Norwood, WRs big reason why Tide offense humming
Anyone out there still worried about what Alabama’s receiving corps might be like post-Julio?
Anyone? … Anyone?
Didn’t think so.
Especially after what happened at Bryant-Denny Stadium last Saturday. Kevin Norwood stepped up big-time for the Tide, snagging six passes for 112 yards and one touchdown, but it was his jaw-dropping, diving catch of an overthrown AJ McCarron pass — a catch even Julio Jones would be envious of — that fans remember most.
Actually, even Norwood himself remembered that one most after the game. When asked by University of Alabama reporter Christopher England after the game about his TD catch — a 22-yarder that came in the first quarter — Norwood drew a complete blank for a moment.
“Oh man, what touchdown? (awkward pause) … I can’t — oh, OK never mind, I remember.”
Yeah, it’s been that kind of season for Alabama receivers this season. Catching TD passes have become the norm. Acrobatic, gravity-defying catches are what sticks in people’s memory banks now.
“It’s just being consistent at practice,” Norwood said of his success this season. “Coach always tells us, ‘You practice how you play,’ That’s one thing I want to do this year — just go out and practice my hardest because I know every game is the last for me. I just want to play my best.”
But it wasn’t a one-man receiving show Saturday either. Amari Cooper, finally getting healthy after being slowed by injury earlier in the season, showed what he can do when he’s close to 100 percent, hauling in five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.
And you can bet if the ball had come their way Saturday too, guys like Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell would have turned in some SportsCenter-worthy plays and produced some big numbers too. They’ve been doing it all season. It just so happened, it was Norwood and Cooper’s turn to shine against Tennessee.
Even redshirt freshman Chris Black could have probably been a pass-catching star last Saturday. There’s just so much talent stacked up ahead of him he rarely gets a chance to show what he can do. At least on Saturdays. No doubt, his skills have been on full display in practice.
Point is, as it’s turned out, Julio Jones was just the start of something special when it comes to Alabama pass catchers. And, with each passing Saturday, more and more people are realizing that.
Opposing defenses are realizing that too.
“Anytime we have all our weapons out wide going full-speed, we’re hard to play,” McCarron said after the Tennessee game. “We feel like we can spread people out, and it’s tough for guys to cover us. It’s good to get everybody in the mix and have some explosive plays in the passing game.”
They’ve definitely had bunches of those this fall. Norwood, Cooper, Jones, White, Bell and Black have combined to haul in 13 TDs passes between them through eight games this fall. Cooper is averaging 15.2 yards per reception, Norwood 15.1, White 15.0, Bell 14.1, Jones 10.4 and Black 9.7.
“Our receiving corps has really been steady for us all year long,” Bama head coach Nick Saban said after the Tennessee game. “It’s an important part of our team, and I think the fact that our offensive line has improved and we can create balance now — run and pass — is probably why we’ve been playing real well the last few weeks on offense.”
Alabama hasn’t scored less than 45 points in a game since Sept. 28. That’s four-straight weeks of clicking on all cylinders offensively. The Tide hung 45 on Georgia State, 48 on Kentucky, 52 on Arkansas and 45 on Tennessee.
Nah, those aren’t quite Oregon numbers. But they’re close. And Alabama no doubt could have put up Oregon-type numbers the past four weeks if it wanted to. Alabama took the foot of the gas pedal in the second halves of those games. It went conservative. It went with reserves.
“These guys, we just go out and work hard,” Norwood said of the offense. “It’s starting to come natural for us … I guess it’s that connection that we have.”
It’s something. That’s for sure.
“I feel like the past four weeks — I’ve said this all along — we’ve really played good football, smart football, and we’re getting better and better, and that’s the thing we need to keep doing, progress every week and don’t take any steps back,” McCarron said.
McCarron and the high-scoring Crimson Tide have a bye this week before hosting No. 13 LSU on Nov. 9. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CDT. CBS will televise the game.
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