Alabama Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Tide's Win vs. FAU
Florida Atlantic just spoiled Alabama's potential three-shutout streak. The Tide could have accomplished that today for the first time since 1966, but the Owls had something to say about that in the form of a late touchdown against Alabama's second-string defense.
Let's take a look at the 10 things we learned from that game.
*Stats from ESPN.com
The Million Dollar Band: Every Sack...Ever
One of the few times that you hear laughter from me during a 'Bama game is when an opposing quarterback gets sacked. That happened three times in this game, once each by Jeoffrey Pagan, Robert Lester and Damion Square.
Whenever that happens, the MDB fires up "Look Down" from the opening scene in Les Miserables (link goes to 10th anniversary edition version), which is more than fitting by title alone.
In the musical, the man singing is in prison and the chain gang is telling him not to look the guards in the eye in order to avoid a harder life in the pen.
He looks toward the sky (in the original cast recording) and sings as loud as he can, "How long, oh Lord, before you let me die?"
I always picture the opposing quarterback singing that from his position lying on the ground. It makes me chuckle, and it never gets old.
(There is no laughing if the opposing signal-caller is injured, by the way.)
Of note: The MDB fires that song up frequently for huge tackles for loss as well, especially if the Tide is lacking in sacking.
Playing the Current Game
Alabama's 40-7 win over Florida Atlantic looked a lot smoother than the 35-0 shutout of Western Kentucky. They didn't play flat at all, and it was almost effortless to watch the second half.
Alabama played clean, sound fundamental football with very few penalties. Three penalties, to be exact.
The defense finally did give up a touchdown with 2:49 left in the game, but it was the backups that gave up the touchdown. More on the backups later in the show.
It's easy to see that the Tide is taking every game seriously, which makes me feel a lot better about the Tennessee game looming on the calendar as a graphic of a giant elephant trap.
The second-string offense of most college football teams has one job: Don't screw it up!
Alabama's backups have a different goal: earn starting time.
It's hard to tell the difference between the results of the first-string tailbacks and those of the second-string corps.
These guys don't go out onto the field to keep the game in-hand, they go out to ice the game. In fact, after Alabama's starters were held to three field goals and a touchdown, the backups came in and drove the ball straight into the end zone.
While many of you may not have taken this long to learn this tidbit: Alabama's offensive line is clearly among the best in the country.
Conference play will tell us the true story of whether they are No. 1, but the Tide are easily in the top 10 right now as far as the "eye test" goes.
Barrett Jones, A.J. McCarron, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon may get a group rate on a flight to New York to represent the Tide's offense at the Heisman ceremony.
Cade Foster has improved greatly. Today, he made field goals from 52 and 46 yards to put six on the board for the Tide.
How many is two, you ask? Well, it's already the same number of field goals he made in the entire 2011 season.
Foster is on the field because he earned it. While 50 percent may not look stellar to the untrained eye, Foster only handles the long field goals.
Not only does he have the more difficult job of hitting long attempts, he doesn't get to build his confidence on the shorter tries.
Kenny Bell surprised Alabama fans and the Florida Atlantic defense by catching one pass less than two minutes into the game.
He caught the ball and outran everyone the 85 yards to the end zone. While only catching that one pass, he ended the game as the Tide's leading receiver by total yards.
Kenny Bell may not be Julio Jones, but it's a safe bet that Tide fans are OK with him on the field.
Jalston Fowler Has Plenty of Time to Heal
There is no denying that Jalston Fowler is a great asset to the Tide. It was a sad day in Tuscaloosa when his status "out for the season" was learned.
However, with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon on the field, the only concern was depth. How badly would the Tide feel the loss of Fowler?
Enter Kenyan Drake and Dee Hart, who both averaged seven yards per carry or better. Mr. Fowler, we miss you, but you can take all the time you need to heal properly. Alabama doesn't need you to risk your career for a win.
Bench Penalties Suck
Florida Atlantic was determined to get into the end zone with about three minutes left in the game. So determined that it looked like the Owls were in four-down territory.
Alabama's shutout could be preserved with a "close-enough-to-the-goal-line" stand. FAU had a 1st-and-10 from the 10.001 yard line, and Alabama looked mean and ready to defend the castle wall.
Seemingly from nowhere (actually from the sideline), the refs called "unsportsmanlike conduct" against the Alabama bench. This gave the Owls a surge of hope, a 1st-and-5 and a whiff of the lyme marking the goal.
The Owls threw a strike into the end zone on second down, and the Tide's shutout streak-o-meter was reset to zero.
Nick Saban's Temper Is to Be Feared
After the aforementioned penalty flag was thrown and the penalty was conveyed by the referee, there was a gnawing in the pit of my stomach.
My blog post was, "Saban is going to have an extra scholarship tomorrow. Don't ask questions about where the missing player is."
I haven't been nine years old in a long time, but I got the same feeling from that penalty that I did when Dad said, "You just wait 'til we get home."
You knew it was coming, but you still walked to the car, rode home and went in the house. That has to be how that player felt while walking to the locker room after the game.
It's bad enough when player on the field commits a penalty, but from the bench? Ouch!
Alabama's Top Ranking Is Clearer
After handing Michigan a loss in Dallas, the questions began to fly. Is Alabama that good, or was Michigan overrated?
After the Arkansas win, the general consensus was that we really hadn't learned anything about Alabama because Tyler Wilson didn't play.
In all honesty, those were both fair assessments. Who could really argue with them? The Tide came out and played a fairly ugly game against Western Kentucky, the secondary hadn't been tested and the pass rush wasn't stellar enough to prove that the Tide could hang with anyone of merit.
The backup defensive unit for the Tide allowed the Owls to drive a full 75 yards for a touchdown. If you subtract that 75 yards from the Owls' total of 110, you get 35 yards.
The Owls gained a measly 35 yards of total offense against the Crimson Tide's starters.
That looks just as good as last year's squad did, and this is only Week 4. There are many roadblocks between here and Miami in January, but the Tide looks like a military-issue Hummer. Roadblocks become speed bumps in a true Hummer.