Alabama offense unable to sustain drives in loss to AuburnBy Matthew Speakman | 11/25/2017 7:20pm
It was a flurry of miscommunication and mistakes sandwiched between multiple failed third-down conversions. Alabama’s offense played an uncharacteristic game in its 26-14 loss to Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The unit showed flashes of being able to exploit Auburn’s defense, but was unable to consistently move the ball.
“One of the big points in this game was ‘you’re going to have to do a good job of executing, and you’re going to have to sustain it,’” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “...We weren’t able to sustain any consistency in how we played.”
Just like its win over Mississippi State, it was hard for the Crimson Tide (11-1) to sustain any sort of momentum on offense. The only difference between the two games was fourth quarter heroics did not save Alabama this time.
Alabama needed multiple third-down conversions to keep drives alive, but was never able to pick them up. The Crimson Tide did not convert a third down until the fourth quarter. It was 2-of-9 for the game overall.
“We weren’t very good,” Saban said of Alabama’s third down woes. “We didn’t protect very well. We didn’t get open very well. The quarterback didn’t read stuff very well. We didn’t throw the ball and catch it very well. So, that’s what I saw.”
Alabama’s bright spots on offense came from a big play and a long drive to start the second half. Early in the first quarter, quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a 36-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Then, at the start of the second half Alabama was able to string together its only smooth drive of the game. The team drove 79 yards in five plays. That drive featured a 31-yard run from running back Damien Harris, and a 21-yard touchdown run by running back Bo Scabrough.
During halftime, Alabama’s running backs got together and decided they wanted to have an impact on the game. The group only had five carries in the first half.
“As a running back corps, when we went into the locker room at halftime, we kind of decided that we wanted to bring a spark, or make a play,” running back Josh Jacobs said. “So, that’s what we went out there and did.”
Still, Alabama was just unable to carry that momentum into the rest of the game. That was Alabama’s last touchdown drive of the game.
Hurts was able to make some plays, but still struggled overall. He went 13-of-23 for 177 yards and a touchdown, but also ran for 80 yards. He also lost his first fumble of the season. Still, the team as a whole recognized that everyone needs to improve.
“Everybody needs to step up their game,” center Bradley Bozeman said. ‘It’s not one person. You can’t blame one person in this game. We need to come together better as a team.”
Even when the Crimson Tide had a chance to get back into the game or flip the momentum, mistakes started to set in. Alabama had the ball in Auburn territory after a big kick return, but a false start put them behind the sticks.
Later, when the offense desperately needed a score to get back in it with nine minutes left, a bad snap and a failed fourth down gave the ball back to Auburn.
“There is no excuses,” center Bradley Bozeman said. “It just happens.”
Alabama’s season now hangs in the balance. The team no longer controls its own destiny. The right pieces will have to fall into place for Alabama to make its fourth-straight playoff appearance.
Saban thinks this team deserves another shot.
“They’ve won 11 games, and not very many teams are able to do that,” Saban said. “I really don't know what all the scenarios would be where we would have an opportunity to do it. I’d certainly like this team get the opportunity to do it. I think they deserve it.”