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WMD's Armchair QB: Rising Tide Edition

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Dawgs Fall in Tuscaloosa

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Tuscaloosa: Where Maroon and White dreams go to die. That was a difficult game to watch. And frankly, I'm pretty aggravated with how we played. Just once, I'd like to beat Bama and shut up their obnoxious sidewalk alumni who are only fans because they bought a shirt at Wal-Mart. Here's what I saw:

Defense:

1. Overall, I thought the D played well. They drew the short end of the stick in this one, having to defend Bama on a  short field for most of the night. And despite that, they only gave up 23 offensive points. Great effort from them.

2. We held Amari Cooper mostly in check. He wound up with 8 catches for 88 yards and a TD. His TD catch was when Collins lost his freaking mind and tried to cover him in man with a safety. Completely ridiculous.

3. The defensive numbers were pretty solid. We held Bama under 350 yards of total offense and to 5-14 on 3rd down. They had just 124 rushing. The one area that we struggled was redzone D, where Bama went 4-5 with 3 TDs.

4. Blake Sims mobility killed us. On the winning TD drive, he scrambled for 2 or 3 1st downs in 3rd and long situations. We just totally failed at keeping him contained. It's like we didn't bother accounting for his mobility in the defensive game plan. He's not a dual threat, but he's definitely got plenty of game film showing him breaking contain and scrambling for 1st downs.

5. We never generated any consistent pressure on Sims. Don't know if that was by design in an effort to keep him contained in the pocket or if it was Bama's OL blocking us.  I'm inclined to lean more toward the latter theory, although we got some occasional pressure.

6. Beni Brown had a tremendous game. He has quickly become the brain of our D. His play recognition is off the charts. He also had a forced fumble taken away on review - more on that later.

7. I don't have much more to elaborate about defensively. As I started out saying, I thought they did yeoman's work considering what they faced. Hats off to those guys.

Special Teams:

1. Fred Ross seems to have found a home at PR. He appears to be sure handed fielding the punt and showed a nice knack for returning it in the second half. I really hope we keep him back there.

2. Nice to see Evan Sobiesk go into a hostile environment and nail 2 FGs. He's kicking it well right now.

3. Our KR unit is terrible. Holloway is fast, but he isn't a natural returner. Robert Johnson is too slow and only out there to block. Is it a crime to put TWO players back there who are both good at returns? I'd settle for just one at this point. Will Redmond, among others, deserves a chance. And I know he's everyone's favorite whipping boy on PR, but Jamoral Graham seems like another solid candidate to give a chance to back there.

4. You just knew we weren't going to get the onside kick. And we weren't even close to offsides on that play. Only in Tuscaloosa. I also hated continuing our strategy of hanging the KO high to attempt to pin Bama inside the 25. It backfired repeatedly, as Bama seemed to always have the ball at the 25+ following a KO. Just kick it out the back!

5. Devon Bell gonna Devon Bell. I thought McShank had found some extra eligibility and Mullen decided to let him punt today. Despite being solid all season, Bell's 5 cent head returned today. He repeatedly shanked punts giving Bama incredible field position. Frankly, he is one of the biggest reasons we lost today. The problem was compounded by Bama's punter being great and keeping us pinned deep for most of the day. Honestly, after the 3rd or 4th shank, we should have pulled Bell and gone to Logan Cooke. I know he's a true freshman, but he couldn't have done much worse than Bell at that point. Just an absolute disaster from Bell today.

Offense:

1. To be honest, I'm very, very upset with our offense. They lost the game today, plain and simple. Execution was horrid. We made stupid mental mistakes. We threw the ball nearly 50 times. They came out looking tight and it snowballed.

2. Our WRs were awful. They couldn't have caught a cold today. Dak would hit guys in the numbers and the ball would hit the ground. But to be fair, there were a lot of times they were getting held, tripped, or tackled with no call. I'd love to be an Alabama CB, because apparently holding is totally legal if you wear crimson.

3. We couldn't run the ball very well, so we compounded the problem by essentially abandoning the run. We wound up rushing the ball 40 times, but we threw it 48. Dak and J-Rob got 34 of the 40 rushes, which sounds good. But J-Rob only got 12 of those 34 carries. That's nowhere near enough and certainly not the 40+ combined from them I wanted to see.

4. We couldn't run because Bama's DL was absolutely destroying our OL. They got their butts whipped today. That's just the truth.

5. Dak was bad, throwing 3 more picks. He now has more INTs than Bo Dirt. Let that sink in. At least we can stop worrying about all the Heisman talk. The numbers were actually pretty decent, as he threw for 290 and 2 TDs and added 82 on the ground. The problem was Dak's decision making. He pressed all night and the problem was compounded by being constantly pressured by Bama's D. To be fair, it doesn't help when Bama's DBs get to commit PI all night. Let me use his first INT as an illustration: Situationally, it wasn't that bad. We'd been driving but faced a 3rd and 9 on the Bama 40. Dak's pass is picked at the 22. It worked out about like a short punt. But the problem is Dak forced the pass into triple coverage. If he'd looked to his left in the progression, he'd have seen an open WR.

