Alabama limped to a 33-14 win over the Ole Miss Rebels on Sept. 29.
From the quarterback to the coaching staff, there were deficiencies across the board. While the Tide came away with a win and may retain its position atop the polls, Alabama did not walk to the locker room smiling.
The kids knew what was about to happen, and nobody was looking forward to it. Well, almost nobody. There is one aspect of the game that performed at a championship level.
Read on to find out who passed, who excelled and who is really, really not looking forward to two weeks of practice after that performance.
A.J. McCarron went 22/30 for 180 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His stat sheet looks good, especially turning in a 73.3 completion percentage. However, he did not deftly move the Tide down the field.
He hit 10 different receivers, showing that he definitely has great eyes. He also was bailed out by his receivers a good bit, as he was uncharacteristically off-target against the Rebels. The zero-turnover stat kept his performance out of the "C" range, but he did recover his own fumble to save that stat.
Running Backs: C
Alabama's rushing yardage barely made it over 100, and the Tide registered a whopping 125 yards on the ground. Eddie Lacy averaged 4.3 yards per carry, and T.J. Yeldon averaged 3.8 himself. The lack of success on the ground wasn't completely the tailbacks' fault, though, and we will cover that more very soon.
Basically, the running backs did what they could with what they were given. They didn't do much to take anything from Ole Miss on their own, though.
Wide Receivers: A
Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones all averaged around 10 yards per catch. Cooper was basically a one-man show out there at times, snagging eight of McCarron's 22 completions. Tide fans eager to see what Cooper could do certainly got that opportunity tonight, but it was marred by mediocre play all over the rest of the gridiron.
The wideouts caught the passes that were thrown correctly. Cooper had a snag (pictured) that was downright impressive. The incompletions were almost exclusively due to errant throws. McCarron was a little bit off during this game.
Tight Ends: D+
Brian Vogler caught a pass to put the tight ends on the board for the night. It was for five yards. In the meantime, the receivers and running backs were constantly running to the edges only to find the out-of-bounds line greeting them. No offensive play gained more than 23 yards for Alabama.
The fact that no one was sprung from screen passes to the end zone falls on the tight ends and other receivers. Much more responsibility is on the ends, though, since the other receivers should be running their own routes.
Offensive Line: D+
The offensive line looked nothing close to the greatest in the country. They couldn't punch a hole in the Rebels' defensive line. On the off chance that a tailback or receiver actually found a hole, he was having to push his blockers forward to gain ground. The Tide stood in its own way far more than Ole Miss did.
The Tide's running game is almost a trademark right now. The trademark's stock went down during this game. Alabama regularly produces a 100-yard rusher, and sometimes produces two in one game. The entire corps of tailbacks combined to produce just 125.
Defensive Line: C-
The defensive line showed flashes of greatness and contributed greatly to holding the Ole Miss team to less than 100 yards on the ground. However, stopping the Rebels seemed to be an exercise in futility. The front did push the line of scrimmage back almost at-will, though and contributed to the fact that Ole Miss had no ground game.
Also, the Rebels' quarterbacks were sacked four times, which couldn't have been done without solid play from the line. The line has much to improve before trekking out to Missouri in a couple of weeks.
The Tide linebackers contributed to the four-sack total against the Rebels, and generally did a decent job of putting pressure on the passer. The issue wasn't with the successes, though, it was with the failures. Every time you turned around, the chains were being moved and Ole Miss was smiling.
The Tide missed tackles in the backfield a lot...well, a lot for Alabama anyway. The Tide's linebackers ran a clinic in Tuscaloosa, but it wasn't one that you'd pay to attend.
Defensive Backs: C
The secondary was tested tonight, and it passed. It passed, but not with flying colors. The great news was that the backs consistently redeemed themselves with interceptions, big tackles and great pass break-ups.
The bad news was that they were also putting themselves in situations where they needed redemption. While the overall grade is fair, the play was not consistently at grade-level.
While this was a win, a repeat performance by this part of the defense would spell doom at Tennessee.
The picture says it all.
Special Teams: A+
This year's unit is a far cry from last year's. While last year's special teams squad brought groans from the crowd when it stepped onto the field, the 2012 corps is the shining beacon of light that Alabama could have used in 2011. Jeremy Shelley kicked four field goals and three extra points, and he did not miss a single one.
Alabama only had one punt returned, and it was for a measly 10 yards. Kickoffs were almost identical, with one being returned for 15 yards. All other kickoffs were touchbacks, and all other punts were not returnable.
Christion Jones had 142 yards on three returns, one of which was a 99-yard house call. Dee Hart had two returns, one for 22 yards and one not returnable.
Saban doesn't look happy...uh-oh.
Whether it was player execution or not, coaches bear the responsibility. While the coaches know what plays to call to be successful, especially at Alabama, they must be willing to alter the plotted course if the players display an inability to execute the plan properly.
There were very few adjustments made throughout the game. If there were, they were not evident. The Tide looked like every team across the nation this week, not like the top-ranked reigning national champion.
Saban has a system that works, and it's the best in the nation. However, when the execution isn't there, a coaching audible must be in place. If your team seems to have zero answers in the plan, consult the playbook. The coordinators failed to adjust on-the-fly, and the 19-point victory just looked bad.
Granted, it's still a victory and the Tide remains undefeated. Just remember that the Tide just offered up about 30 minutes of game tape that shows Tyler Bray and Derek Dooley how to score points.