Is Tide Offense Truly Offensive?

Greg McElroy

In Alabama's 2009 undefeated national championship season, the Crimson Tide set an Bama record for total offense with 5,642 yards (403 yards per game). The Crimson Tide had the second best scoring season in the 115 years of the program with 448 points (32.1 per game). With eight starters and most of the biggest stars back on offense, big things were expected this year. So where is Alabama?



Would you believe that Alabama's offense is ahead of last year's pace?

Alabama is averaging 427.14 yards per game and 33.29 points per game.

That's with 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram having missed two games, Ingram and Trent Richardson both being held to low rushing numbers the past few weeks, and quarterback Greg McElroy seemingly struggling in the passing game.

Alabama goes back on the field Saturday when the Crimson Tide goes to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to play Tennessee. Bama is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference games and ranked eighth in the nation. Tennessee is 2-4 overall and 0-3 in SEC games. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central time) with television coverage by ESPN.

In fact, the scoring average in the SEC is up this year.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "I think there are some really good offensive players and I think there is a lot of diversity in the style of offense that you now see in college football and I think that probably contributes to some degree to the ups and downs that you see in college football, because the learning curve for the players week in and week out probably is more diverse than it used to be, because there is a little more continuity in what people did. Lots of people do lots of different things. Every week we think we're going to get to play regular defense and every week we seem to play six or eight snaps of what amounts to be regular defense and the rest of it is some sort of spread or wide out. I think that sort of wide open style certainly lends itself to more opportunity for the offense, but I think it also makes it more difficult for the defenses to prepare and play well against all those different things."?

That doesn't mean Alabama's offense is really clicking. Whether expectations were just unreasonably high or the Tide has underachieved is open to debate.

Saban said, "I think, offensively, we probably need to execute a little bit better, and I think everybody has got to take responsibility for that, from a coaching standpoint, from me to everything that we need to do.  Every player on offense can't have a couple of plays where they don't do it exactly like it's supposed to be done.  I know on many occasions it's always the quarterback's fault, but quarterback is a hard position to play when the people around you aren't doing exactly what they're supposed to do. I'm sure that every guy on our offensive team would certainly say that they could play better, probably including the quarterback, but the biggest thing is we need to focus on is improvement, and we need to focus on making the corrections that we need to make to improve.

"The way you do that is we know we can be better so we've got to go practice with the expectation that we can be better and work on getting better together as a group with everyone supporting each other so that we can make the progress that we need to make in all parts of the game – talking about offense, defense, and special teams. We're still looking to continue to improve as a team so we can play to a standard that I think we're capable of for 60 minutes in the game. We're going to continue to work toward that."

Saban said Alabama's offensive problems aren't necessarily opposing defensive schemes.

"When we watch the film, most of the time it's about what we did and in some cases what we didn't do," he said. "We need to execute better. We need to do things better. We need to get better play at every position. We need to play together better. We need to stay positive in what we try to do and get some trust and belief in each other, in that if everybody does the right things, we're going to have a chance to be successful.

"I said this at the press conference after the game, the way Ole Miss has tried to play us the last three years is putting everybody up in the box and dare you to throw the ball. We executed in the passing game at times and we did not execute like we need to at times. We left some plays on the field with dropped balls, missed throws, a couple of misreads, a couple of not so good routes and sometimes we could have had a little better pass protection. So I don't think it is any one specific thing, I think there are some things we need to do to execute better and that will help us."

Pass protection has been an issue.?

Saban said, "I think in the last game we got beat a couple of times by their inside rusher, 57 (Jerrell Powe), a pretty good player. They got some penetration in the pocket, which hurt us a little bit, but I also think we need to get the ball out of our hands and understand the timing it takes to be able to be effective and efficient in the passing game. Again, I think it is a combination of things. I don't think Greg (McElroy) held on to the ball too long in this game trying to create things. The pocket collapsed on him a little bit and he needed to get rid of the ball; we didn't always have people open where they should have been, so we need to do a better job in all regards."

One thing Saban saw in the film was that Alabama's 23-10 win over Ole Miss was, "It was a very physical game, you know, on both sides which is a good thing from the standpoint that I thought we played with better toughness and better effort. Especially on defense, tackled a little bit better, made less mental errors."??? ?

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