The second INT was easily his worst of the night, though. Another pass he forced, this time into the endzone. Instead of getting points, Bama gets the ball. The third pick was a tip, so it's hard for me to blame Dak for that one. But it likewise killed a potential TD drive. The other big miss was him throwing the ball about 20 yards too far to a wide open Malcolm Johnson in the endzone. You wanna win the Heisman, you gotta hit that pass. Just an awful, awful throw.

I also hated not seeing any sense of urgency from Dak when we got the ball back with about 3 minutes left. That's normally when we see his intangibles shine through and he does the amazing things he's capable of doing. But in this instance, he just never seemed to step up and grab the elephant by the tusks, if you will. To be blunt, I though Sims outplayed Dak, and that makes me sick.

6. J-Rob had a tough night too. The play where he got tackled for a safety was a complete comedy of errors. First, Fred Ross is late coming in motion and gets right in J-Rob's lane where he was supposed to run. Second, Dak called for the snap instead of waiting for Ross to clear. Third, Clausell got absolutely abused and forced back about 3 yards. Lastly, J-Rob realized he needed to bounce outside to have a chance, but he had to go around Clausell first. Bama is too good for you to make that many mistakes. Another problem was continuing to try to bounce it outside. Bama is just too fast for that defensively. To have success, you can't go east-west. You have to make a decision, stick your foot in the ground, and go downhill as quickly as possible.

J-Rob did have a nice night receiving, though. He kept drives alive for us on the short checkdown passes and turning them into solid gains. But he had one bad missed block in pass pro where he didn't get a good cut block on his man, who wound up getting pressure on Dak and forcing him to make an early throw.

7. Bear Wilson came to play. Wish we could have found more ways to get him involved.

8. We needed to see more of the 4 and 5 wide sets. We actually had pretty good success when we used them. When something is working, keep going to it until they prove they can stop it.

9. We lost by 5, and the O cost us 5 points with the safety and the field goal shortly thereafter. It may not be recorded as a turnover, but a safety is a turnover. You give up points AND have to give the other team the ball in good field position. I thought the D did a good job to keep it from being 9-0, honestly.

Coaching/Miscellaneous:

1. We came out really tight, particularly on offense. It took us essentially the whole first half to settle down. I'll never understand what it is about Bama that makes us believe we aren't supposed to be on the field with them. It sucks.

2. Turnovers were a big difference. Not to rehash too much, but we cost ourselves at least 12-15 points. 5 on the safety & field goal, 7 on Dak's INT in the endzone. 3 on the 3rd INT.

3. We were not mentally tough. Beckwith let himself be baited into a stupid personal foul early. Malone flinches in the redzone, costing us 4 when we had to kick the FG instead of getting the TD.

4. Dan Mullen's game plan was atrocious. We totally went away from everything we did to get us to 9-0. We abandoned our commitment to the run. Didn't give J-Rob enough carries. Wouldn't stick with the 4 and 5 wide sets. Play calling was garbage. And to be blunt, Dan quit on the last drive with 3 minutes to go. He was just trying to get a TD to make it look good, not win. There was no sense of urgency from him. No sense of needing to hurry to get plays off. The crazy decision to run it. And don't get me started on the lack of guts to not go for the TD at the end of the first half down 19. Field goals weren't going to win that game, and we needed 7. I don't even know why Mullen bothered boarding the bus to Tuscaloosa. He looked completely lost.

5. Let's just get it out of the way: The officials sucked. They definitely gave Bama the usual "Bama treatment." But they weren't the reason we lost the game. Despite all the terrible calls, if we'd played to our standard, hadn't come out tight, spotted Bama 19, and given them 4 extra possessions, we win the game.

That said, a big turning point was overturning the fumble at the goal line and giving Bama a TD. Here's my stance: I think Henry probably scored the TD. However, the call on the field, whatever it was, should have stood. In this case, that means it should have been our ball inside the 5. Why? Because the rule requires "indisputable video evidence" to overturn a play. Based on the replay footage and angles available, there was NOT indisputable video evidence that Henry scored. 1) You could not clearly see the ball from any angle and 2) the "overhead" camera was not directly overhead, but at an angle. That causes tricks on the eyes and can change the look of where the ball was. For those reasons, the call should have stood. If they'd ruled it a TD, that call should've stood as well. However, there was literally no doubt in my mind they'd find a way to overturn it and give Bama the TD. The SEC might as well be the WWE at this point. Only the Office favorites get the "push."

6. It pisses me off how badly we coached and played on offense and special teams. You can't wait for a half before deciding to show up and beat an Alabama.

7. The SEC has GOT to make a change for the CBS broadcast team. It really is the Crimson Broadcasting System. Gary and Verne can't wait to slobber on Bama and run down whoever they play. And it's compounded by Verne being so blind he can't keep up with the action. Best decision I made all day was muting them for the 2nd half. I hope they get throat cancer. Not really, but dang.

8. Be mad for a couple of days. Be hurt. I will be. But move on after that. It'll take some help, as we no longer control our fate, but we can still win the West. And more importantly, we can still be in the Top 4 of the final Championship Committee poll. We just need to make sure we take care of business in these next 2 games.

That's what I saw. We need everyone to show up next Saturday night for Vandy. It's Senior Night, and these guys deserve to go out with a bang. They bought in when few others would have. And I suspect the team will need the crowd, as there  will inevitably be some Bama and loss hangover. Be there early and be loud!

You guys know the drill. Fire in the hole!

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD