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All Things CW: Penalty Problems Reflective of Alabama's Breakdowns

An extensive look at one of the Crimson Tide's biggest issues, Nick Saban's remarkable ability to avoid back-to-back losses, and the Trevon Diggs-Deion Sanders debate.

A week ago here, All Things CW took note of how this year's Alabama football team was on pace to have the most penalties per game of any Crimson Tide team Nick Saban has coached.

Things obviously didn't get better at Texas A&M as flags, dropped passes and all sorts of miscues contributed to Alabama's 41-38 loss at Kyle Field. 

In terms of penalties, Alabama had eight for 82 yards, which in a game like that made a huge difference. From safety Malachi Moore getting ejected on the third snap of the game, and Texas A&M subsequently going after his replacement, to right tackle Chris Owens having a false start when the Crimson Tide was going for it on fourth-and-4, the lack of discipline and attention to detail finally caught up with it. 

"These are things that we have to really understand the consequences of and continue to try to improve on," Saban said earlier this season. 

Initially the players seemed to believe him. During the first half against Ole Miss, when Alabama jumped out to a 28-0 lead, it didn't have any penalties. 

There have been way too many examples as to what can happen on the flip side to that. For example, on one play against Miami in the season opener, Alabama was flagged for three different things on one play, and the Hurricanes got to pick which one they accepted. 

Alabama ranks 116 out of 130 teams at the FBS level for penalties, although remarkably that's still ahead of three SEC teams: Florida, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

At 74.5 yards per game, it's 122nd. 

Here's a breakdown of the penalties: 

Miami 8 penalties, 81 yards 

  • Jalyn Armour-Davis 1-15; Illegal block
  • Marcus Banks 1-10: Holding
  • Kendrick Blackshire 1-5: Offside (kickoff)
  • Josh Jobe 1-10: Illegal block
  • Malachi Moore 1-15: Pass interference
  • Jameson Williams 1-5: False start
  • Daniel Wright 2-25: Pass interference, holding

Mercer 9-95

  • Jalyn Armour-Davis 1-10: Holding
  • Jordan Battle 1-15: Pass interference
  • Javion Cohen 1-5: False start
  • Darrian Dalcourt 1-5: Ineligible downfield
  • Emil Ekiyor Jr. 1-10: Holding
  • DeMarcco Hellams 1-15: Pass interference
  • Jase McClellan 1-10: Holding
  • Jaylen Moody 1-10: Holding
  • Jameson Williams 1-15: Unsportsmanlike conduct

Florida 11-68

  • Emil Ekiyor Jr. 3-15: False start (3)
  • Josh Jobe 2-30: Pass interference (2)
  • Cameron Latu 1-10: Holding
  • Evan Neal 1-5: False start
  • Tim Smith 1-5: Offside
  • Henry To’oTo’o 1-5: Offside
  • Bryce Young 2-5: Delay of game, intentional grounding

Southern Miss 7-60

  • Jacorey Brooks 1-10: Holding
  • Tommy Brown 1-10: Holding
  • Khyree Jackson 1-10: Block to the back
  • Josh Jobe 1-15: Pass interference
  • Chris Owens 1-10: Holding
  • Bryce Young 1-4: Intentional grounding
  • NA: Illegal Formation 1-5

Ole Miss 5-52

  • Jalyn Armour-Davis 1-14: Pass interference
  • Kendrick Blackshire 1-15: targeting
  • JoJo Earle 1-5: False start
  • Josh Jobe 1-13: Pass interference
  • NA: Illegal substitution 1-5

Texas A&M 8-82

  • Jordan Battle 1-12: Pass interference
  • Javion Cohen 1-5: False start
  • DeMarcco Hellams 1-15: Pass interference 
  • Josh Jobe 1-10: Holding
  • Cameron Latu 1-10: Holding
  • John Metchie III 1-10: Holding
  • Malachi Moore 1-15 (ejected): Personal foul
  • Chris Owens 1-5: False start

Some things of note from the list: 

1] Alabama has been called for holding a whopping 13 times, but only three times by an offensive lineman. Opposing coaches are telling officials to watch for holds in pass coverage and the defenders haven't adjusted. That leads us to ... 

2] Crimson Tide defensive backs have already been flagged 11 times for pass interference. Part of that is just the way the game is played nowadays.

3] Even though opponents haven't been throwing in his direction very often, cornerback Josh Jobe has the most penalties on the Crimson Tide with six, and for the most yards (78).

4] Guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. is second with four penalties, three of which were false starts at Florida. 

