Ole Miss wrapup: Tide outplays Rebels, will get much-needed week off


By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief

Sept. 30, 2012

 

The most apropos, on-point comment about Alabama’s victory over Ole Miss Saturday night came when Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban took to the radio airwaves to speak with play-by-play announcer Eli Gold.

 

Paraphrasing, Saban noted that Ole Miss was held to 14 points and roughly 200 yards of offense, then noted that Alabama fans might be getting a little spoiled. Guilty as charged.

 

There was a time when a 33-14 victory, especially one in which the Alabama defense effectively shut down a high-powered offense, would elicit bravado from Bama fans, and guarantee Southwest Airlines’ booking service would be knocked offline just a few seconds after the final gun sounded, as fans rushed to reserve trips to the national championship game site.

 

After this contest, though, Alabama fans were quite subdued. Perhaps it was because of the unfortunate run of injuries in this game, or maybe Alabama fans really are spoiled, just as Saban claimed.

 

Concern over injuries is normal, and fans have every right to feel bad for DeAndrew White, Dee Hart, Ed Stinson, Deion Belue and – at least for a few breath-holding snaps – Robert Lester. It’s fruitless to speculate on the severity of the injuries until a doctor finishes reading X-ray films and MRI reports, but White’s injury looked particularly gruesome. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Hart or Belue missed at least the next game, either.

 

But are Alabama fans spoiled? Probably. There was enough self-superiority talk going around in the week leading up to this game to fill up a professional wrestling telecast, with many refusing to even consider Ole Miss could be competitive.

 

The Rebels, though, looked the most prepared and well-coached they’ve been in this game since the David Cutcliffe years. Ole Miss was physical on offense and played way above its collective head on defense. Still, Alabama was in control of the flow of the game from beginning to end. While the Tide had problems getting first downs in the red zone, there were few other legitimate complaints of a serious nature. But Alabama did come out of this game with a few things to work on.

 

Here’s TideFans.com’s Five Point Breakdown for Ole Miss:

 

  1. Running game stymied by sloppiness, defensive chance-taking. It would not be an unfair criticism to say Alabama’s run game in 2012 hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. But it’s not as simple as bad run blocking or lack of talent at the RB position. Alabama has fought injuries (Jalston Fowler’s knee, Eddie Lacy’s toe, and now Dee Hart’s knee) and some inconsistency at the tackle positions. Against Ole Miss, Alabama ran 34 times for 125 yards (3.7 avg.), thanks largely to the Ole Miss defense taking a lot of chances up front with stunts, pulls and slants. But Alabama’s running backs must begin hitting the holes better. Eddie Lacy missed several opportunities inside throughout the game, as did T.J. Yeldon. For that matter, Dee Hart has probably been the most effective runner the last couple of weeks in limited work, which makes it particularly important to Alabama’s future success that his knee injury isn’t a major one.

 

  1. Tide still searching for an answer at H-back. Brent Calloway got his first significant action since coming to Alabama, as Alabama appeared to go with H-back-by-committee depending on the situation. Alabama opened the game with Brian Vogler starting in an Ace look with Michael Williams, used Kelly Johnson at H-back in obvious blocking situations and brought Calloway to the field when it needed a receiver at the position. Calloway nearly caught his first touchdown pass, but it was not to be thanks to a slightly underthrown pass on the part of A.J. McCarron. The ongoing rotation here ties back into point No. 1 regarding Alabama’s struggles in the running game.

 

  1. Offense must begin making plays in the passing game when the running game is in trouble. Saban touched on this point in postgame interviews, and if teams in the future sell out to stop the run, Alabama must be able to go over the top to make big plays. A.J. McCarron was again very efficient (73.3% completion percentage) and didn’t throw an interception, but Alabama gained just 180 yards on 22 completions. At 22 completions, Alabama should have carded around 260 yards. The blame, as it were, lies not just with McCarron, but the route tree selection and the wide receivers themselves, who got lazy with routes on occasion and began rounding off cuts, which allowed Ole Miss’ substandard defensive backfield to appear much more competent than it really was. The bright spot for Alabama was true freshman Amari Cooper, who already plays with maturity beyond his years.

 

  1. Special teams continues to impress. It seemed odd to give Alabama the edge in special teams in the pregame analysis, given how good Ole Miss had gotten under Houston Nutt. Simply put, the Rebels looked horrible in all facets of special teams Saturday, from shanked punts to some of the worst kickoff coverage ever seen in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Meanwhile, Alabama hit four field goals, regularly kicked off into the end zone, and punter Cody Mandell managed to average more than 40 yards per kick and hold Ole Miss’ talented returners damageless at the same time. Going forward, Alabama may have to find replacements for two of its best gunners, DeAndrew White and Dee Hart.

 

  1. Fulton holds down the fort at CB, but Ole Miss missed an opportunity. Deion Belue was injured near the end of the first half, and John Fulton played the entirety of the second half in his stead. But Ole Miss continued to focus on Dee Milliner’s side of the field for most of the second half, which is not a winning strategy for most teams. Fulton was only targeted twice when he had solo coverage, and one of those passes was so poorly placed that Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix had enough time to react to the pass and nearly intercept it. Belue suffered a shoulder injury, which will no doubt affect him in coming weeks, but if he’s out for any stretch of time, it will be interesting to see if teams target his replacement more than Ole Miss did.

 

 

 

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