Instant Analysis: Alabama vs. Florida International

David KutschCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2009

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Greg McElroy #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks upfield against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The No. 4 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide knocked off the Golden Panthers of FIU at a jam-packed Bryant-Denny Stadium by a score of 40-14.  And while FIU held the lead briefly in the first half, the outcome was never really going to be anything other an Alabama victory.  Let's take a look inside the numbers.

Once again the Alabama offense rolled up huge numbers against their opponent.  Greg McElroy was an efficient 18 of 24 for 241 yards and a score, while the Tide gained a whopping 275 yards on the ground and added another four touchdowns.  That is a total of 516 yards of offense.  

However, once again, kickoff coverage was horrible.

If you are keeping score at home, that's a total of 1014 yards gained in two games.  Not too shabby for an offense with a rebuilt offensive line and brand new starter at the helm.

The Alabama defense held FIU to just 214 total yards (213 passing and one yard rushing) while sacking quarterback McCall five times and coming up with a well-timed pick midway through the fourth quarter.

Can you say improved pass rush?

Did I mention that the kickoff coverage was horrible?

As for special teams, kicker Leigh Tiffin was a solid two of three in field goal attempts.  Return-man-not-to-be-called-return-specialist Javier Arenas was electrifying with four punt returns for 101 yards.  However, as in the game last week, the kickoff coverage was horrible. 

After taking a 10 - 0 lead, FIU's T.Y. Hilton took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards virtually untouched into the end zone.

Sensing a theme here? 

I'm sure by now I have mentioned that kickoff coverage was HORRIBLE!  

Also like last week's game, the Alabama defense gave up a couple big plays on bonehead penalties and blown coverage. 

This was a game that Alabama dominated statistically but allowed the Golden Panthers to hang around early because of mistakes.  If those can be cleaned up—and I think they will be—this team is only going to get better.

I think it bears saying again—the kickoff coverage was HORRIBLE!

It's early in the season but Alabama has answered the questions directed at them with regards to perceived holes on the team.  The quarterback and offensive line play has been excellent and the defensive pass rush has been nothing short of phenomenal. 

Consider that Alabama has already played a top 10 opponent that specializes in defense and the Tide's overall play has been outstanding.

Let's break down each unit, shall we?

Alabama offense - Grade: B+

As I already mentioned, Greg McElroy looked great in his first official start at quarterback for Alabama this season.  His numbers were solid and he seemed to make good decisions with the football all game long.  He also set the Alabama record for most consecutive completions in a single game with 15. 

The line surrendered just one sack, but protected McElroy very well for the most part which allowed him to be so efficient.  The big uglies also opened up many a hole in the FIU front.  Which brings me to...

Trent Richardson looked like the stud he was expected to be and got his first and second touchdowns in an Alabama uniform while rushing for 118 yards on just 15 carries.  Mark Ingram and Terry Grant added another 125 yards combined and a score each.

The receiving corps played solid, too.  Mike McCoy stepped up when Julio Jones went down early with a knee injury (after dropping a sure TD pass) pulling in 5 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.  Quarterback Greg McElroy spread the ball around so well that ten different Tide receivers had at least one catch.

More silly penalties in the red zone kept this team from scoring more points, though.  That has to stop.

Alabama defense - Grade: B-

Five sacks, one net yard rushing and allowing only 214 total yards is a pretty good night's work.  Any questions about Alabama's pass rush appear to have been answered and that front seven is just nasty against the run.  However, once again there were a couple of blown coverage plays and some bad penalties. 

And for God's sake would someone please teach the defensive backs how to look back for the football!

Alabama special teams - Grade: D

Javier Arenas had a nice night, returning four punts for just over a hundred yards.  Alabama's own punt coverage looked good, too, but the kickoff coverage was horrible.  Bobby Williams, Alabama's special teams coach, has some serious work to do if he is going to get his guys to stop letting teams back in ball games with bad play. 

Leigh Tiffin was two of three on field goal attempts but missed what appeared to be another easy kick.  He also shanked a kick off out of bounds.  Interestingly enough, that sounds about like a typical night for the senior who has somehow found his name on the Lou Groza Award watch list. 

Overall - Grade: B

Alabama moved the football early and often.  If they didn't shoot themselves in the foot in the red zone this game could have been much uglier for FIU.  The ground game was there, especially late in the match when Alabama needed it the most.

All in all this game went exactly as I expected it to.  It was close early and then the Tide pulled away in the second half by wearing down the Golden Panthers defense by punishing them on every snap.

And that goes for both sides of the ball, too. 

The defense tallied the five sacks but knocked FIU quarterback McCall down all night long.  I actually started to feel bad for the guy.

After making adjustments at halftime, Alabama pretty much eliminated the drag route over the middle FIU had been using as a safety valve when Tide linemen found their way into the backfield to hurry McCall.  Yet another solid performance by the Alabama defense.

I won't break down FIU since I didn't do a preview of this matchup.  You can expect the same thing for next week's opponent—North Texas.

So there it is, folks.  Alabama played their brand of football and once again came away with a nice, cozy victory.  Straighten out the issues over the next couple weeks to get ready for the meat of the SEC schedule and Alabama is going to be making lots of noise in the national title picture.

Comments are, as always, welcome.

Roll Tide!


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