Alabama Football: Winners and Losers from Week 4's Game Against Florida Atlantic

Sanjay Kirpalani@@SanjayKirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystSeptember 23, 2012

Alabama Football: Winners and Losers from Week 4's Game Against Florida Atlantic

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    Top-ranked Alabama scored on every first-half possession en route to an easy 40-7 victory over Florida Atlantic. 

    The win moved Alabama to 4-0 on the season, and is the last tune-up before the SEC schedule cranks up starting with next weekend’s home tilt against Ole Miss.  

    Nick Saban’s club overpowered the outmanned Owls, but there were enough periods of sloppy play to irk the Tide’s head coach.  

    Which players stepped up, and who will draw Saban’s ire in film study next week? 

    Here are the winners and losers from the Week 4 win over FAU.  

Winner: Defense

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    Alabama carried a streak of nine consecutive quarters of shutting out its opponents—and while they failed to become the first team in the BCS era to record three consecutive shutouts, Kirby Smart’s troops were stifling in limiting the Owls to 25 yards of total offense in the first half, and just 110 for the entire game.  

    C.J. Mosley (6 tackles) and Damion Square (5 tackles) led the Tide’s stifling effort.  

    Their shutout streak ended late when FAU was able find the end zone with less than three minutes to go in the game, but that does not diminish the fact that Alabama’s defense is still rivaled by few teams across the nation.  

Loser: Red-Zone Offense

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    Considering Alabama’s almost unfair advantage in the trenches against a team like FAU, their struggles in the red zone against the Owls are sure to raise eyebrows amongst the coaching staff. 

    It's quite possible that Doug Nussmeier wanted to work on certain plays or formations in a game that ended up feeling more like a controlled scrimmage.  

    However, the offense’s execution in the red zone left a lot to be desired—which led to two short field goals in the second quarter.  

    Saban and Nussmeier will surely look to focus on improving that area in the coming weeks.  

Winner: Eddie Lacy

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    After starting slow in the first two weeks of the season, Eddie Lacy looked like a different back in last week’s 52-0 win over Arkansas.  

    He did not pad the stat sheet with a high-yardage total, but he ran hard and physical in a three-touchdown effort against the Razorbacks.    

    The junior running back was finally able to put up his first 100-plus-yard performance of the year, rushing for 106 yards on 15 carries against the Owls.  

    With T.J. Yeldon (more on him later) and Kenyan Drake—who has filled in admirably for the injured Jalston Fowler—providing the Tide’s backfield with plenty of depth, fans can take comfort that Lacy appears to be transforming into the back many envisioned he would become this season.  

Loser: T.J. Yeldon

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    Yeldon’s numbers—10 carries for 63 yards—were solid, but a first-quarter fumble is likely what Saban will remember most about his star freshman’s effort against FAU.  

    An alert Barrett Jones recovered and the Tide would go on to score on that drive, but there are plenty of lessons to be learned for a player with the potential Yeldon possesses.  

    Four games into his college career, it's clear that there will be some growing pains even for a player as talented as Yeldon.  

Winner: Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley

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    Alabama is used to having a two-headed monster—at running back.  

    However, this year’s dynamic duo comes in the form of the Tide’s field-goal kicking tandem of long-range specialist Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley—who typically handles the attempts of 45 yards or less.  

    Foster nailed a 52-yard attempt in the second quarter—his third make of 50 yards or more—and later added a 46-yarder in the second half.  

    Shelley made both of his attempts as well, and in the process, erased any doubts about Alabama's kicking unit moving forward.   

Loser: Christion Jones

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    Similar to Yeldon, Jones may be in Saban’s doghouse after fumbling a first-quarter punt return deep in his own territory that gave the Owls a legitimate chance to get on the scoreboard.  

    Jesse Williams was able to block FAU's ensuing field-goal attempt, but those type of mistakes will likely provide greater consequences in SEC play.  

    The sophomore receiver was able to record a touchdown on his only reception (a four-yard score seconds before halftime), and he averaged more than 15 yards on four punt return attempts.  

    Jones has a lot of potential to be a dynamic return man—as evidenced by his 31-yard return later in the afternoon—but he will not be out there long if he continues to have issues with putting the ball on the ground.

Winner: Freshman Class

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    The benefits of jumping out to an early lead paid dividends for Saban by allowing the Tide to get a look at several young studs from the 2012 recruiting class. 

    Receiver Amari Cooper plus running backs Yeldon and Drake continued to shine for the offense, but several newcomers were able to gain valuable experience on the defensive side of the ball. 

    Linebacker Tyler Hayes led the way with five tackles, and he was nearly equaled by safety Landon Collins’ four stops.

    Additionally, defensive tackle Darren Lake, linebacker Denzel Devall and corner Geno Smith all logged significant time and contributed to another dominant effort for the defense.  

Loser: Cory Henry, DE, FAU

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    Henry famously quipped about Alabama being overrated in the buildup before the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium (h/t Alex Scarborough, ESPN).   

    It only took three plays before A.J. McCarron connected with Kenny Bell on a short crossing route that the junior receiver would take 85 yards for a score.  

    It's hard to imagine what was going through his head as Alabama carved up the Owls defense for more than 300 yards in the first half in racing to a 30-0 lead at intermission.  

    While it’s admirable to have confidence in your team’s abilities, barking at the defending national champions is probably the last thing anyone should think of doing before facing Alabama.