Figuring out its identity, figuring out lineups and figuring out how to perform with the consistency its head coach demands.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide defeated Colorado State 31-6 in its home opener, but for the second time in three games, a 25-point victory doesn’t tell the entire story.
“We want to be able to go dictate with our intensity, sense of urgency, preparation and everything that we have to do to be more dominant and more consistent in the game,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “I don’t think we did that tonight and that was our goal going into the game.”
Look no further than the Tide’s third down conversion percentage for a glimpse of how the game went. Alabama was 2-of-10 on third down conversions (20 percent). The Tide (3-0) didn’t convert the two until the final drive.
“Some of it was lack of preparation on our part from a coaching standpoint,” Saban said. “Some of it was lack of execution by the players, which we need to get corrected, and that’s our responsibility to that.”
Offensively, Alabama took a step back and returned to its mediocre season-opening performance. The Tide gained 338 yards, including a season-low 66 rushing yards. Sophomore T.J. Yeldon, who was suspended for the first quarter, was the team’s leading rusher with 49 yards on seven carries.
Quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 258 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked twice. McCarron placed the blame for the team’s offensive struggles solely on “communication.”
“Offensively, we couldn’t run the ball consistently or with effectiveness,” Saban said. “Even though we did a pretty good job passing, there had to be four or five times we moved the ball down the field and get just inside the red zone and something happen.”
Defensively, the Tide used the bend-but-don’t-break mentality. The Rams (1-3) were able to sustain long drives, but couldn’t turn them into touchdowns and ultimately settled for two field goals. The Rams put up 279 yards of total offense. The Rams kept the Tide off balance with screenplays and moved the ball from sideline to sideline.
“I wouldn’t say it was frustrating, but some things we just didn’t execute,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We knew what they were doing, we game planned the right way and we made the right adjustments. We just have to execute what we have to do.”
Another tough test awaits the Tide as the Ole Miss Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa for a primetime showdown. Alabama will surely put this game behind it and continue to prepare for the SEC gauntlet ahead.
“It was a win and you have to give the other team a lot of credit,” Saban said. “I’m not satisfied with where we are as a team and we need to continue to focus on improvement. We’re going to need to do a lot better job as a football team if we’re going to be the kind of team we’re capable of being.”