The defending champion Crimson Tide opened their season on Saturday against a mediocre Virginia Tech squad at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Although Alabama was able to prevail convincingly, the 35-10 score didn’t reflect the level of play Nick Saban and company are accustomed to. We’ll take a look at what the Tide did well, what they did not so well, and what was just flat-out ugly.
Alabama won the opening coin toss and elected to defer. After a quick three-and-out, junior wide receiver Christion Jones scored on an electrifying 72-yard punt return that sent the crowd wild. Later in the game, Jones became the first Alabama player in over 70 years to score on two return touchdowns in one game after a 94-yard kickoff return. He also grabbed a 38-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron late in the third quarter. Jones was definitely the star of the day.
Although Virginia Tech’s offense did outgain Alabama’s, the Tide defense only allowed 212 yards and limited quarterback Logan Thomas to a horrendous 19% completion percentage. Take away Trey Edmunds’ 77-yard blast and they only allowed 135 yards, even though that run alone didn’t leave Saban too happy.
There wasn’t one particular defensive player that stood out, although Vinnie Sunseri did pick off Thomas for a short touchdown. Sunseri has proven in the last year that although he may not have the prototypical football build, his instincts and nose for the ball are unmatched.
There are a handful of players or groups to choose from in this category, as Nick Saban and most Crimson Tide faithful were not too pleased with the team’s overall performance. But the winner of the bad category goes to quarterback AJ McCarron. While I’ll be the first to say McCarron wasn’t given much help, he is the leader of this team and did nothing to prove that tonight.
Many analysts see him as a potential Heisman candidate this season, but he’s going to have to take a huge step from Saturday for that to be within the realm of possibilities. McCarron finished 10 of 23 passing with 110 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Keep in mind that he only threw three interceptions in all of 2012, with his first coming against Texas A&M in November.
The overwhelming “ugly” aspect of this game for Alabama was the horrendous offensive line. From start to finish, the line played poorly. Virginia Tech did a great job of shifting players around, confusing the fairly inexperienced Alabama players.
Particularly unimpressive to me were left guard Arie Kouandijo, brother of left tackle Cyrus, and center Ryan Kelly. They were constantly pushed around, leaving AJ McCarron to scramble around helplessly and not helping running back TJ Yeldon find holes to burst through.
I’ll say and believe the struggles are just early season jitters, but they will need to play a lot better than that if they want to beat Johnny Football and Texas A&M in two weeks in College Station.