Sorry it took me so long to post this blog, but the thing is, there really isn’t too much to say about the Duke game, and I wanted to wait until I got some more information related to this week’s Arkansas game before I posted this blog.That being said, I certainly don’t want to ignore the Duke game completely, especially since we posted our highest score total (62) in almost two decades.
I knew that Duke wouldn’t pose much of a threat, but I never dreamed that they would be as bad as they turned out to be.Seriously, I can’t remember a worse defense than what we saw on Saturday.For the majority of the game, I felt like we were playing against air.I’m not exaggerating when I say we could have put up 80 points if we wanted to.Ingram, Richardson, Lacy, even freshman Jalston Fowler absolutely shredded the Duke “defense” for big run after big run.McElroy felt little to no pressure throughout the game, and found open receivers streaking through the secondary at will.The encouraging thing is that we actually capitalized on having a weak opponent and put the game away early.I know I keep harping on this, but under Stallings/Shula we would have taken a 16-7 lead into the fourth quarter, and then taken our chances that the breaks would fall our way at the end.We played an inferior opponent and beat them soundly, and that’s all we could hope for against Duke.
I’m not oblivious to our defensive issues, and I want to address them here, mainly because we’re facing one of the most fearsome offenses in the nation this week.You’re not imagining things if you feel like our defense is lacking something.Sure, you can point towards our points per game and say we’re doing great, but the truth is, we are vulnerable on that side of the ball right now.We have several problems stemming from all areas of our defense.The defensive line sorely misses Mount Cody.People mistakenly point to his tackle total and say he wasn’t that important, but that’s very short-sided.Cody clogged up the middle, effectively taking away inside runs and freeing up the LBs and DEs to pursue the outside runs (or to blitz through the middle since Cody was occupying two offensive linemen).We also miss the pass rush that Eryk Anders was able to provide from the Jack position.If Upshaw can get healthy, I think that will help somewhat in this aspect.Also, as much as I hate to say it, Hightower seems to be a step slow compared to last year.Maybe he hasn’t fully recovered from last year’s knee injury; I don’t know, but clearly he doesn’t appear to be the same LB that we saw terrorizing opposing offenses early last year.Finally, our secondary is leaving open receivers at an alarming rate.A lot of that has to do with the lack of a pass rush, and a lot of that has to do with how young they are.There is a lot of talent back there, but it clearly hasn’t gelled just yet.
I have heard a few things that I think are encouraging.First, I have heard that Jerrell Harris has moved from the Will back to the Sam linebacker position, which is where I think he fits best with his extreme athleticism.That frees up the Will position for Nico Johnson, who has looked very good coming off the bench so far this year, and I think will be solid paired with Dont’a in the middle.Hopefully Upshaw will be healthy enough to at least share time at the Jack linebacker position with Stinson.Harris, Hightower, Johnson, and Upshaw would be a rock solid linebacking corps.Alternatively, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mosely get some more time at the Mike, freeing up Hightower to move to rush end or Jack.And don’t forget, Marcel Dareus is back, and after shaking off the first game rust, he should make a huge difference going forward.
We’ll know if these improvements are good enough soon, because this week, we play the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville.To put this game in perspective, when Petrino took the Arkansas job, and Mallett transferred from Michigan to Arkansas, I immediately started to worry about this game.This one is going to be an absolute bloodbath.They have the best QB in the nation, and the best offensive coach in the nation.They have top tier WRs across the board, an All-American TE, and an almost unstoppable offensive scheme.And if you think that anything they can do on offense we can match, they’ve improved dramatically on defense.And to top it off, they are at least two TDs better at home, and this will be the most fired-up crowd in their history.I’m not crying wolf here.The good news is that any questions we have about our team will be answered on Saturday.Can our defense step it up against a great offense?Can our offense look as good as they have against a much better defense?Can we score a ton of points knowing that we likely will have to score 30+ points to win?Can our freshmen kickers make clutch kicks knowing how important each point will be?Can we pressure the QB knowing that is likely the only way to stop him?To all of these, we’ll know the answers on Saturday.I honestly do believe we’ll win the game, but it will take an effort similar to the one we saw against Florida in last year’s SEC Championship game.I just hope we have another game like that in us.
That’s it for now.Send all your good vibes to Arkansas on Saturday, and buckle in for a heck of a game.As always, feel free to send me any questions or comments.Until next time, Roll Tide!