Alabama Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 2 Game vs. Western Kentucky
The scoreboard in Bryant-Denny Stadium may have signaled a 35-0 victory for Alabama over Western Kentucky, but Crimson Tide fans were hardly in a celebratory mood despite moving to 2-0 this season.
Nick Saban witnessed several extremes on opposite ends of the spectrum in his ballclub’s first appearance playing in front of its home crowd this season.
For example, the brilliance of quarterback A.J. McCarron was offset by the disappearing act turned in by the Tide’s normally-potent ground attack.
Which members of the Tide fared well, and who will have a long week of practice ahead of them?
Here are Alabama’s winners and losers from the Week 2 win over Western Kentucky.
Winner: A.J. McCarron
Long regarded as the next signal-caller in Saban’s stable of game-managers, two of McCarron’s first three passes against the Hilltoppers resulted in touchdowns and helped the Tide race to an early 14-0 first quarter lead.
The junior would add another pair of scoring strikes to help him tie his career high with four touchdown passes.
McCarron was sacked more times (6) than the number of his passes that fell incomplete (5).
Taking that into account as well as the ineffectiveness of the running game, McCarron stepped up and proved he can carry his team if necessary.
Loser: Phillip Ely
Perhaps more shocking than the fact that McCarron played deep into the fourth quarter was the identity of the backup that eventually replaced him.
Ely, a redshirt freshman that has still yet to attempt his first pass on the college level, remained on the sidelines while sophomore Blake Sims—who played running back last season—closed out the game.
Ely did get into the game against Michigan, but it will be interesting to see which quarterback gets the backup reps moving forward.
Winner: Kevin Norwood
Many have speculated that Alabama’s receiving unit could be better than last year’s group, but what wasn't so clear was which pass-catchers would step up and become McCarron’s most trusted targets.
After two games, Kevin Norwood appears to be the top pass-catching option for Alabama this season.
The 6’2”, 195-pound junior has six catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns thus far—with each of those totals either leading or tying for the lead on the team.
It appears that the chemistry between McCarron and Norwood has carried over from the BCS national title game.
Loser: Eddie Lacy
While Norwood has been thriving, Lacy appears to be stuck in neutral.
The junior has rushed for only 71 yards on 18 carries thus far, and he has not resembled the back that entered 2012 with 1,080 career rushing yards and 13 touchdowns under his belt.
It could be a case of rust considering that injuries held him out of spring practice and cost him portions of fall camp.
Whatever the case may be, Lacy could use a breakout performance to get his season back on the right track.
Winner: Defensive Line
Alabama held standout nose tackle Jesse Williams out for precautionary reasons, according to Andrew Gribble of al.com, but the Tide’s defensive line still held the Hilltoppers to just 46 yards rushing.
Additionally, defensive ends Ed Stinson and Damion Square were both active in the Western Kentucky backfield while Brandon Ivory filled in for Williams and recovered a fumble.
The front three also held its blocks well enough to help the Tide's dynamic group of linebackers hound Hilltoppers quarterback Kawaun Jakes.
Loser: Offensive Line
While the defensive line performed up to the Tide’s lofty standards, Alabama’s much-hyped offensive line was outplayed by the Hilltoppers defensive front.
Western Kentucky held Alabama to 103 yards rushing and recorded six sacks, three of which came from an active defensive end Quanterus Smith, who flustered tackles Cyrus Kouandijo and D.J. Fluker for most of the day.
As dominant as they were in the season opening win over Michigan, they were equally disappointing in the win over Western Kentucky.
Winner: Nick Saban
Saban added another victory to his coaching resume, but perhaps more importantly, the Tide’s latest victory can be used as a teaching tool to help his team improve its weaknesses.
While the luster may be taken off this weekend’s matchup with Arkansas due to the Razorbacks’ shocking overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the architect of the Tide program will have plenty of reasons to tear into his team during the week’s practices.
In the end, the Tide’s struggles last weekend may end up being a blessing in disguise.