Week 1 of the 2018 College Football season went exactly how it was projected for the Crimson Tide. Alabama was one of the teams of topic all offseason, and it didn’t slow down as we headed into week 1. Much of the talk for the Tide prior to the matchup against the Louisville Cardinals was about who head coach Nick Saban was going to start at quarterback. That matter was quickly decided when sophomore Tua Tagovailoa started the game for Alabama. Throughout the game, Tagovailoa and young Alabama offense outshined Louisville 51-14.
Tagovailoa Continues to Shine for Alabama’s Offense
Many Alabama fans were excited when Tagovailoa came out and started the first snap for the Tide’s offense. This was the concrete indication that the Tide were more comfortable trying out a potential high-power, explosive offense led by Tagovailoa rather than an offense full of conservative, RPO reads led by Jalen Hurts.
Tagovailoa’s input on the field was the results of participating with the 1st team units all offseason long. He finished the game with 12-out-of-16 completions for 222 yards, averaging 14.2 yards per completion, combined with two touchdowns while attempting five rushes for 26 yards and one touchdown. His performance for the Tide was consistent and charged as a running and passing quarterback. His rapid, yet consistent performance helped Alabama score and put them in situations where they were more comfortable.
In the game against Louisville, Tagovailoa didn’t stop at his one main receiver read, but he continued analyzing the field. On his first touchdown pass to WR Jerry Jeudy, Tagovailoa read the coverage schemes of the defense while avoiding the pressure from the defensive line. Even though he was going to be hit, he threw an impressive pass to Jeudy for a touchdown.
Tagovaila also completed a pass like this while under heavy pressure last year against the Vanderbilt Commodores. He was more comfortable staying in the pocket and was more patient for the receivers to run their routes than Hurts typically did. Hurts was a quarterback who did not continue reads after his first receiver locked down by the opposing Cardinal. This was also evident in the game this past Saturday for both quarterbacks for the Tide. Tagovailoa has already been named the starter for the home opener against Arkansas State.
Young Receiving Corp Outmatched Underwhelming Cardinals Secondary
Last season, Alabama had a high-rise of young freshmen wide receivers come into the fold and star for the offense. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. were all highly consistent and reliable all season long. DeVonta Smith was a clutch receiver who accounted for game-winning touchdowns against Mississippi State and in the National Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs. There would be no problem with the receivers no matter who would be starting at quarterback for Alabama. Tagovailoa starting at quarterback for the Tide gave the young receivers a better situation to get the ball. The Tide’s receiver corp accounted for 297 yards against a Cardinals secondary that only returned one starter from last season.
DeVonta Smith was the leading receiving in yards accounted for with 99 yards on four receptions (averaging 24.8 per catch). Jerry Jeudy was the sole provider of receiving touchdowns with two from four receptions for 64 yards. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. accounted for two receptions for 39 yards including one where he accounted for 32 yards. Henry Ruggs III accounted for two receptions for 15 receiving yards.
Against the Cardinals secondary, freshman Jaylen Waddle accounted for three receptions for 66 yards including his longest of 49 yards. Waddle’s speed and elusiveness was very efficient against Louisville’s coverage schemes and defensive gameplan. The Cardinals’ defensive structure was to get to the quarterback early and often to create chaos in the passing game. The combination of Tagovailoa’s patience and poise along with the receiver’s ability to easily get open was the reason that Alabama’s offense scored quickly and often.
New Playmakers, Same Dominance for Tide’s Efficient Defense
There were multiple areas of concern for the Tide’s defense going into the 2018 season including all their secondary players. Linebacker Mack Wilson is leading the charge for the Tide’s defense now at the middle linebacker position. This is a position of high-importance for the Tide’s defense as the position is essentially the quarterback a Saban defense. Against the Cardinals, there were times were there busted coverages or blown assignments when a Cardinal gets wide open. This a learning curve that Wilson and the secondary for Tide must work together. Otherwise, the Tide continued to dominate the Cardinals offense like they didn’t lose eight main defensive starters. The Cardinals were only able to account for 268 total yards on offense while only rushing for 16 yards. The Cardinals also only averaged 6.5 passing yards from QB Jawon Pass from 20 completions on 39 attempts.
The Tide’s defense was all over the Cardinals offense that returned seven starters including three main receivers and four offensive linemen. Nose guard Quinnen Williams was a monster up the middle for the Tide defense with speed and brute strength. Williams accounted for six total tackles, three solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a pass deflection as he clogged up all rooming for the Cardinals offense. Linebacker Mack Wilson got better in his play calls and accounted for five total tackles. Safety Deionte Thomson is the experienced leader of young, inexperienced defensive backs that have serious potential. Thompson accounted for five total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, three pass deflection, and an interception. Cornerback Saivion Smith was the team’s leading tackler with six total tackles, five solo tackles, half a tackle for loss, and an interception returned 45-yards for a touchdown.
Alabama Prepares for the Arkansas State Red Wolves
The Tide won significantly against a quality, unranked Louisville Cardinals team without an elite player with a 51-14 score. This game was the first realization of what the flaws are for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Saban stated that the communication needs to be more efficient, so the coverage schemes can improve. This isn’t a flaw regarding LB Mack Wilson’s performance as a player but more on experience calling out plays.
The offensive line will need to improve their blocking as Tua out of the pocket far too much. Tagovailoa has already been labeled as the starting quarterback for the home-opener against Arkansas State. Building on starting experience will be a big plus for Tagovailoa, because he will still need to be more comfortable with the offense.
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