Alabama Offense: This Is a Call to Arms

Jonathan Fravel@jfravel135Senior Analyst INovember 14, 2011

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarronGreg McWilliams/Getty Images

Most Alabama fans seem to be happy with the victory this weekend over Mississippi State, and rightfully so.

The Bulldogs are a formidable opponent despite their 1-5 record in the conference and 5-5 overall record in 2011. Dan Mullen is an excellent coach and does very well with the talent pool he inherited and has since attracted to StarkVegas.

But this article is not about Dan Mullen and what he has achieved. It's not about what the Alabama offense did or did not do against the MSU Bulldogs, but that is taken into consideration.

This treatise is about how the Alabama offense passing game is not yet consistent, it's off track and not up to par for a championship matchup. Not even close. AJ McCarron must improve or the post season will be a disaster. Can a championship be won without an effective passing game? Not likely, not this day and time.

While there have certainly been highlight moments in every game, AJ McCarron is not moving the Alabama offense down-field with any kind of regularity using his arm.

Without the screen pass, the Alabama quarterback and his receivers are incapable of repeated, deep-route connections resulting in meaningful, explosive plays. Moreover, the passing game is frequently responsible for positioning the offense in third-and-long, resulting in three-play possessions.

If this team wants to win a championship, as they have expressed, it simply has to be fixed. It is likely, as the regular season comes to a close, that the opportunity for a rematch with LSU could occur.

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STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 12:  Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks with quarterback AJ McCarron #10 during a timeout against Mississippi State on November 12, 2011 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty
Butch Dill/Getty Images

If that should happen, the end result will be the same if McCarron can't get a grip on the passing game and become a more consistent passer.

Even if Alabama plays another opponent in the postseason, the passing game will be an essential component for victory in a BCS game. Every other team that will compete in a BCS bowl has an effective, explosive passing game.  

After all, isn't that what a quarterback is supposed to bring to the table? Handing the ball to a tail back does require some athletic skill, even taking a snap from center is difficult for some, but ultimately, a quarterback should possess passing skills that cause alarm for the opposition.

Preferably, a look from the quarterback to the cornerbacks and safeties of the opposition should cause fear and trembling.

But even the lowest ranked defense in the SEC causes difficulty for the Alabama passing game. Miscues, passes thrown a step behind or in front of receivers result in incompletions or diving receptions, and stall further offensive progress.

Statistically, the passing game is respectable, but in the heat of battle against the best that the SEC offers defensively, it was found lacking and didn't show improvement during the following week against a mediocre MSU defense. It fact, it took a step backward.

Without a threatening passing game, any defense will simply load the box, stuff the gaps between the guards and tackles, making it difficult for even the best running back in all of college football to rush for three yards per carry.

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 12:  Tight end Michael Williams #89 of the Alabama Crimson Tide catches a pass and runs past linebacker Cameron Lawrence #10 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs for a a first down on November 12, 2011 at Davis Wade Stadium in Stark
Butch Dill/Getty Images

On Saturday night, McCarron completed 14 of 24 passes for 163 yards and threw one interception. Interestingly, the interception was eerily similar to the pick against LSU; a pass across the right side of the field to a tight end target. The pass had no zip, and was thrown in a nonchalant, high arching path.

Only this time, the pass was intercepted by a 6-2, 230-pound lumbering linebacker, not a sleek All-American cornerback. The end result was a 31-yard return to the Alabama four yard line.

If not for a great defensive stand, a lackluster MSU offensive series and a pitiful attempt at a field goal, the Bulldogs could have put at least three points on the board.

In fact, had the MSU kickers connected on two very makable field goals in the first half of play, they could have taken their team into the half down by only one point to the third-ranked team in the country. In the end, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy put the offense on their shoulders and carried the team to victory.

Richardson's 133 yards against MSU gives him seven of nine games over 100-yards rushing. Mark Ingram had nine during his Heisman campaign year in 2009. Richardson has 18 rushing touchdowns this season, 19 overall; Ingram had nine TDs on the year.

Add to that, 96 yards on 11 carries for Eddie Lacy for a whopping 8.7 yards per rush against the MSU defense. Simply put, Lacy is a beast and his input is essential to the offense. In fact, had he been used more in the game against LSU, the outcome would have been very likely in favor of Alabama.

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 12:  Running back Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs for a first down against Mississippi State in the first quarter on November 12, 2011 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Ge
Butch Dill/Getty Images

There is no more time in the season to improve. Sure, "you need to get better after every practice, after every game, and if you are not getting better you are losing ground."

It's the Alabama motto since Nick Saban has taken the reins of the Crimson Tide. But at this point in the season, the quarterback should be clicking on all cylinders, and it's just not happening for McCarron.

AJ gave Alabama fans a glimmer of hope with his second-half performance against Tennessee. But since then, the lights are dim and the play from the offensive leader has been mediocre, to say the least. His lack of focus and the costly fourth-quarter interception against LSU allowed for the game to be tied in regulation.

Saban's lack of confidence in his quarterback with more than a minute remaining in regulation, in the heat of battle, caused the head coach to make the decision to run out the clock and enter overtime against the Tigers.

It was a foreshadow of what to expect in the overtime session. Two incompletions and a sack led to a missed field goal and the rest is history.

Barrett Jones needs to heal and get back into the lineup. His help in pass protection is essential. The offensive line is not as deep as it should be but it is good enough to finish the season, barring any further setbacks by catastrophic injury.

The Kouandjio brothers, Arie and Cy, are healing from knee surgeries and will not be available for the remainder of the season.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 08:  Marquis Maze #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide congratulates Darius Hanks #15 after his touchdown reception against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tyler Love, what happened to you? John Michael Boswell, get with the program, you too are taking too long to mature. Austin Shepard and Kellen Williams have contributed, but they are young and inexperienced.

Chances for championship seasons are not to be looked upon lightly. They are opportunities that do not come often, even for a program like Alabama. It's time to seize the day and act like you want it, Alabama. With the best defense in the history of the program giving their all, it's time to step it up offensively.

AJ, Momma's calling and she's hollering because you have not lived up to expectations. You said you could do this job and do it well. Others bought into your compelling story and sold it to other Alabama fans.

This is your chance! Put your big-boy pants on and give your best on the field. Give this team a vertical passing game that threatens the opposition or get your backside off the field.

This offense can depend on Richardson and Lacy to perform at the highest level in the college game but it won't be enough against a championship caliber team.

McCarron needs to regain his confidence against Georgia Southern and Auburn before entering the postseason. But neither of those teams has a defense that will prepare the Alabama quarterback for the challenge ahead in the postseason.

If McCarron intends to end the season on a good note and lead this team to a BCS victory or shot at the National title, the time is now! This is a Call to Arms, AJ, and it's your arm that must get it done. 

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