War in the Trenches
Ole Miss is in the conversation again. It seems not long ago, the team was not really considered a threat, but now with the new rank of 21 and impressive play, people’s perceptions have changed. Where has this team come from people wonder? After a wild Vanderbilt game and humiliating Texas, the Rebels are now in the limelight.
Like almost all SEC teams, defense is key to the Rebels. No team has had much success running against Ole Miss, keeping opposing offenses an average of just under 115 yards per game. Alabama, on the other hand, has not been rushing the ball as effectively as it has in the past. However one looks at it, the game is going to be won in the trenches.
The word “Communication” has been used all week in practice by the Crimson Tide offensive line. Center Ryan Kelly stated “when we don’t communicate we make errors…but when we’re all together and practice that during the week, we’re hard to beat”. There is revamped focus after being outplayed by Virginia Tech and not dominating a much smaller Colorado State.
The line looked better against Texas A&M, but many of the troubles returned against CSU. With all the movement up front, communication issues were obvious. Missed assignments have plagued the offense and defense all season. The line definitely has its woes, and the rushing game has stalled, making Alabama beat teams with the pass.
Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, and Colorado State, Alabama has had a pretty good passing game. There have been times where McCarron has had little time to throw, but keeping the passing game alive, with it the Crimson Tide. Saban express concern with the line’s offensive passing troubles:
“We make a few mental errors where the guy doesn’t pick up the [blitz] — we had a big play on — and it stops a drive right in the red zone and we have to kick a field goal.” Saban said. “You know, a breakdown in protection and we throw an interception just trying to throw the ball away.”
Ole Miss, meanwhile, has had trouble effectively getting to the quarterback, and has proven susceptible against the pass.
Texas burned the Rebels in the first half and Vanderbilt threw for 300 yards. If the Alabama line can hold, McCarron should have little trouble burning the Rebel defense through the passing game.
Alabama’s defensive line also has their hands full. Ole Miss is a fast, perimeter team, which requires athleticism to beat. The Rebels are racking up 250 rushing yards a game and averaging 5.68 yards a rush. Nick Saban complimented Ole Miss’s toughness and said the defense is focusing on where to put their hands to control the blocker and other fundamentals to prepare for the big, aggressive Ole Miss blockers.
The teams balance each other, and when two even teams meet, the game is always won in the trenches. The blocking will be tougher, the hits harder, and the lines nastier, but at the end of the day, the players will be complimenting their lines for a hard game fought.
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