April 10th, 2014 09:47 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Auburn
Tags: Alabama, Auburn, BCS, Rush Offense
Alabama won BCS championships in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2013, the Crimson Tide came within one second — literally — of perhaps punching a ticket back to the SEC title game which could have propelled them back to another BCS title clash. After Bama’s loss to Auburn, however, the team got scorched by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Now at most schools a 12-2 season would be a pretty darn good year. But that’s not the case at Alabama where Nick Saban says his program lost its identity last year and will have to struggle to get it back:
“Alabama football’s supposed to be a tough, physical team that nobody really like to play against. That’s been our identity. We’ve lost that identity a little bit, I think, the way we finished the year last year. That’s something that we’ve got to get back, and it’s hard, and you really can’t make it easy…
You have to start all over to reestablish it. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. It’s difficult. It’s tough. To have the psychological toughness to sustain the season to play the kind of football that we’ve won playing around here, you have to pound. You have to pound your hand in the sand until it’s tough enough to go through it.
I don’t know that we every paid that price last year, and I think it’s important that our players understand why we do the things we do so they can make it through the season and play the kind of football that we want to play.”
Is that an overall mental state Saban’s referring to or an actual style of play? Let’s look at some Alabama stats from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons:
|Year||Rush Offense||Rush Defense||Pass Offense||Pass Defense|
|2011||2788 yds (508 carries)||938 yds allowed (2.43 ypca)||2797 yds (357 attempts)||1449 yds allowed (4.3 ypa)|
|2012||3185 yds (570 carries)||1069 yds allowed (2.43 ypca)||3052 yds (328 attempts)||2431 yds allowed (6.1 ypa)|
|2013||2673 yds (461 carries)||1381 yds allowed (3.32 ypca)||3230 yds (365 attempts)||2344 yds allowed (6.6 ypa)|
Saban may be referring to an overall attitude with his team, but the numbers suggest that attitude is tied directly to being a “tough, physical team” that can control a game on the ground..
The Tide ran the ball fewer times last year for fewer yards than it had the two previous seasons. Look at the passing offense numbers and it’s easy to see that senior quarterback AJ McCarron was called on to put the ball in the air more often, making good with more yards through the air. But did that decision to throw the ball a bit more and run the ball a bit less contribute to Alabama’s late-season stumbles? Saban seems to think so.
On defense there’s a more obvious trend — giving up more yards on the ground. Bama allowed almost a full yard per carry more on the ground last year than it had the previous two seasons. The Alabama secondary (and pass rush) allowed more yards per attempt than it had the previous two years as well, but the bigger decline is in the run game.
Saban’s comments and a quick look at the stat book suggest that new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will be instructed to pound the ball more than his predecessor, Doug Nussmeier, did a season ago. Breaking in a new quarterback that would be a smart tack anyway. Also, it’s a probably a safe bet that Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are putting an added emphasis on stopping the run this spring.
Run the ball; stop the run. That was the “identity” of Alabama’s football teams in 2011 and 2012. The 2013 team slipped a hair in those areas last season. It slipped enough, at least, to lose two whole ballgames.
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