By Leslie from Lux Venit
Well, the weather finally felt like football season this past weekend: the air was crisp, if not downright cold, and the sky was blue. Driving through campus Friday afternoon, I could sense the expectation of Saturday's match-up against South Carolina in the students milling around the buildings, white tents dotting the landscape, and UA flags and colors flapping on every corner and lamppost. I couldn't wait for kick-off. But, as usual when game time rolls around, the ability to sit and watch a game from kick-off to the last ticking of the play clock eludes me.
As a wife and mother of four young Bama fans, most Saturday mornings are spent in pre-game warm-ups: cleaning and doing chores around the house or running errands. It's my responsibility to make sure that the men and boys in my home have what they need to maintain maximum snackage for about 16 quarters (at least 4 games). First of all, I have to get the pantry stocked with snacks. It's important to have plenty of tortilla chips and salsa, beverages, cookies, beverages, pretzels, and beverages. Second, I have to make sure that the viewing area is cleared of clutter and furniture so that we have plenty of room to jump and cheer. And did I mention cold beverages? Some Saturdays I also have to be ready to make a run to the grocery store during half-time. I call this "making adjustments for the second half."
While this season has been awesome, I was more frustrated during this game than I was during all of the previous games. We had way too many penalties. McElroy had a so-so day. The third quarter was just awful. But, on the bright side, Cody made pancakes out of one young Gamecock and Mark Ingram played amazingly! I am in awe of his quickness and strength. And did you hear his interview with Erin at the end of the game? He's humble, too. I like that in an athlete.
I'm not much on talking details about football -- I leave that to my husband. He writes a wrap up, which includes his 7 points (like a TD), of each game for his blog. Here's what he had to say about Bama vs. South Carolina:
In another weekend filled with upsets and near misses, Alabama continued to do what it does best - dominate with defense and a pounding running game. The Tide played sloppily, garnering 113 yards in penalties and turning the ball over four times, but for the second straight game, the defense kept a top 25 opponent from reaching the end zone. Alabama's Mark Ingram had his second consecutive career game, rushing for 246 yards on 24 carries - a whopping 10.3 yards per carry.
Now here are my seven points:
1. Ingram for Heisman? Chris Low, ESPN.com's SEC blogger, claims that Ingram ran into the frontrunner spot in the Heisman race Saturday, and the case can certainly be made. Ingram ran the ball for every one of the plays in the game-clinching final touchdown drive, gaining 68 yards in six carries, five of them from the direct-snap "Wildcat" formation. Ingram also seems to be getting better as the competition gets tougher, gaining 150 against Virginia Tech, 140 against Kentucky, 172 versus Ole Miss, and 246 Saturday. And the majority of Ingram's yardage this year has come after contact, a fact not lost on NFL scouts. However, the Heisman is a quarterback's award generally, and Ingram isn't even the leading rusher in the country (he's third). Ingram is helped by injuries and lackluster performances from the early season frontrunners, but he will have to continue to have high-yardage, game-winning performances to have a realistic shot.
2. McElroy needs to get his game back on track. Alabama QB Greg McElroy saw some fleeting Heisman hype earlier this season, but as Ingram's game has improved, McElroy's has seemed to regress. Following up on the abysmal performance at Ole Miss, McElroy may have actually improved slightly, although the game plan seemed to move away from passing the ball at an earlier point than last week. This last few weeks shouldn't have been totally unexpected for an inexperienced quarterback against SEC competition, but it has looked worse compared to McElory's early season performances. The offensive line did look better against South Carolina than Ole Miss, but Tennessee's defense is pretty good too, and boasts arguably the better defensive back in the country in Eric Berry. The time to get back to basics is now.
3. The defense is getting better. Despite injuries, Alabama's defense really has been stingy in the last two games, particularly in the red zone - giving up only three field goals. Alabama's Marquis Johnson, who was filling in for Javier Arenas (bruised ribs), must have successfully defended the same fade route to the corner of the end zone six times. Performances like that boost a man's confidence and (hopefully) continue to drive improvement.
4. The weak point for this team is clearly special teams. Not every aspect of the special teams is bad - Leigh Tiffin has kicked well and consistently, although he did miss a field goal against South Carolina. P.J. Fitzgerald has punted fairly well. But kick/punt coverage is still an issue, and several lengthy returns by 'Bama players have been negated by penalties. So far, it hasn't cost us a game, but several scoring opportunities have likely been squandered by undisciplined return blocking.
5. South Carolina could give Florida problems. Florida and Alabama have very similar defenses. Florida, however, has been hampered by a lack of offensive firepower, especially since Tim Tebow's injury. Therefore, I expect South Carolina to challenge Florida similar to the way Arkansas did Saturday.
6. Get used to games like this one. Tennessee and LSU, Alabama's next two opponents, are teams with good defenses and weak offenses, you know, kind of like the last three opponents. Expect closely contested games that Alabama should be able to salt away in the fourth quarter.
7. 'Bama has made the best case to be Number One. It doesn't really matter whether Florida, Texas or Alabama are ranked number 1. As long as the three teams stay undefeated, they will all have a shot at the national championship. But Alabama has played the toughest competition of the three, and has looked the most consistent doing it.