To preface I’ve made a conscious effort to try and learn more about football this season. To try and find out why things happen instead of just celebrating or complaining when they do happen. As mentioned last week, I’m also an organization development/process kind of person. Football is a process involving personnel, scheme, and execution and I’m trying hard to learn about all three.
Just got done re-watching the game and man. There’s so much to talk about. So many beautiful things that we did, and ways that we grew as a team. I’ll do the offense in this one and then we’ll get to the defense and special teams in a separate article.
My frustration with Zach for the past few weeks has nothing to do with ability. He’s always been able to make all the throws, and as mentioned last week if you put him on a whiteboard he can tell you where the ball needs to go every time. But when the lights come on and its live fire, over the past couple of weeks everything just went away and left the kid struggling.
This is particularly difficult because Jimbo is notoriously stubborn about his offense...and he made changes against Miss. State to give Zach easier throws but we still struggle. Coming into Bama it seemed like an impossible task to get those two (Zach and Jimbo) on the same page...but wouldn't you know it happened.
We’ve never used much pre-snap motion to help the QB identify what the coverage is and also generate the matchups we want to see—even though it’s a pretty easy thing to do. But this week we did and man did it pay off. We moved Ainias all over the backfield, which helped Zach see coverages better and know where to go with the ball. Jalen Wydermyer wide open for a first down in the first quarter? Off motion. Touchdown pass to Ainias? Off motion. BEAUTIFUL pass to Achane on the sideline in the 2nd Q? OFF MFING MOTION! Motion and misdirection played a huge role in getting Zach comfortable early in the game and it represented a new wrinkle in this offense. The only thing I didn't like was that we tried to run a sweep with Ainias on 2nd and 6—I dont think you can run that play against a team with as much speed as Bama but that’s a nitpicky thing.
All season long we’ve needed guys to step up and help Zach out. It seemed unfair to put the onus of this offense being successful on a guy who was brought in completely cold instead of on guys like Wydermyer, Smith, and Spiller (who has absolutely done his part)
The stars stepped up in a big way during this game. We found a matchup that we loved with Ainias going up against #14 all night and we exploited it to the tune of Smith having 6 catches for 85 yards. You never seem to find guys wide open in this offense, but somehow we had those this weekend because 1) we were dictating the matchups we wanted (through motion) and 2) our guys were winning their 1:1 battles. Wydermyer had his best game by finding holes in the defense, or in busted coverage and just making stuff happen. Spiller is an NFL back right now. I said last week that he needs 25 touches every game, and this week we got him 21 which was closer than he had been in weeks past. The stars stepped up in a big way.
We had a violation of team rules (according to Jimbo) prior to the game so we came out with yet another new lineup on the OL with Green, Trainor, Foster, Robinson, and Fatheree. I believe we saw this same line up against Arkansas and had some success with it and so help me if we go away from this line up the rest of the year I’ll be pretty upset. The run game wasn't as productive as we wanted it to be, but Zach had time to make his throws and thanks too to the aforementioned motion letting him know where to go with the ball, he didn't take a single sack. We only had 1 miscommunication between C/G or G/T that went for a loss which is such an improvement over last week.
Moreover, Wydermyer blocked his ass off tonight. Great night for the front 5/6.
Let’s not worry about the rest of the season just yet. The game slowed down for Zach tonight and we got to see what he could really do. All season long we’ve been asking him to trust his eyes, set his feet and make decisive throws and man did he do that tonight. Dude was firing bullets all over the field. That throw to Spiller to extend the drive in the fourth was a thing of beauty, and he’s demonstrated three times now (once against Colorado with that TD and twice now against Alabama) that he can drop the ball over the shoulder into the RBs arms.
Complimentary football means something and QB is a momentum-generated position. Against Miss. State our first play was a run for a loss putting us immediately behind the sticks. Everyone gets jumpy when that happens. This game our first play was a big pick up by Spiller followed by an even bigger pick by Spiller. When you know your RBs are eating up yards and your OL is eating up people, it’s easy to have a little confidence as a QB.
Last thing on Zach. The throw that generated the pass interference penalty on our last drive to Wydermyer might be my favorite pass that he threw. You throw that too high and it becomes uncatchable. Try to fit it in and you risk the pass being broken up. Throw it behind him? Buddy that’s a PI all day long. Great play to basically seal the deal.
Zach found his moxie tonight. He stopped thinking so much and just started playing. Jimbo said something in the post game that he told Zach “if you know you’re gonna get hit why not make a good throw beforehand” and Zach did that, went into the medical tent, and then came back out and took off running for a first down. Less thinking more moxie. Great damn night for Zach.
379 yards is more than we’ve had for the past two weeks but it’s not some air-raid type offensive performance. But the bottom line is that we made plays when we needed to make them. We were efficient with the ball and more than anything the scheme was tweaked to put players in a position to be successful. We gave Zach easier pathways to reads and put our stars in position to make big plays. Despite losing the overall yardage battle (Bama had 522) and losing time of possession we did the simple things better than Alabama did and put the game away.
Next up—the defense and special teams. Man its so fun to write these things after a win.