I don’t get it. Why is it that a team can move the ball up and down the field but whenever they get inside the opponent’s 25 they turn into bumbling incomptents afraid to do anything but run off-tackle? I hesitate to suggest that maybe it is the coaching.
Alabama had four possessions in the first half, largely due to these stupid clock rules which the NCAA has foisted on us. They did not punt, they had long drives on three occasions — and scored three points. On their first drive, they held the ball for eleven plays and 51 yards, only to call a boneheaded fake kick on fourth-and-nine from the 24 (Alabama uses their punter as the holder, common in the NFL but not in college because it’s basically stupid), a run for two yards.
On their second drive, they went 47 yards on eight plays and kicked a fieldgoal. Wilson’s first pass was picked off (it was just an underthrow, not a mental mistake) on the next drive, leading to a fieldgoal to tie it. They took over after the kick, went 64 yards on ten plays — and fumbled at the 13 on 3rd-and-1. Vandy then drove 87 yards for a touchdown, really their only good drive of the game.
Alabama tied it on their first drive of the half, on a 31-yard pass to DJ Hall (back from his “injury”) then forced a fumble on the kickoff, taking over at the 26. But Johns fumbled at the three. After some pretty bizarre play calling on their next couple of drives, they finally set up for a long fieldgoal by Leigh Tiffin, who drilled it from 47 just like his dad used to, and managed to hold on to win it.
When you outgain the other team 341-235 and commit fewer turnovers and control the return game, you really shouldn’t be in a situation where you have to hold on to win it. But that’s how it was. As it was, if not for a great game by Simeon Castille, who picked off two passes, one in Alabama territory when Vandy was in position to take the lead in the fourth, they very likely would have lost. (Castille played a lot of safety and nickelback, and seems more comfortable there than at corner.) Ken Darby finally got on track in the fourth quarter with a couple of nice runs, but still had only 65 yards on 21 carries, and Johns’ fumble problems make Shula hesitant to use him.
This isn’t going to work when we play good teams.