Growth and Experience
Growth and experience, those are the two words that would best define the Alabama vs Georgia State team. It seemed like nearly every single player on the Crimson Tide football team including trainers and maybe even some band members got into the game on Saturday against the overwhelmed Panthers. Alabama was able to “play the two’s the entire rest of the game”, as Coach Nick Saban stated heading into the second half. This has been the type of game Saban and the team has been looking for this season to 1) pad the stats and 2) more importantly, get the younger backups some experience.
Alabama improved in every statistical category in the SEC and nationally, save one. But, then again, average kick-off returns – how much attention should that even get with most teams kicking it into the endzone these days.
One statistic that leaps out of the bunch is the jump to the No. 1 spot in the SEC and No. 5 in the nation in completion percentage (71.9 percent). AJ McCarron leads all individuals in the conference, including the previous Heisman winner. The senior QB tied a career high on Saturday going 15-of-16 for 166 yards with four touchdowns. That was has best completion percentage which bolstered him to the top is the stats poll. The four TD’s also moved McCarron to fifth in the SEC and 29th in the Nation when he nearly doubled his touchdown total (10).
McCarron was only in the game for five series and scoring a touchdown on every possession. He led the offense in pristine fashion for the whole quarter and a half that he was in. Blake Sims came into the game with 4:26 remaining in the first half and was the only backup QB to take the field. The Crimson Tide had four QBs did not play. Once can only assume that they are saving their red-shirt eligibility, and will battle with Sims for the starting role in 2014.
Coach Saban has said on multiple occasions that the backups are only one play away from being a starter. That was proven true for Chad Shepard this past weekend as Ryan Kelly will miss a few games with a “stretched meniscus”. Although Shepard had already seen some playing time this season and was in heavy competition with Kelly for the starting position that couldn’t be said for many of the other players that saw playing time against Georgia State.
Alabama could have easily padded a few more stats Saturday and ran the score up like some other high powered / fast paced teams like to do. However, Saban prefers experience over stats and he proved that by playing nearly 70 players in the game. Maybe that is why Alabama lost two first place votes on Sunday. Instead of hanging 100 points on an inferior team Saban chose to let his second team get some significant playing time and told them “We want you to play and execute at the same standards as anybody else that played in the game”. It’s not about the second team just playing to give the first string a little rest but it’s about the second team “perform like an Alabama football player in tern’s of how you execute” Saban says.
The Alabama offense had 15 different players catching passes and six different running backs in the game. That not only gives the experience of playing in a game it also builds confidence, provides a good learning opportunity for them and as the Crimson Tide heads into the meat of their SEC schedule it give a little rest to the others that typically carry the load for the team. “It was really good to play all those players…the experience that they gained, the mistakes that they made, that’s the best learning opportunity that they had. That is going to help them grow and develop and improve as players” Saban said.
Alabama may not get as many players into the game as they head back into SEC play at Kentucky, but one this is for sure, there are a lot more backups on the Crimson Tide squad with a little experience that could fill in better now if that “one play” Sabana talks about comes around.
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