Western Kentucky vs. Alabama: Final Report Card, Player Grades for the Tide

Sanjay KirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystSeptember 8, 2012

Western Kentucky vs. Alabama: Final Report Card, Player Grades for the Tide

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    Alabama used another quick start in jumping out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and cruised to a 35-0 win over Western Kentucky at home. 

    Quarterback A.J. McCarron tied a career-high by throwing four touchdown passes, despite being sacked five times and the ground game producing a just 103 yards. 

    The offense was able to convert three of the four turnovers forced by the Tide’s defense into touchdowns, and the defense flexed its muscle in shutting out the Hilltoppers. 

    How did the Tide’s individual units fare in its non-conference victory?

    Find out in this final report card and player grades for the Tide’s win over Western Kentucky.  

Quarterback

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    McCarron was efficient, going 15-of-20 for 225 yards and the four scores. 

    Despite the lack of an effective ground game and facing pressure, McCarron was able to maintain his poise and accuracy—which has to be encouraging for the passing game going forward. 

    Sophomore Blake Sims entered the game late in the fourth quarter and completed his only pass attempt for six yards. 

    Overall Game Grade - A

Running Backs

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    Alabama’s stable of backs struggled mightily to find any running room against the Hilltoppers. 

    Eddie Lacy nearly matched his totals from last week, gaining 36 yards on nine carries—but unlike last week, there was no outburst from T.J. Yeldon or any other Tide ball-carrier. 

    Eddie Lacy Overall Grade - C

    Yeldon racked up 25 yards on six carries while Jalston Fowler—who left the game in the fourth quarter due to injury—and Dee Hart carried the ball three times and gained just 18 and 12 yards respectively. 

    T.J. Yeldon Overall Grade – C

    True freshman Kenyan Drake made the most of his only carry, taking it 32 yards to the house for Alabama’s lone rushing touchdown on the day. 

    Overall RB Grade – C 

Wide Receivers

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    Lost in McCarron’s performance will be the brilliant play of receivers Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones. 

    Norwood led the way with three catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns while Jones also grabbed three balls for 47 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

    Kevin Norwood Overall Grade – A

    Christion Jones Overall Grade – B+

    Yeldon—who caught four passes for 47 yards—continued to flash his hands out of the backfield, and was more effective on the afternoon as a receiver. 

    The only negative to this unit’s performance was that only four receivers recorded a catch, but that was somewhat offset by the strong play by Jones and Norwood. 

    Wide Receivers Overall Grade – B+

Tight Ends

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    McCarron targeted Michael Williams once, and the senior was unable to come down with the catch. 

    With the limited sample size, their grade would come strictly from blocking and considering the meager rushing totals put up on the ground, this unit had a substandard performance. 

    Overall Tight Ends Performance – D 

Offensive Line

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    It is hard to imagine a unit with three All-American candidates playing any worse. 

    McCarron was sacked five times, and the Tide could not keep Hilltoppers defensive end Quanterus Smith—who recorded two sacks—out of the backfield.

    Perhaps even more concerning has to be its inability to knock an undersized Western Kentucky defensive front off the ball consistently. 

    With the SEC schedule of them, the line has a lot of work to do if Alabama’s offense hopes to become a powerful offense this season. 

    Overall Offensive Line Grade – D 

Defensive Line

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    Conversely, as bad as Alabama’s offensive line played—their defensive line stepped up and delivered a strong effort. 

    Western Kentucky was held to 46 yards rushing and the Tide’s three-man front was consistently able to apply pressure to Hilltoppers quarterback Kawaun Jakes. 

    Overall Defensive Line Grade – A

Linebackers

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    C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson were both active—with Mosley recording 10 tackles and Johnson applying a vicious hit that led to the first of three fumbles that Alabama would recover on the afternoon. 

    The Hilltoppers were able to hit several passes over the middle against the Tide linebackers in coverage, and while they picked up some yards—there were no breakdowns that led to big plays. 

    Overall Linebackers Grade – A 

Defensive Backs

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    After last weekend’s struggles against Michigan, and considering that they played without top corner Dee Milliner—the Tide secondary responded to those challenges by helping the defense keep the Hilltoppers off the scoreboard.

    Corner Deion Belue—who was the main culprit in the Tide’s breakdowns last weekend—recorded the team’s only interception and was able to return it inside the Hilltoppers 20-yard line to setup the Tide’s first score in the second half.

    Junior John Fulton started in Milliner’s place and was solid.

    Overall Defensive Backs Grade – A 

Special Teams

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    Alabama did not attempt any field goals, but punter Cody Mandell averaged nearly 45 yards on his five punts—and he managed to turn a muffed punt into a first down that led to Alabama’s final touchdown.

    After struggling at times in its coverage units, the Tide also improved in that area against the Hilltoppers. 

    Overall Special Teams Grade – B+ 

Coaching

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    Nick Saban cannot be pleased with how the team appeared to let up in the second half, and how poorly the offensive line played.

    Nussmeier’s offense never looked to be as comfortable as they did last weekend against Michigan, and while that could be because of the desire to open up the passing game—having an inept ground attack against a team from the Sun Belt Conference is almost unfathomable. 

    However, the offense did not turn the ball over and the team had no penalties until the fourth quarter.

    Combine those factors with a shutout victory, and Saban likely got a result that will look good but push his team to improve as the season moves forward. 

    Overall Coaching Grade – B