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Alabama’s SECCG Breakdown: Locksley’s failure to run the ball cost the Tide early

Your eyes didn’t deceive you: of all the Alabama coaches and players on Saturday, Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley perhaps had the worst day of them all.

Before the game, I discussed with Dawg Sports the defensive line stats for the Georgia Bulldogs, and noted that they seemed to be particularly vulnerable to a patient, power-running game:

And [look at these] these defensive line splits — 111th in opponent line yards, 97th in standard rushing down defense, 110th in opponent rushing success rate, 78th in sack rate, 103rd in standard down sack rate. It’s the oddest disparity between eyeballs and stats I think we’ve ever encountered.

And how did the Tide game plan for a defensive line that generates a pass rush, but which can be bullied at the point of attack by an old-school approach?

Poorly.

Here is a breakdown of the plays Mike Locksley called on Saturday afternoon with Tua in the game. The abbreviations should be self-explanatory, and the rushing yardage is parenthetical. Game situation is listed below the drive chart:

Quarter One:

Drive One:
Harris – 5
Inc.
Harris – 14
Inc.
Sack
Interception

Georgia takes 7-0 lead

Drive Two:
Inc.
DH – 0
Inc.

Drive Three (Spills over into Second Quarter):
JJ – 3
Comp.
Comp.
Najee – 17
Sack
Inc.
JJ – 13
QBSNK – 0
JJ – 1 (TD)

Alabama 0 – Georgia 7

At the end of the first quarter, Alabama has squandered serviceable defensive play on two of three UGA series, in part by turning the ball over, giving up a sack, and then a three-and-out. Still, the backs touched the ball seven times and generated 53 yards on the ground. On a night where Tua was reinjured early, and already didn’t have his best stuff, a 35-carry game seemed to be what the doctor ordered. That was not to be.
Note: The backs have not had two carries in a row yet.

Quarter Two:

Alabama 7 – Georgia 7

Georgia takes 14-7 lead

Drive Four:
Comp.
Inc.
Inc.

Georgia takes 21-7 lead

Drive Five:
JJ – 59
DH – 4
DH – 11
QBSNK – 0
JJ – 1 (TD)

Alabama 14 – Georgia 21

Of all the aggravating first-half series, perhaps none was as bad as the uninspired three-and-out passing, trailing by just one score, after seeing that ‘Bama could have success going to the ground. That error was rectified on the next series, a must-answer score by the Tide — perhaps by a supportive pep talk from Coach Saban.

Going into halftime, a pattern had been established; the Tide was having great success running the ball, including a mansome five-play, all-rushing drive that cut a two-score deficit to just one touchdown. But, it would not be until the waning moments of the second quarter before Coach Locksley called two straight running plays to the Tide’s wealth of backs. And, the running backs only touched the ball four times in the period. For the half, Tide running backs would generate 128 yards on the ground

With the ball and momentum going to the Tide in the second half, these coaches now knew they could dominate the ‘Dawgs in the trenches. So, the lesson has been learned after two powerful scoring drives, right?

Wrong.

Quarter Three

Drive Six:
DH – 0
Inc.
Sack

Georgia takes 28-14 lead

Drive Seven:
JJ – 7
Inc.
JJ – 2

Georgia drives field, Hot Rod misses 30-yarder. 28-14 Georgia

Drive Eight:
Najee – 2
Comp.
Inc.
Comp.
Inc.
INT

Drive Nine:
Comp.
DH – 8
Comp.
Comp (TD, Waddle)

Alabama 21 – Georgia 28

As infuriating as the three-and-out in the second quarter was, perhaps there was no worse series than the one Coach Locksley called to begin the third half. Alabama emerged with a 7-yard pickup out of the gate — the ground game was still there. But, rather than playing for the first down and carrying that momentum over, Locksley again goes to the air, forcing the Tide into a 3rd and long-three that would come up just short. It absolutely deflated the team too, and Georgia proceeded to easily score on its next drive.

Literally nothing had been learned from the two successful first-half drives. And, the Tide would do it again and again. For the remainder of the third quarter, the backs only saw two more carries, despite averaging almost 5 yards per carry in the frame and racking up 147 yards on just 15 carries so far.

The Tide’s uphill climb got a lot steeper because of play-calling that killed the momentum of a half-ending score, a good defensive stop, and a missed UGA field goal.

Quarter Four:

Drive Nine:
Comp.
Inc.
Inc.
Inc.

Drive Ten:

Najee – 2
Comp.
Inc. (Tua gets hurt)

The rest, as they say, is history.

But, it should suffice it to say, that down the stretch, trailing by just one score with the Tide’s running quarterback in the game, that there was not a renewed dedication to running the ball with the backs — in fact, Najee had a two-yard carry and Damien had a one-yard tote. That’s it: The damage on the ground late was done on scrambles and draws and broken plays that Jalen Hurts made.


So, what do we take away from this? The Tide had 21 carries with its top three backs on the night, and rang up 150 yards on the ground. If you tell any coach in America that his feature back is going to average over seven yards per tote in a championship game, he feeds the hot hand, right?

It is damning that in the entire game, all 63 snaps by the offense, on only one occasion did Alabama run the ball consecutively with the running backs, and none of them occurred in the second half at all.

Perhaps Coach Locksley was distracted about his job prospects; perhaps it was bad initial game-planning by the staff. But, irrespective of those factors, it was 100% piss-poor adjustment once the whistle blew and the kick was underway. In fact, as the game wore on, even in a one-score situation, Locksley ran the ball less than when it was zero-zero — he made anti-adjustments, of sorts.

Alabama’s road does not get any easier after Georgia. Three of the four teams in the playoffs are in the Top 10 in total defense. And all four of these squads are in the top six of total offense. At this level of play, where championships are won and lost, where opponents attempt to force you into becoming one-dimensional, it makes little sense to do that job for them. Transcendent talent under center or not, balance will be required to bring home Number 18.

Clean it up, learn from it, RTDB and RTR.

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