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September 13, 2009After picking apart the University of Alabama football team's 40-14 victory against Florida International on Saturday night, we're left with one overwhelming thought for which there may be no answer.
How on earth did Golden Panthers senior quarterback Paul McCall get out of bed the next day?
Maybe he was inspired by nightmares featuring Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower, Marcell Dareus and Lorenzo Washington.
Here are this week's honors followed by 10 things you may, or may not, have noticed about the game:
Player of the game: Junior quarterback Greg McElroy set an Alabama record with 14 consecutive completed passes, breaking the record of 12 set by John Parker Wilson and Andrew Zow. If it wasn't for a dropped pass in the end zone by sophomore Julio Jones, he could have started the game with 17 straight completions, making the record 19 with his two at the end of last week's Virginia Tech game.
Play of the game: True freshman running back Trent Richardson's 35-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter iced the game, but was also symbolic. Going through the left side no one touched him en route to the end zone. He finished with 118 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns as Alabama pounded out 275 rushing yards.
Hit of the game: There were a number to choose from, but nothing was nastier than sophomore defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and sophomore safety Mark Barron sandwiching quarterback Paul McCall at the end of a 5-yard run in the third quarter,
Statistic of the game: The Crimson Tide had 12 carries for 153 yards, a 12.75 average, in the fourth quarter. Alabama didn't attempt a single pass during the final 15 minutes.
Did you notice? Senior nose guard Terrence Cody was in the backfield along with junior tight end Preston Dial on sophomore running back Mark Ingram's 2-yard touchdown run to cap the Tide's most impressive drive. Keyed by senior Mike McCoy's 35-yard catch and Ingram's 16-yard carry, Alabama went 69 yards on five plays to quickly answer FIU's lone touchdown drive.
1. The injuries: It didn't appear that the injuries sustained by sophomore Julio Jones and senior Roy Upchurch were overly serious because both stayed on the field for at least another play. Jones took a helmet from senior cornerback Dezariah Johnson on his right knee on the end-around for 5 yards (a play we may never see him run again). Later on the same drive he had the drop in the end zone. Upchurch appeared to sprain his left ankle on his carry out of the Wildcat formation (more on that later), and on the subsequent play had some trouble moving and throwing a block. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Damion Square came down awkwardly on the previous play and went down with the knee injury when an FIU lineman gave him a high hit that he should have been able to shrug off.
2. McElroy's streak: It began with a 13-yard completion to senior tight end Colin Peek, who ran a crossing route with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter. The junior quarterback didn't miss until there was 8:23 to go in the third quarter - a span of 28:15 on the game clock. He completed passes to seven different players (Peek, Mike McCoy, Preston Dial, Ingram, Earl Alexander, Brad Smelley and Trent Richardson) for 199 yards until he wasn't able to connect with Marquis Maze in the end zone. Incidentally, Alabama receivers accumulated 135 yards after the catch, much better than last week's 57.
3. Sack attack: Alabama recorded five sacks, but seemed to have more with all the hits, nine pressures and two balls thrown away that were nearly intentional grounding. Interesting to note, the last sack came mid-way through the third quarter. The Tide's 10 sacks this season lead the nation along with Tulsa, although TCU is averaging eight (in one game), while Temple and Texas A&M are also averaging 5.0 (both have played just one game).
4. Red zone and third downs: Despite starting the game 16-of-17, McElroy didn't complete a third-down pass for a first down until after the streak was snapped, on an 11-yard completion to junior Darius Hanks in the third quarter. Overall he was 4-for-6 on third downs, but just the one time for a first down. Alabama also had some trouble in the red zone (inside the 20), with 51 yards on 12 plays for a 4.25 average, almost half of what it did the rest of the field, 8.61. McElroy was 2-for-3 in the red zone for 16 yards.
5. Penalties: Junior Kareem Jackson shouldn't have been called for the pass-interference penalty that helped key FIU's touchdown drive (along with a 25-yard gain when senior defensive backs Justin Woodall and Marquis Johnson collided in coverage). He had inside position on Greg Ellingson and while both players had a hand on the other there was obvious no push or grab, and Jackson was looking back for the ball. The offensive line was flagged for two holds and two false starts. It appeared that sophomore defensive lineman Nick Gentry ha the face-mask penalty in the fourth quarter, and sophomore linebacker Courtney Upshaw could have drawn a similar flag. Peek should have drawn a pass-interference penalty late in the third quarter.
6. Where did the Tide run? Well, everywhere, but at some point there was a change in philosophy, especially with Richardson. During the first half almost all of his carries were to the right. In the second half, he went left and found some big holes. In two games, the Tide is averaging 5.976 yards per carry, and the 271.50 rushing yards per game ranks 10th in the nation.
7. Special teams: For the second straight week the Tide yielded a kick return for a touchdown on T.Y. Hilton's 96-yard return in the first quarter. This time the breakdown came on the other side, with freshman Rod Woodson and Johnson, who appeared to take a bad angle, only getting an arm on him. True freshman cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was on both punt units, and was nearly blocked into senior Javier Arenas on a return, which may signal more playing time in the near future.
8. The Wildcat: Alabama used the formation once, with Upchurch keeping the ball and gaining seven yards through the right side. Alabama has run the formation 10 times for 16 yards. Ingram has taken all but two snaps, which Upchurch handled.
9. Who did FIU attack? The Panthers did a nice job of attacking down field and there's not a lot you can do when a receiver reaches over a defender who isn't turned around to make a catch. Having said that, FIU went after Jackson the most, completing three passes on him, and the junior should have had an interception. Sophomore Robby Green got burned on the first pass for 46 yards, yet Coach Nick Saban appeared to be more upset when Green didn't make the correct read before the subsequent snap and Alabama had to use a time out. The Panthers completed two passes on sophomore safety Mark Barron early on, but most of everything else was either an underneath route or screen pass.
10. Turnovers: Although Alabama has given up an average of just 32.5 rushing yards in two games the defense has yet to make a big splash in turnovers. The Tide had only one Saturday, Barron's interception of a tipped ball late in the fourth quarter. That's three turnovers created this season, versus two lost.