Grading The Crimson Tide Week 1 Against Virginia Tech
Saturday night the Alabama fans got to see a glimpse of what the Crimson Tide season will be like. The defense played great and the offense played pretty well.
The offensive line played well overall. They went up against one of the best front sevens in college football and were shaky at first but settled down and wore them down in the second half of the game. They gave Mcelroy time to throw the ball effectively and allowed the running backs to run all over the stout hokie defense. On the down side, Greg Mcelroy did have to run for his life in the first quarter until they got the butterflies out and the running backs didn't see past the line of scrimmage until the second quarter.
The wide receivers stepped up and finally showed that 'Bama has more than just Julio Jones to throw to. Maze led all receivers with 57 yards receiving including a clutch 48 yard catch in the fourth quarter to get the ball down to the Va. Tech 4 yard line that set up a go ahead score. Darius Hanks made some great catches and was the second leading receiver with 55 yards and showed that he too can be counted on to get open and contribute. The receivers also contributed in the fourth quarter by sealing off the cornerbacks so that the running backs could turn the corners and get huge chunks of yards.
The running backs were spectacular against this stingy Hokie defense. Mark Ingram got the nod to start and led all rushers with 150 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He also had 35 yards receiving and another touchdown. A healthy Roy Upchurch also rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown. The other 2 backs that got to see playing time, Grant and Richardson, contributed another 12 yards towards the end of the game to help eat the clock and seal the game.
Quarterback Greg Mcelroy showed some early game jitters but half way thru the second quarter finally settled down and started playing like the quarterback that 'Bama fans knew he could. He finished the game completing 15/30 passes for 230 yards, a touchdown and 1 costly interception inside Alabama's red zone that led to a Hokie touchdown. He also had 28 yards rushing when the Hokies left the middle of the field open for him to scramble. Overall he played better than expected against one of the best coached teams in all of the land.
The defensive line played very well. Alabama only allowed 64 yards rushing to Tech and kept pressure on Tyrod Taylor all night long. Even when Cody was on the bench They found ways to stop the Hokie offense from doing anything productive and stopping Taylor from being able to beat the Tide. They sacked Taylor 5 times including one that sealed the game with 2 minutes left to play.
The highly touted linebackers helped slow down the rushing attack with the exception of a couple long runs and 1 touchdown run by the Hokies' Williams. Mcclain also had one bad penalty that was costly because Tech eventually scored on that drive. In the end though they were a big part of keeping the Hokies to 150 total yards of offense and keeping Taylor running scared all night.
The secondary played a heck of a game. With the exception of one blown coverage play that allowed Va. Tech to get inside the 'Bama 5, they shut down the Hokie wide receivers. They didn't intercept Taylor but they batted several pass attempts and forced Taylor to beat the Tide with his legs. The running back had 42 yards receiving but none of the Tech receivers had more than 19 yards receiving.
Special teams play left something to be desired at times but came up with two huge turnovers thanks to two sloppy plays by the Hokies. The Hokies returned one kick return for a 95 yard touchdown in the first quarter and only allowed Arenas to have 35 punt return yards and 55 yards on kick off returns. They did help 'Bama out by muffing two punts. Alabama did a great job of not allowing Tech to pressure Fitzgerald and only allowed the hokies 11 punt return yards.
The coaching staff did a good job defensively of keeping the Hokies in check and not letting Taylor feel comfortable in the pocket all night. They mixed up the looks well and had their players ready to play. The offense looked bad at times. I didn't understand why the "wild elephant", or whatever you would like to call the formation, was even brought into the mix. It only worked for positive yards one time the whole game in the fourth quarter and the Hokies brought everyone up to the line every time 'Bama called it. The only way it would have been effective is if Star Jackson lined up at quarterback and Mcelroy at wide out. That way the defense would at least have to respect some sort of a pass attempt. The coaches also did a good job of finally building Mcelroy's confidence halfway thru the second quarter by letting him throw quick passes to get rid of the ball faster and finally getting the running game going.
Overall it was a well played game by the Crimson Tide. They started the regular season just like they left it last year. They also didn't wear down in the second half of the game, but instead wore the Hokies down and started to pull away.
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