Tide defense adjusts, beats Eagles

FOOTBALL

Back-and-forth battle goes to Bama

By Brett Hudson

Senior Sports Reporter

bbhudson@crimson.ua.edu

@Brett_Hudson

 

TUSCALOOSA| Georgia Southern is likely the only team in the FCS that can play withAlabama, and the Eagles showed just that, coming toTuscaloosaand hanging with the Crimson Tide for a good amount of time, but eventually falling by a final score of 45-21.

It was the game that many members of the fanbase expected in the first quarter, withAlabamaopening the game up with a Jeremy Shelley field goal after big plays from wide receiver Brandon Gibson and running back Trent Richardson.

The big plays continued for the Tide after Dre Kirkpatrick took a blocked field goal 55 yards to the end zone, which would giveAlabamathe 10-0 lead it took into the second quarter.

It was the second quarter where the Eagles finally executed well on the one biggest thing they brought that theAlabamadefense could not handle: the triple option attack.

“They do a really good job of running their offense, it’s a tough offense to prepare for,” head coach Nick Saban said. “It’s totally different than what we do on a day-to-day basis and we obviously didn’t execute the way we want to all the time.”

Defensive endDamion Squareadded, “It takes your athletes away. Your athletes really don’t matter because you have to play assignment football.”

The lack of execution paved the way for Eagles freshman running back Dominique Swope to have 126 rushing yards in the first half, including an 82 yard run on the first offensive play of the second quarter forGeorgiaSouthern.

“We’re all responsible for how they ran the ball on us,” Saban said. “We had a lot of guys hurt up front. We were down to three of four defensive linemen towards the end of the game.”

The defensive front was lacking after Nick Gentry was suspended for this game after violating team rules, Josh Chapman was held out because of his nagging knee injury, however Jesse Williams was able to play despite suffering from food poisoning on Friday night.

Saban added, “The biggest thing was, even though I thought the scout team did a really good job of giving us a look at this, it happens a lot faster than what you see in practice. The ball gets out on the perimeter quicker, the blockers get out there faster.”

Alabamafell back on another excellent second half performance to pull away from the Eagles.

“We did a much better job in the second half,” Saban said. “I thought our guys adapted and adjusted and did a good job in the second half.”

Alabamaheld Swope to only 27 second half yards and quarterback Jerick McKinnon to one rushing yard after getting 47 in the first half. What did hurt the Tide in the second half was kickoff coverage.

“Very disappointing on the kickoff return,” Saban said. “We had a guy that missed a tackle, a couple of guys got off of blocks the wrong way and the safeties were not in a good position. It just wasn’t good execution.”

What kept the Eagles from obtaining a lead in this game wasAlabama’s offense, which had one of its best games of the season. Quarterback AJ McCarron had 190 yards and three touchdowns through the air, finding seniors Gibson four times for 49 yards and Brad Smelley four times for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

Richardsonwas able to keep his Heisman trophy potential strong, with 175 net rushing yards and two touchdowns. Even more important was the fact thatAlabamadid not have a single turnover or punt againstGeorgiaSouthern.

“It was important that our offense did a fantastic job of controlling the ball,” Saban said. “They were always answering the bell and not allowing them to have the time of possession and that was really good for us.”