The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) learned a lot from their decisive victory over South Carolina. On the offense and defense, the Tide made some serious adjustments as they faced off against a fast-pace Southern Miss Golden Eagles (2-2) team. The Tide started fast once again on offense. Further, they stayed potent on defense as Alabama won 49-7. There were many areas to take note as the Crimson Tide will continue their SEC conference play next week. Here are keynotes from Alabama’s win over Southern Miss.
Alabama’s Win Over Southern Miss
Tagovailoa Already Surpassing Last Season
Even before Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got his first start at Alabama last season, there was Heisman Trophy talk building. He had a hot start to 2018 by passing for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns in this first four games. After the dominating victory over Southern Miss last Saturday, Tagovailoa is showing that he is getting more dangerous. Against the Golden Eagles’ defense, he passed for 293 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions on 17 completions (out of 21 attempts). Through the first four games of 2019, Tagovailoa has passed for 1,300 yards, 17 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He has also accounted for a QBR of 96.3 through the first four games.
Tagovailoa and the Tide offense started out hot by scoring on their first four drives of the game. This includes two touchdown passes to wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, one to running back Najee Harris, and the fourth to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. The offense also started off the second half with two touchdown drives including Tagovailoa’s fifth touchdown of the game to Jeudy. This was the second straight game where Tagovailoa passed for five touchdowns. He did the same thing in the previous week against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. While he is aiming for the College Football Playoffs, Tagovailoa’s will to win is key for him chasing for the Heisman Trophy.
Harris Kicks Up the Running Game
One of the biggest goals for the Crimson Tide getting back to conference play in week five of 2019 was to get the running game finally initiated. On Saturday, Harris was determined to become a consistent producer on the ground. Harris rushed for 110 yards on 14 carries for an average of 7.9 yards per rush. He and the offensive line have been itching to relieve pressure from Tagovailoa and the passing game. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian knew that the Tide offense could not be one-dimensional. Running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Jerome Ford each accounted for a rushing touchdown against the Golden Eagles’ defense. The Tide’s offense rushed for a total of 176 yards while accounting for an average of five yards per rush. This was the game Alabama needed to create more momentum for their run game as they play more efficient defenses.
Defense Adapts From Struggles Last Week
Last week, the Crimson Tide defense had problems with efficiency as they allowed 459 total yards from South Carolina’s offense. This past Saturday, the Crimson Tide defense was more potent and stable against a Golden Eagles’ fast pace offense. Southern Miss played a fast offense that was highlighted by quick passes and fast drops for the defense of Alabama. Overall, the Tide allowed 226 total yards from Southern Miss’ offense with 54 of those yards coming from the ground. Southern Miss only had one offensive drive that resulted in a touchdown right before halftime. It was due to the Tide defense becoming too impatient against the short passing that involved missed tackles and missed assignments. Head Coach Nick Saban was very critical of this one area that gave Southern Miss their only touchdown of the game.
Many Freshmen Continue to Contribute
This season has seen many players inserted in roles early in their career. This includes freshmen who did not anticipate contributing this early in their career. Last Saturday, the Crimson Tide played 17 freshmen including five starters, four on defense. Left guard Evan Neal started his fourth game for Alabama. Defensive tackle D.J. Dale and inside linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris also started their fourth games on defense. Defensive end Justin Edoigbe started his first game for the Crimson Tide due to the major injury to defensive end Labryan Ray. This past Saturday, Edoigbe accounted for three solo tackles as he helped the Tide defense shut down the run game. Harris and Lee continue to be young leaders of the Tide defense in both the run and passing game.
Safety Jordan Battle has been a consistent contributor on defense in a dime package with six defensive backs. He also takes over for Xavier McKinney or Jared Mayden for rest or injuries. Against Southern Miss, Battle accounted for three total tackles, two tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Byron Young started playing early in the game as did Battle. Young played well clogging up running holes and also accounted for a solo tackle. Even Taulia Tagovailoa came in during the game against Southern Miss after taking over for Mac Jones. These young playmakers were integral to Alabama’s win over Southern Miss and will continue to be a big part of a young season for the Tide.