I’m sure I’ll never live to know how Gus Malzhan manages to successfully pull so many complete “BS” plays successfully. Pardon my French but there is simply no other word I can think of to describe what he does. How much of this is brilliance and how much is successful just because the plays are so stupid nobody can possibly prepare for them I do not know. Even with the lucky horse shoe planted firmly in his backside there are simply not enough trick plays that are going actually work to win a game against Alabama when the rest of your team is not up to snuff. The halfback pass for the touchdown was on us, It was obvious to everyone in the stadium except to outside linebacker Christian Miller who was supposed to cover the guy who scored. It’s worth noting that though Alabama’s defenders have improved dramatically most are still starting for the first time including Miller who lost last season to injury. The other ridiculous play was a massively under thrown pass that should have been picked off but ended up being caught because the defensive back was caught so off guard by the lame duck throw that he was not in the same zip code of where it came down. And YES, the long touchdown run was called back because they held our man in the hole, not because of anything else. Bottom line is that without a bell cow running back, a good offensive line and a super athletic quarterback Gus’s offense doens’t work. But when you think about it, if you had all those things, what offense would NOT work. Gus is no offensive genius. A Genius makes things go when all the pieces are NOT there.
The only reason Gus even has a job is because of Auburn’s defense which is run by former Tide assistant Kevin Steele. Mississippi State started the trend of playing Alabama man to man eliminating the zone holes that Tua was exploiting earlier. For a half this worked because Auburn was able to cut off or just flat out hold our receivers on the deep routes and Tua was not adjusting. We forget sometimes that he’s still learning. At the half they adjusted the routes he was choosing and the slight adjustment proved too much for Auburn to handle and the offense exploded for four second half touchdowns.
Tua and the receivers have been beaten up since the LSU game and they are all just now rounding back into shape. They are capable of exploding on anybody at any time and there really isn’t anything they can do if they are “ON”. If these guys could be more consistent it might get almost ridiculous how good they could be.
Defensively aside from the fluke plays from Auburn Alabama more or less stopped Auburn. Gus Malzhan was so convinced his quarterback could not pass on Alabama that he didn’t even try. To their credit they did get some traction running the ball between the 20’s but in the red zone things tightened up. After the flurry of 3rd quarter points by Alabama they seemed to essentially give up, playing only to not lose worse.
Some defensive notables, last year Dylan Moses made his second start against Auburn in a season where he was supposed to redshirt. The inexplicable rash of injuries at linebacker forced the young player into action way too early and he took his lumps in the Iron Bowl. That was then and now Moses is a veteran linebacker with a full season starting under his belt and his significant athletic ability is starting to truly shine through. His 9 tackles was a team high and he was able to run down anybody with an Auburn helmet.
Early in the game Auburn seemed to be hell bent on just hurting as many Alabama players as possible. They cheap shotted a few of our players and I think it did have the effect of slowing Alabama down. Senior Isaiah Buggs starting his final game at Bryant Denny had his day cut short when an Auburn lineman dove into his knee hyper extending it. Luckily the tests were negative and he should be good to go next week. Freshman receiver Jaylen Waddle nearly got his head taken off by an Auburn player when he leveled him AFTER Waddle signaled for a fair catch. The Auburn player should have been ejected for the hit I have no idea why he wasn’t.
In wake of the Buggs injury LeBryan Ray came in and had his best day yet with 9 tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack. Ray had looked good late in his freshman season before breaking a foot and I was expecting him to come on this year. He showed up this fall bigger than last year and I think it took him a while to settle into his new playing weight. He played sparingly until the LSU game but started subbing more and more and against Auburn he showed he is ready for prime time with a Steller performance.
Unfortunately Alabama lost dime back Jared Mayden on a legit targeting call. He will be benched the 1st half of the SEC Title game. The secondary struggled to adjust somewhat after losing Mayden but settled down a little later. Keaton Anderson came in to replace Mayden. Anderson is a special teams ace who i’m not completely certain has a scholarship. His family owns this little store called “Books-0-Million” so money is not really a driving force with them and Anderson was not a blue chip recruit. At Florence, AL he had a great high school career but does not have the usual measurables of a Saban recruit. I think Saban signs guys like this sometimes because having a class full of nothing but five start talent does not always end up working. Look for Georgia to target him when Alabama goes to the dime package but with a week to prepare hopefully he will justify Saban’s faith in bringing him in.
Offensively Alabama’s interior guards were both nursing injuries and they did not get much in the way of movement in the run game and the rushing yards were pretty forgettable by Alabama standards. Auburn’s defensive line is one of the better units in the country so this had something to do with it as well. Hopefully with another week to heal the run game will pick up a little in Atlanta.
Finally in the feel good moment of the day Jalen Hurts made what will surely be his final appearance at Bryant Denny. After struggling to cope with losing his job he bounced back and really has had a good year throwing the ball in relief of Tua. He entered the game and his final pass at Bryant Denny was a perfect pass over the middle that Jaylen Waddle turned into a 53 yard soul crushing touchdown to essentially kill any more thoughts of miracle finishes from the Auburn Tigers. He began the year with possibly his career being over but after showing himself as a real passer he will have many good choices of where to spend his final season of College Football. I for one hope he goes somewhere that we do not have to face him but chances are good that we will eventually see him lined up across from us next season.
Circling back to Tua Tagovailoa with a record setting day throwing or running for 6 touchdowns and over 300 yards passing. Tua’s only serious competition for the Heisman is Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray who threw for similar yardage and 4 touchdowns. This was against a terrible West Virginia defense vs the Auburn defense which is considerably better. Most people suggest that with this Iron Bowl performance Tua probably sewed up the Heisman but technically the ballots won’ be turned in until after the SEC title game. I honestly never believed I would live to see the day an Alabama quarterback was being seriously considered for the Heisman. But this extraordinary young man is redefining many things for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Aloha, and Roll Tide