Alabama football: PlayStation passing game saving Tide defense
The numbers are so insane, every week, they’re almost desensitizing.
Another record-setting game from a quarterback who is re-writing school history with every release from his left arm.
A receiver considered only to be the third-best first-round draft pick in a couple months strikes an NFL veteran’s name from the record book in a single afternoon.
That second-ranked Alabama torched Ole Miss 59-31 on Saturday wasn’t all that surprising. Entering the game as a 37.5-point favorite according to our friends in the desert, anything short of a blowout Crimson Tide victory would have been virtually unprecedented. Even the Rebels’ brief first-quarter 10-7 lead that might’ve raised an eyebrow to casual observers was met by a collective yawn by the Crimson Tide offense.
They knew what was coming. They know they have the best PlayStation controller ever made and all the cheat codes on their side.
Because Tua Tagovailoa is a human cheat code. He has the Sony DualShock 4 hard-wired to his left arm. And now that Tagovailoa has a third game-changing WR to choose from, well, the rest of the SEC might as well shut it down.
DeVonta Smith introduced himself to the nationwide stage — again — Saturday against the hapless Rebels, coming within 3 yards of breaking Amari Cooper’s Alabama single-game record for receiving yards … in the first half. By the time Smith snapped Cooper’s record, via a spectacular 27-yard catch for his school-record fifth touchdown reception of the day, the game’s actual result was already locked up.
Smith finished with 11 receptions and 274 yards, all obviously personal records as well for the junior who has at times been overshadowed this season by Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Never mind that he was on the business end of the 2nd-and-26 TD pass against Georgia two years ago for Alabama’s 17th national championship and will likely be a first-round draft pick in the spring…
“We don’t say Smitty is going to have 11 catches today for 200 something yards. We don’t say that Jerry Jeudy is going to catch eight passes today for 80 something yards. You read what the defense does when you have a pass play, and then you decide which guy you are supposed to throw the ball to base on the coverages that they are playing,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Some days Ruggs makes big plays. Some days Smitty makes big plays. Some days Jerry Jeudy makes big plays.
“Smitty did a great job of running after the catch today on a couple of those big plays. He made a great catch on the fade ball in the end zone. Smitty is a very, very good player. He is a hard worker, and he got his today. He had opportunities, and he got them. We had a couple other opportunities with some other players, and we missed on some big plays, which hopefully we will be able to make those in the future.”
But the guy who pitched the pill to Smith on Saturday, and against the Bulldogs two years ago, isn’t bad either. Tagovailoa’s six touchdown passes Saturday broke the mark of five (a school record which he had tied three times including each of the previous two games). Tagovailoa also broke AJ McCarron’s Bama career record of 80 TDs responsible for and tied McCarron’s career record of 77 TD passes.
Tagovailoa’s junior-season numbers are sick: 1,718 passing yards, 23 TD passes, zero interceptions. Add three rushing touchdowns and you have the best statistical effort through five weeks in America of anyone not named Jalen Hurts.
“I don’t think it says too much about me; I think it says a lot about the guys that I’m surrounded with,” Tagovailoa said.
It is a good thing for Alabama that it basically scored at will Saturday against the Rebels, because Ole Miss gashed the Crimson Tide defense on the ground. Freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee rushed for 109 yards to lead the Rebels to 279 yards on the ground.
“We are not really satisfied with the way we are playing defense right now, especially today,” Saban said. “Especially not being able to stop the run effectively, which is something we have always been able to do around here pretty well. I think that’s a team thing. I don’t think it’s about the defensive line or just about the linebackers. It’s how you play on the perimeter, how you tackle on the perimeter, how you contain the ball, how you run to the ball. We need to improve.”
Just as Alabama outscored South Carolina despite having to play 90 defensive plays, Saban and the Tide were disappointed that the defense was on the field for 88 plays Saturday.
“If you are really controlling the game, then that shouldn’t happen,” Saban said. “We need to do a better job in that area, although we have been very productive on offense, but if we play 20 more plays on defense every game that we play the cumulative effect of that is times 12, so that’s a lot of plays. That’s a lot of wear and tear on a lot of players. We have already lost some players and hopefully we will get a few of those guys back, maybe sometime later on.”