Alabama Football fans most likely left Bryant-Denny Stadium enjoying singing Dixieland Delight and yet again beating another unranked opponent. However, the injuries sustained on the offensive side of the football are highly alarming if they linger into the meat of the upcoming schedule.
If Alabama football fans didn’t understand how special Tua Tagovailoa’s presence is on the field, they got a small taste Saturday. Tagovailoa’s ability to spread the defense out across the field opens up the running game and enables the passing game to be utterly dominant. However, Tagovailoa’s injury is truly only a concern if he cannot play. Coach Nick Saban stated in his press conference Tua was fine, which is a huge sigh of relief from Alabama football fans. There are three other main concerns that presented themselves in Saturday night’s win over the Missouri Tigers: Injuries, red zone inefficiencies, and punting.
Besides Tua Tagovailoa’s injury, the hamstring of DeVonta Smith and leg of Henry Ruggs III is of critical importance to Alabama. Smith and Ruggs open the field and enable the lethality of Alabama’s offense to be on full display. In the first half against Missouri, the announcers pointed out multiple times that Jerry Jeudy was only in man to man coverage and not double teamed.
The reason for Jerry Jeudy being covered in only man to man is because Missouri still had to account for DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, Irv Smith Jr, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, etc. The talent in the wide receiving core and backfield is a tremendous factor of Alabama’s success. Alabama football needs a healthy Ruggs and Smith to continue having the level of sustained success from the first seven weeks of the season and force defenses into one to one coverages across the field.
Red Zone Inefficiencies
Even with Tua Tagovailoa on the field, there were some concerns with the offense. Mainly the ability to score touchdowns inside the red zone. Missouri was able to place Alabama into passing situations close to the goal line on third down and restrict the amount of the field their corners to cover. Their ability to provide enough pressure to force Tagovailoa to release the ball before the receivers could create space caused the offense to stall in scoring position.
It isn’t that Alabama played poorly. The Tide was still able to move the ball with authority into the red zone and put 30 points up in the first half on a very good and underrated Missouri team. It is the fact that Alabama could have played better. Change the three field goals in the red zone to touchdowns and Alabama could have easily scored 42 in the first half. Against stronger teams like LSU, missing touchdown opportunities and settling for field goals could cost the Tide.
Punter Skyler DeLong hasn’t punted since TAMU and it showed on Saturday night. His punt of only 12 yards put the Missouri offense in prime position to score. Alabama’s defense stepped up and forced a three and out. It wasn’t the first time that DeLong has shanked a punt for short yardage. Coach Saban has pointed out that the kicking game is mainly a mental battle. Alabama football fans need DeLong to win the mental battle in order to be a weapon, not a burden.
DeLong has shown the ability to blast 50-yard punts on multiple occasions. Alabama needs DeLong to first be consistent on every punt. In a close game where Alabama is pinned in its own end zone, they will need DeLong to not miss. The ability to give Alabama’s defense room to make a stop without allowing points is what the punting game has to be. In close games in the future, Alabama needs DeLong’s best each and every punt.
Looking Forward for Alabama Football
Going forward for the Tide it will encounter a hostile Knoxville crowd fresh off a confidence-boosting win at Auburn. Alabama football fans can expect to get the best shot from the Vols, and I expect to see some unique defensive coverages from Tennessee. Of all the defensive minds in the SEC, Jeremy Pruitt will know the most of any weaknesses with Tua Tagovailoa and how to exploit them. I believe Tennessee will give Alabama’s offense the toughest test yet because of Pruitt’s knowledge on the defensive front and familiarity with Alabama’s offensive schemes.
Comment below on what you saw in the Missouri game and any concerns you may have going forward. Also, make a prediction on the upcoming game versus the Volunteers in Knoxville.