Great weekend. Alabama and Penn State fans really showed off their mutual respect. Every Penn State fan I ran into was very conversational and friendly. Good people to hang out with and watch any kind of sport. Alabama fans cheered as Penn State came on the field. Paterno received standing ovations when he showed up on the stadium big screens. Both fan bases were very classy.
The atmosphere was fantastic and it was incredibly loud. An Alabama recruit for 2012, CB Geno Smith said it was “Loudest place I have ever been to”. The Tuscaloosa News said the game brought a record amount of people to campus.
The meeting at midfield was a great moment. One of my favorite parts of the game.
As for the Tide, the 24-3 win looks great and it was good win but Penn State exposed some weak spots in the Alabama armor.
First of all, Alabama’s offensive line played very well. Trent Richardson ran wild on a Penn State defense that had not allowed a 100 yard rusher in 18 games. That’s pretty impressive on both accounts. McElroy had the solid game that you have come to expect from him.
Alabama showed an interesting look with their first scoring drive as they ran an empty backfield, 5-wide set with Trent Richardson lined up as an outside receiver. I kept thinking that he may go in motion, but that would have made more sense if he was in the slot. Alabama’s offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is still holding his deck of cards close to him. Another interesting set was Marquis Maze lining up in the Wild Tide formation.
Alabama’s defense pretty much dictated Penn State’s offense all night. Penn State was able to drive the field a few times, but Alabama responded by forcing turnovers when Penn State pushed past midfield. On the two interceptions in the Red Zone, Alabama created a lot of pressure and forced some early throws. The forced fumble was the result of defenders staying at home and laying a nice hit on the Penn State receiver. Still, Penn State did move the ball. They also ran the ball pretty well averaging 4.1 yards per carry (127 yards total). That’s pretty high for Alabama’s standards considering only one team had over four yards per carry last season (Auburn).
It’s definitely a positive to see the Alabama defense getting so stingy when opposing teams start pushing past midfield and into the red zone. Nick Saban had some good quotes in a press conference today. I’ll link them later when I find them. He basically talked about how well our defense tends to play as a unit with leaders like Baron and Hightower guiding the younger guys. Good stuff.
The defense has a lot of inexperience in the secondary and I think they will be challenged at Duke. I don’t expect that game to be close, but I think Duke’s offense will be a good test before seeing arguably the best passing QB Alabama’s defense will face in Ryan Mallet. Alabama did a very good job of containing Mallet last season, but we also had a more experienced defense. I feel like a better, more experienced QB would have found more holes in our passing defense this early on but we’ve been fortunate not to face that, yet. It’s going to be a tremendous help to get Dareus back as he will help to generate a better pass rush for us. We’ve missed him badly in these first two games.
The good thing about Alabama’s defense is that there’s a lot of room to improve. They are young and talented. This is a defensive squad that will grow with each passing week.
As for the offense, they looked smooth at times and shot themselves in the foot at other times with penalties or dropped balls. Those mental mistakes need to be cleaned up before we travel to Arkansas and South Carolina. A few of Alabama’s drives were killed because of a penalty, sack or dropped ball.
Alabama is very lucky to have Trent Richardson. He’s just as good, if not better than last year’s Heisman winner, Mark Ingram. That’s incredible. Saban mentioned earlier today that we are lucky to have so many level-headed individuals leading our team and I couldn’t agree more. According to Saban, wide receiver Julio Jones has instilled a more physical attitude in the other wideouts — namely in blocking for the running backs. How about Ingram and Richardson being so good-natured about splitting the workload? They respect each other and know that it’s for the benefit of the team to combine their workload. These are two guys that are arguably the two best running backs in the country and they play on the same team.
I still felt like Saban let off the accelerator late in the game as a show of respect to Joe Paterno. A classy move, indeed. So don’t worry about only putting up 24 points on Penn State. The offense did a nice job. There’s just some things that need to be worked on, but that’s true of any good team. The key is correcting those mistakes and moving on. That’s one thing I’m confident our coaching staff will continue to do.