Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21
For Alabama football, it’s smooth sailing from now on. With the Crimson Tide’s latest win, there’s not much competition left in the path of yet another SEC Championship game.
Alabama has now played four games in this season and passed arguably their toughest test this season against the Georgia Bulldogs. While the Crimson Tide still has some areas of the game to clean up for the later stretch of the season, the players have illustrated that they are ready to assume responsibility and grow as a team. With plenty to look forward to with this team, here are three areas Alabama fans should be excited about going forward.
Mac Jones will be hard to stop.
The No. 1-ranked offense in college football has very little problem moving the football down the field. Redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones continued his stellar start to the season with his third straight 400-plus yard game, a school record.
Outside an interception on the first play and some errant throws, Jones was an enviable passer, completing 24 passes of 32 attempts. He would notch 417 yards, four touchdowns and just the one interception.
If his numbers aren’t enough to floor a viewer, they should watch him throw under duress. Take the 90-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, for example. Georgia brought pressure from the outside. Despite pressure in the pocket, Jones was able to make an on-target pass to Waddle for the touchdown. It isn’t only that the pass was long, or even that the pass was successful, it’s that the play was an illustration of Jones’ confidence in his receivers and offensive line to do their jobs and make it happen.
It is also a credit to Jones’ vision of the field. Most quarterbacks struggle with making passes under pressure because their vision moves from their reads to the defenders. Jones kept his eyes downfield and made the throw to Waddle. This focus is what Alabama fans want to see from their starting quarterback.
Jones does the little things right: he plays within himself and sets the team up for success. Jones is always a confident leader on the team. With this victory under his belt, fans should expect Jones to continue to lead and make plays for this offense.
Defense showed life late and needs consistency going forward.
The struggles on the defensive side of the ball Alabama had against Ole Miss carried over into the first 30 minutes of this week’s game. Alabama allowed 177 passing yards in the first half on Saturday, which is the fourth most allowed in a single game over the past four years. While the pass-rush proved to be effective early, the defense still struggled against motions and screens.
Georgia’s second touchdown of the game came from running back James Cook going in motion and beating linebacker Christian Harris on the outside with his speed. Once again, Alabama fans and alumni took to social media to criticize another poor outing from the defense. But when Alabama adjusts, they adjust big. Shutting out the Bulldogs offense in the second half was a sure-fire strategy to move past the defensive pitfalls that had plagued the team thus far in the game.
Alabama forced Georgia to turn the ball over and consistently pressured quarterback Stetson Bennett. The biggest difference between the two halves was communication on the field. Alabama struggled to communicate with each other on assignments and roles for the play in the first half.
The lack of communication led to mismatches that benefitted Georgia offensively. Once the team started communicating with each other, those mismatches disappeared. For the first time all season, the defense was able to come together and create stops.
Did they give up big yardage plays at times? Yes. But the defense successfully pressured Georgia to make the plays to score instead of essentially giving them the chances they needed. Alabama is slowly finding their rhythm defensively, and the shutout in the second half will give the defense a much needed confidence boost.
Alabama has found a reliable kicker.
Even the most casual fan of Alabama football knows the struggles this team has when it comes to finding consistent kickers. That has seemingly changed this year with kicker Will Reichard. Reichard, in his second season with Alabama, has been automatic this year, making 100% of points after touchdowns and field goals this season.
His most notable kick? The 52-yard field goal to close out the first half of the game. It may have just squeaked into the uprights, but it gives Reichard and fans much-needed confidence in his talent and poise.
Reichard has proven himself to be a reliable player for the team and arguably the best kicker Alabama has seen in a long time. Having a strong kicker will prove crucial down the stretch in tight matchups like Auburn, where last year’s starter, Joseph Bulovas, missed a field goal that could have potentially changed the outcome of the game. For now, Alabama can keep breathing when the kicker comes onto the field.
Alabama is trending upward after the first four games. Beating a talented Georgia team shows that this team has what it takes to take down the top-ranked teams in the country, even when it means making changes in the middle of the game. Look to see the team’s confidence in themselves go up as they take the field in Knoxville on Saturday.