The Tide dominated the third quarter and the line of scrimmage. Coming into the game, many Tide fans were curious about these questions:
- Will the Alabama D stuff Wisconsin's lauded ground attack?
- Who will take the reins as the Alabama QB?
- Who will emerge for Alabama's wide receivers?
- Will the secondary play be improved?
Here are the answers.
Yes, the Alabama defense controlled the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin only had 40 net yards rushing. For a team that hangs its hat on being dominant with their its attack, the Tide made the Badgers pass to set up the run except even when they ran the ball after passing, they still didn't gain much ground.
Stave, Wisconsin's qb, had a good game. Besides a few medium-length completions, he mostly did shorter throws. In the first half, the Tide didn't do much in the way of blitzing, but in the second half, fans got to see more blitzing and moving around to confuse the quarterback. True freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick had a sack. Allen had two of them. And Davlin Tomlinson had a good game with three tipped passes at the line of scrimmage.
I gather that the plan was to alternate Coker and Bateman, but Coker was doing so well that they kept him in the game until later in the third quarter. It might be too early to tell, but it seems like Coker is the man to beat. Next week's game versus Middle Tennessee State will probably provide more reps for Bateman (and Morris), but I suspect Coker has won the job based on last night's performance.
The Tide lost its three leading receivers from last year, so there is a void to be filled. A number of players emerged to catch passes. Rather than being so reliant on one receiver (Amari Cooper), Alabama spread the wealth around:
- Foster: 4 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD
- Stewart, 4 receptions, 44 yards
- Howard, 3 receptions, 37 yards
- Ridley, 3 receptions, 22 yards
- Drake, 2 receptions, 48 yards
- Mullaney, 2 receptions, 38 yards
- Henry, 2 receptions, 12 yards
- Flournoy-Smith, 1 reception, 17 yards
I like that lots of different people are catching passes. Foster and Stewart were targeted often, and I love that Howard did well in the game. He's a matchup problem for lots of teams, and I hope the Tide uses him even more. I expect for Drake to be used more in the passing game if true freshman RB Damien Harris establishes that he can tote the rock. He showed flashes last night, but he mainly was running behind the second-team OLine.
As for the last question, I provide a tentative yes. Cyrus Jones played well, but both Humphrey and Fitzpatrick made some mistakes. I think Eddie Jackson moving to safety is a smart move. He got a interception late in the game. I believe we're solid at right cornerback (Cyrus), but I wonder who will consistently main the left cornerback position ~ Humphrey or Brown.
Overall though, it was a sold win against a team that is likely to win the weak-ass Big Ten West. The Tide racked up 502 yards of total offense against a squad that has a strong D. I think the Tide's passing defense could be stronger, but they shut down Wisconsin's running game, which made them one dimensional.