5] Overall, Alabama is on pace for 96 penalties for 900 yards in the regular season alone. That would be the second most in Crimson Tide history in both categories, behind the 121 flags for 1,024 yards in 2002, Dennis Franchione's last season before bolting for Texas A&M.

The Bounce Back

Without looking it up can you recall the last time Alabama lost two straight games under Saban? 

It's only happened twice, and both times included the Sugar Bowl. 

In 2013, Alabama lost to Auburn in the Kick Six game, and then lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. 

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The only other time was 2008, when the Crimson Tide fell short against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, and then played poorly against Utah.

It has not lost back-to-back games during the regular season over those 13 years. 

Since 2008, Alabama has lost 18 games, but only seven times when it subsequently played another regular season game. In those situations, just one opponent managed to score more than 10 points. It was by the team that came closest to pulling off a win, Arkansas in 2014.

  • 2010 at South Carolina 35-21; Ole Miss 23-10
  • 2010 at LSU 24-21; Mississippi State 30-10
  • 2011 LSU 9-6 OT; at Mississippi State 24-7
  • 2012 Texas A&M 29-24; Western Carolina 49-0
  • 2014 at Ole Miss 23-17; at Arkansas 14-13
  • 2015 Ole Miss 43-37; Louisiana Monroe 34-0
  • 2019 LSU 46-41; at Mississippi State 38-7 

The average score in those games was 30.2-6.7. 

Going back to Texas A&M being the 18th loss since 2008, Alabama bounced back to win 15 times, and this week could obviously be No. 16. So far it's outscored the opposition 487-150 (32.5-10.0 average).


Some things to keep in mind for Alabama at Mississippi State on Saturday:

• Mike Leach’s program returned 15 of 22 starters from last season (eight on offense and seven on defense). That's been a common theme among Alabama's opponents so far this season, returning veterans. 

• Both Alabama and Mississippi State are in the top four nationally in yards after the catch, but the Bulldogs lead the nation in average yards per game as they're coming off a bye. The only team ahead of MSU in total yards after the catch is Maryland, which has former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Mike Locksley as head coach, and former Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa

• Remember how Alabama didn't notch a sack last week at Texas A&M? Mississippi State has allowed the fewest number of tackles for loss in the SEC this season (18.0).

• Last season, Mississippi State was one of just two teams, Florida being the other, to hold Alabama scoreless in a quarter. It was also just one of two teams (Notre Dame) to keep the Crimson Tide from scoring a rushing touchdown.

More Trevon Diggs Talk

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, turned announcer, Troy Aikman, is the latest to weigh on the talk that former Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs is the best player the Cowboys have had at the position since Deion Sanders. 

Aikman, who was both a teammate of Sanders and had to face him when he was with other teams, has maybe the most interesting perspective on the growing debate.  

"I hear a lot about shutdown corners and I laugh about it because Deion was truly the only shutdown corner that I know, and there have been some great corners beside Deion," Aikman said on 1310 "The Ticket" per the Dallas Cowboys website. "But Deion would go weeks without a ball being thrown in his direction. 

"For us when we played against Deion, we threw at him. When he was Atlanta and when he was in San Francisco, I didn't shy away from throwing it to him in his direction because he was going to travel with Mike [Irvin] and there was no way we could just say, 'Well, we're not going to throw the ball to Mike.' And, so, Mike, he caught some balls, and then Deion won his share, too."

Diggs has six interceptions, the most by any Cowboys cornerback since Anthony Henry had six in 2007, and Dallas leads the league with 10 overall. 

Sanders' career-high for a season was seven in 1993 and he never had more than five with the Cowboys. However, a lot of teams wouldn't throw the ball in his direction.  

Aikman doesn't expect other teams to shy away from Diggs like they did Sanders, but he did lay out a strategy that the Cowboys will probably soon see.  

"The thing I was always worried about when we would play against Deion before he came to Dallas was if they put Deion on Alvin Harper and then rolled (coverage) to Michael, well, then now we really got some problems because Deion would be capable of taking Alvin out of the game, and then if they're constantly rolling to Michael, now, we're going to be able to hit some underneath things to him, but nothing of any real substance. 

"That's something we always talked about internally."

Did you Notice?

• How a 22-Year-Old UTSA Student Faked His Way Into Texas A&M's Post-Alabama Locker Room

• Which One-Loss Teams Are Still Playoff Contenders?

• Through Talent, Transfers and (Mel) Tucker, Michigan State Has Become the Surprise of the Season

• Jalen Hurts Almost Hits Security Guard With Football After Rushing TD

Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears weekly on BamaCentral.