Brought to you again this week by Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the smug ineptitude of one Penn Wagers.
Isn't that combination the worst? We all deal with people who suck. Every day. I can handle that. But when you suck and you think you're great and that obviously everyone else should think you're great, too? Well, that's when I cuss a blue streak at you for the better part of four quarters. I'd like to apologize to any families in Section 506, and simultaneously offer my behavior last night as a teaching moment. You're welcome.
Penn Wagers is a parody. A monument to himself. A third grade science teacher wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a tweed jacket while teaching kids how to build a "volcano", or the small-town cop who fancies himself Columbo. In a job which calls him to observe and intervene when necessary, Wagers considers himself part of the show to the point that games he calls are consistently marked by controversy over his decisions. Last night was once again no exception.
But not the reason Arkansas lost. Not even close. It's just a shame that games his crew calls always have the recognizable patina of a game his crew has called. Chaos. Confusion. Penn Wagers has his own watermark, and it is ugly.
Now that the ref whining is out of my system, I guess we can talk about the-- wait.
HOW DID ALABAMA RUN THE CLOCK FROM 1:53 TO 0:00 WITH TWO PLAYS, PENN? HOW, PENN???
Now. We can talk about the game, I guess. If you want to. I'm not sure what there is to say that's not going to come across as some kind of moral victory tripe. You outplay one Top Ten team and lose, you write a moral victory story. Do it again in the next game, and what's left to write about?
The thing about normal American football is that it's pretty damned simple to figure out. Arkansas was able to move the football via play-action pass in the first half without ever establishing the run. Once Saban realized he maybe didn't need that extra run support, the play action goes away. With the play-action taken away and left with the choice of a sputtering run game or a non-existent drop back passing attack, Jim Chaney decided to go with the devil he didn't know because that always works out well. Alabama recognizes Arkansas has abandoned its ground game and its play-action game, the two things
It does well, and turned to it's passing game, the thing it does poorly, and they are as giddy as my buddy Penn is when he gets the chance to say "down remains one."
No, I don't know what the hell Chaney was doing in the second half. No, the run game wasn't getting anywhere, but you've still got to go there. It has to be there for us to win. By my count, Chaney called 49 pass plays to 30 rushes. In a game that never had a margin of more than one score. Inexcusable.
My only guess is that he recognized that the running game just wasn't going to happen last night, and with our defense playing so well, he was just going to keep chucking it in hopes of getting a cheap one. Ugly as it was, it damn near worked. If Allen had two more feet on his last pass... but he didn't.
I am willing to concede that Alabama is good enough laterally to shut down anything we might have wanted on the edge. And I'm willing to concede that the Tide did a fantastic job of stifling our off-tackle runs. What I didn't see enough of was running right up the gut behind a lead blocker. I feel like the few times we did that, there were yards to be had, when getting outside yielded little to nothing. Also, what about some draws? We were certainly throwing the football enough to warrant some.
So the offense was a complete dumpster fire. But what about that defense, right? Put away your anger for a minute and think about the defense you saw from Arkansas last night. Did you see any missed tackles? Yeldon and Henry are terrifying backs, and the Hogs shut. them. down. Amari Cooper is the best receiver in college football. He had two catches for 22 yards. We leaned on the defense again and again, and they never let us down. They never broke.
Remember back in 2010 when Alabama needed a yard on fourth down to ice the game and there wasn't even any drama about it? He couldn't get the yard last night. The offense just couldn't make them pay. But damn, I am so proud of that defense.
If you watched the Alabama at Ole Miss last week and Alabama at Arkansas this week, is there much difference in what you saw? Ole Miss won their game by making a fourth-quarter interception in the endzone. We lost our game by dropping a first-half interception in the endzone. And Ole Miss has one of the best defenses in the country.
I guess we should clean up some Captain Obvious observations.
Yes, we lost by an extra point, and kickers are the devil, and there is no reason that we shouldn't be able to pluck a guy off the soccer team who can make an extra point seem routine. Yes to all.
Yes, the fake punt turned time out that we really needed later in the game was dumb. Really, really dumb. Alabama's special teams woes are a matter of execution, not preparation. Bad Bert!
Yes, you have to put the ball away and make damn sure you cross the goal line with it. Yes, the touchback for fumbles into the endzone is the stupidest rule in football.
Now we have Georgia coming in. We've lost our last 15 SEC games. There is every reason in the world to be completely dejected, despondent, and downtrodden. It's how I spent most of 2012 and 2013. Yet last night had the feel of a big time college football game between two big time opponents. It was electric. It will feel the same way in Little Rock next Saturday. It hasn't been that way lately. Dismiss this as another claimed moral victory if you want, but I'll just say this:
I love this team. Not talking about the program, or the Hog on the helmet. I love the players we have and how they work together and keep reaching for that ring in front of them no matter how many times it's snatched away. They play their asses off and they are fun to watch and I'm not going to give up on them. And they're going to win one of these soon. Soon. They have to because math. And then look out.
I'll see y'all next week.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his four-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.