
Travis: Who cares? I want to know why UT doesn’t hire Lane Kiffen instead of Jeremy Saban Pruitt.
Bill: Travis, don’t you remember 2010? You set all your furniture on fire. You burned up your apartment. You wrecked your four-wheeler, ended up in a psych hospital, and got banned from this show for an entire season. And while we’re at it, Lane Kiffen worked for Nick Saban as OC for three seasons.
Travis: So what’s your [bleep] point? Why not hire Jimbo Fisher?
Bill: Worked for Saban at LSU.
Travis: [bleep] [sound of dog yelping]
Bill: Travis, did you just kick your dog?
Travis: Kirby Smart?
Travis: Jim McElwain?
Travis: [dog yelping]
Bill: Travis … we need to change the subject, bro.
Travis: OK. What about why don’t they change the fumble rule?
Bill: You mean the rule about fumbling through the end zone results in a touchback?
Travis: No. The rule that lets the other team recover every [bleep] time UT fumbles.
Bill: OK, now you’re making sense …..
Callers to the shows covering Alabama were not as sped up as Travis. The Tide beat a good A&M team by more than three touchdowns. But somehow that 45-23 victory left a sense of unfinished business. Alabama ought to have scored more than 50. The Aggies ought not to have outplayed the Tide in the fourth quarter. Bama’s varsity kicking game ought to be at least as good as the campus-wide intermural flag football league.
Because everyone needs to perform to a standard, here is how I grade the game:
Offense: A- Alabama gained 524 total offensive yards [109 rushing] earned 24 first downs, converted 4 of 10 third downs, and suffered no turnovers. Tua played deep into the third quarter. He completed 22 of 30 pass attempts gaining 387 yards and scoring 4 TDs. Jalen Hurts completed each of his three pass attempts for 28 yards.
Jerry Jeudy led all receivers with 6 receptions gaining 78 yards. For the first time this season, Jeudy did not have a TD reception. Irv Smith, Jr. gained 74 yards on 4 receptions. DeVonta Smith gained 56 yards and scored a TD on 4 receptions. Henry Ruggs, III caught a TD pass and gained 84 yards on 3 receptions. Hale Hentgens caught 2 pass, both for TDs and gained 29 yards. Eight individual receivers caught passes.
The run game was stymied all night. Damien Harris averaged 7.4 yards per rush on 7 carries [35 yards]. Najee Harris ran the ball 8 times for 43 net yards. Josh Jacobs scored a rushing TD and gained 11 net yards on 6 runs. Tua also scored a rushing TD and gained 10 yards on 4 carries.
The offense put together five drives gaining at least 40 yards [75, 75, 75, 80, 92] each culminating in a touchdown. Every Alabama offensive possession ended with a kicking play: 6 PATs, 6 punts, 1 FG.
The lack of production in the running game appeared to be the result of several factors; running backs were needed to provide TUA with protection from the Aggie pass rush; the O Line was never able to get a consistent push to open running lanes in the TAMU defensive front; and the passing game was so potent the it was hard to justify running the ball. In the final analysis, however, four games into the season, the O Line has not shown it can assert its will over a quality defense.
Defense: A- The defense made two interceptions [Mack Wilson, Patrick Surtain], 10 tackles for lost yardage [7 sacks]; broke up 5 passes and hurried the Aggie QB 12 times. Those sorts of stats clearly justify the A, but surrendering 130 net rushing yards, 22 first downs, 393 total offensive yards and allowing two drives of more than 85 yards each [99, 88]. Back on the plus side, however, the defense forced the Aggies to punt 5 times on possessions of 3 and out, and TAMU only converted 3 of 12 third downs.
Dylan Moses led all defenders with 9 tackles. Xavier McKinney and Isaiah Buggs each made 7 stops. Treyvon Diggs was credited with 6 tackles. Buggs had a career night. Of his 7 tackles, 3 were sacks for a total of 12 yards.
Punting: C- Skylar DeLong did not have a good game. He punted 6 times for a net average of only 36 yards per punt. He had 2 punts that travelled more than 50 yards, and one was downed inside the Aggies’ one yard line! So do the math. In order to average in the mid 30’s DeLong shanked two attempted rugby style kicks that barely flew a dozen yards before sailing out of bounds. Jaylen Waddle returned 2 punts for 25 yards, but both plays were nullified by blocking penalties.
Kickoffs: B Joseph Bulovas averaged 52.4 yards per kick. One kick went out of bounds. A&M only mounted one return gaining 15 yards. The Aggies never gave Alabama a chance to return a kick.
Place Kicking: A. Bulovas was good from 47 yards on his lone FG attempt, and was perfect on 6 PATs.
Coaching: B- Alabama was penalized 9 times for 82 yards. The participation report lists 52 players who saw action in the game. The punting strategy was incomprehensible. The Tide did not dominate this game. Coach Saban said as much at his post-game presser, where he also coached up the media; no more rat poison, give him some press clippings he can use to keep thing real with the players. “Look what they wrote about you, man. You need to get better.”
Week Four is now in the books, and things around the SEC are starting to come into focus. Arkansas is not a good football team. Auburn proved it winning 34-3 in the Village. [Our spy in Lee County confirms optimistic Tiger fans were buying out the toilet paper stock at Publix in the hours before kickoff.] Auburn is good, but not good enough to avoid at least two more regular season losses.
LSU may have had a bit of a hangover following the victory over Auburn in week three. The Bayou Bengals let La-Tech hang around but eventually put them away 38-21. Coach O has his team playing good football. The LSU-Alabama game will decide the SEC West.
Georgia is clearly the class of the SEC East. The Dawgs dispatched Missouri 43-29 on the road. I have not been able to determine whether the precipitous drop in undergraduate enrollment has produced empty seats in the Mizzou student section.
Kentucky is the surprise of the East. The Cats certainly surprised the Puppies from Mississippi State 28-7. Either UK is better than expected or MSU is not as good as advertised. Both could be true. Time will tell.
Ole Miss has now scored 168 points so far this season; an average of 42 points per game. The Totties still managed to score only 7 points against Alabama, so there’s that not-so-Hottie data point.
Tennessee will not be the betting favorite in any of its remaining conference games until, perhaps Vanderbilt. The Vols lost 4 fumbles, 2 interceptions, 2 turnovers on downs, and lost to Florida….again…..47-21. UT has not won an SEC game since November 2016. Jeremy Pruitt is a good person, and a fine football coach. Does he ever has his work cut out for him in Knoxville!
Alabama hosts “The University of Louisiana” in week five. The CBS Sports app still identifies them as “Louisiana-Lafayette”. Here at The Commissioner’s Blog, we identify them as the Most Important Game of the Year so Far!
Early kickoff this coming Saturday. Plan you week accordingly.
Roll Tide, Y’all.
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