All signs point to Derrick Henry having another Heisman moment in Starkville
The cowbells will surely be ringing in Starkville. There’s no doubt they’ll be deafening.
That’ll be on Saturday, though. Listen closely, and you’ll hear another kind of bell ringing right now. We’re still a day away, so it’s faint in the distance. However, it’s fast approaching, and it’s the only bell that’ll matter once 3:30 p.m. ET comes around.
That’s the train bell that will signal the arrival of Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who’s picked up steam while plowing through his last three obstacles with no sign of a conductor slowing him down.
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has only shoveled more and more coal into the 6-foot-3, 242-pounder’s furnace. Henry’s been fed an astounding 30.2 carries per game over the last five contests after only averaging 16.8 carries over the first four.
And why not?
Henry’s gone for at least 100 rushing yards in four of those five games, including 200-yard games in two of the last three. His career-high 236 rushing yards against Texas A&M and 210 yards last week against LSU mark two of the four highest single-game marks by an Alabama running back since Nick Saban took over the program in 2007.
All it takes is a moment of reflection to realize how impressive that feat is considering all the successful backs there have been in Tuscaloosa since Saban got the Tide rolling.
And I haven’t even typed a thing about his touchdowns yet, folks. In nine games this season, he has 17 touchdowns, a total topped by no one this season. And no team has been able to stop Henry from crossing the plane since LSU on Nov. 8 of last season. His streak of 14 straight games with a touchdown started the following week against none other than Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs didn’t exactly show they have what it takes to put the brakes on this monster last week. MSU allowed Missouri, which ranks 119th in the FBS with just 113.2 rushing yards per game, to go for a season-high 215.
Entering this week, Mississippi State is 10th in the SEC against the run, allowing 167.7 yards per game. Plus, the Bulldogs have allowed 53 runs of 10-plus yards. The only SEC schools to give up more are the much-maligned rush defenses of South Carolina (59) and Texas A&M (68).
Those aren’t exactly numbers that make one believe that Henry’s train is getting derailed in Starkville, especially with Henry and the offensive line running on the fuel of last week’s performance against LSU.
Alabama is simply rediscovering itself, going back to its smashmouth roots and whether anyone can plant a different seed in the mind of the Tide staff and force it to change course is the question now.
Earlier this season, a fan called into Saban’s weekly radio show and asked the coach whether it was time to go back to its run-heavy ways. Saban sympathized with the caller by saying that he’d love to, but the evolution of the game has forced offenses to be more varied in their approach.
The team has still shown the willingness to pass, but Henry is giving the team every reason to pound teams into submission. And on Saturday, Mississippi State has to be willing to tackle, but especially late. This season, the Bulldogs have given up 901 rushing yards in the second half, 12th in the SEC.
Hail State will bring the bells. However, it seems like an ideal week for Henry to keep making noise of his own.