Upon Further Review: The Citadel at No. 1 Alabama

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There’s a big misperception in football that halftime in a locker room is all about big speeches and rallying a team emotionally.

It’s more of a chance to sort of step back and regroup. During the span of a few minutes the players have to do things like use the bathroom, make equipment changes, meet with coaches, quickly go over what they want to do next, and then it’s time to go back on the field to warm up for the second half.

It’s generally not a time to try and come up with something new or elaborate.

Even though Alabama went from being tied with The Citadel at halftime 10-10, to winning 50-17, about the only thing the Crimson Tide did after the break was pass a little more. The offense only had four possessions in the first half, with one touchdown, one field goal, one lost fumble and one three-and-out.

Here’s what the players said about making adjustments:

Junior linebacker Anfernee Jennings: “We knew ourselves. We kind of took it upon ourselves, especially the leaders on the defense. We knew we weren’t playing up to the standard and we had to correct stuff and go out for the second half.”

Sophomore safety Xavier McKinney: “They came out, they were aggressive. They came out with the right mind set, they were ready to play. They did a great job with what they were doing, and we didn’t do a great job with what we’re doing. We talked about it at half and tried to bring it all together, try and get our mind back right and come out and make plays.”

Sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa: “We came out with a better mindset as a team.”

The Crimson Tide fumbled away the second-half kickoff and countered by moving its returners up to field the short kicks. It then scored the next 33 points in the game.

As for Nick Saban, Tagovailoa might have had the best description when asked who was more upset at halftime the players or the coach:

“I think coach was more mad at us,” he said. ‘We knew what we were doing wrong. We knew it was fixable.”

Play of the game: Irv Smith Jr. wasn’t the primary receiver, but when going through his progressions Tagovailoa found him open over the middle, with the tight end turning it into a 68-yard touchdown.

Player of the game: Jennings had a career-best 11 tackles and returned a fumble 18 yards for his first career touchdown. He came into the game with 19 total tackles this season after coming back from a torn ACL.

**Statistic of the game:**With its 50-17 win over The Citadel, Alabama has won 25 consecutive games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is now the longest home winning streak in school history.

Five things we learned about Alabama

1] The quarterbacks both got a big confidence boost. Tagovailoa was coming of a sprained knee and junior Jalen Hurts a high-ankle sprain. Not only did they combine to complete 80 percent of their passes, but they also ran well with the ball. Tagovailoa had 37 yards on four carries and Hurts’ first play was a rollout (for his only incompletion). Just about everything in the playbook should be available for Auburn next week.

2] Freshman Jaylen Waddle has become Tagovailoa’s second-favorite target on third downs. He’s attempted 11 third-down passes to sophomore Jerry Jeudy, with eight completions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He’s looked to Waddle nine times, with six completions for 96 yards and one touchdown.

3] The rushing game has taken a hit. Although Alabama averaged 8.3 yards per carry, senior Damien Harris had just 10 yards on six carries before he broke off the 73-yard run (and suffered the concussion). Otherwise, the longest carry by a running back between the tackles was the 9-yard gain by sophomore Najee Harris in the second half.

4] Alabama definitely wasn’t thinking ahead about Auburn. The one good thing about playing a triple-option team was that the players had to be so concerned about cut-blocks that they really couldn’t think about anything else.

“It wasn’t frustration,” sophomore nose tackle Quinnen Williams said. “We just had to focus on how to defeat the cut (-block), it was so fast and the pace of the different angles. We had to back off the ball a little bit and change our stance.”

5] Penalties: The one thing that Saban was clearly upset about after the game were the two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the personal foul. Alabama went from having no penalties called against it against Mississippi State to being flagged six times 68 yards.

Tua, Tua, Tua ...

Charting the quarterback’s progress during his first season as a starter:

• Tagovailoa was 18-for-22 for 340 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 256.6, his best since suffering the sprained knee at Arkansas and third best as a starter.

• The 31 touchdown passes have already set the Alabama single-season record (AJ McCarron, 30, 2012).

• He’s tied for second on the Alabama single-season touchdown responsibility list with 35 (31 passing, four rushing). Jalen Hurts set the record last year with 36 (23/13), one ahead of Blake Sims (28/7) in 2014. Tagovailoa is sixth on the career touchdown responsibility list with 48 (42/6) in only 20 career games.

• Tagovailoa’s 212.2 passer rating again leads the nation. He and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (205.8) are on pace to break Baker Mayfield’s single-season record of 198.9 set last year.

• Tagovailoa has now thrown for 2,865 yards this season, which ranks No. 6 on the UA single-season passing yards list. Sims has the record with 3,487 yards in 2014.

• In seven games against Southeastern Conference opponents, Tagovailoa has passed for 1,942 yards and 20 touchdowns with two interceptions. He’s 113-for-172, for a completion percentage of .656 and an efficiency rating of 196.59.

• Tagovailoa has directed 88 drives with 52 resulting in touchdowns (59.1 percent) and seven field goals (67.0). During those possessions, Alabama is 41-for-69 on third-down conversions (59.4 percent), and has amassed 4,239 yards.

• On third downs he’s 33-for-45 (73.3 percent) for 540 yards, with nine touchdowns and one interception. He has a passer rating of 235.7 on third downs.

• Of Alabama’s 744 offensive plays, Tagovailoa has been on the field for 481, during which the Crimson Tide has scored 386 points. That’s an average of .8 points per play. Alabama’s also averaging 8.8 yards per play with him taking snaps.

• Tagovailoa has still completed every pass attempt he’s thrown in the fourth quarter this season. He’s 1-for-1 for 24 yards.

10 things you may not have noticed

1] Sophomore right guard Alex Leatherwood may have hurt his ankle on Alabama’s second snap, when Damien Harris nearly fumbled. The pile landed on the back of his leg and he got up liming. If so, Leatherwood played most the game with the injury before heading to the locker room.

2] Tagovailoa will go into the Auburn game having completed 10 straight passes, which is already one of the longest streaks in Crimson Tide history.

16: Greg McElroy vs. Georgia State and vs. Auburn (2010)

14: Greg McElroy vs. Florida International (2009)

12: John Parker Wilson at Tennessee and vs. Arkansas State (2008)

12: Andrew Zow vs. Mississippi (2000)

11: Jay Barker vs. Mississippi State (1994)

10: Gary Hollingsworth vs. Mississippi (1989)

10: Gary Hollingsworth vs. LSU (1989)

10: Ken Stabler vs. Mississippi and vs. Clemson (1966)

10: Jay Barker vs. Tulane and at Vanderbilt (1993)

10: Tua Tagovailoa vs. The Citadel (2018)

3] Alabama only had two third-down passes. The first was on the Crimson Tide’s third snap, the 29-yard pass to Waddle. The other was in the red zone at the end of the half, which was incomplete.

4] The two pass attempts tied for the fewest by an opponent against Alabama during the modern era of college football. The others were against Auburn in 1949 and Tennessee in 1960.

5] Although Alabama has scored 536 points this season, just 58 have been in the fourth quarter due to the games being so lopsided. Consequently, the Crimson Tide ranks 104thin the nation in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 5.1 points.

6] Jennings’ score was Alabama’s 68th non-offensive touchdown of the Saban era and its seventh this season. But it was the first fumble return for a touchdown since 2016 — Jonathan Allen’s 30-yard return against Texas A&M — a span of 32 games. The Crimson Tide returned five fumbles for touchdowns that season, which matches the total for the other 10 years combined.

7] The last time Alabama played a regular-season game in which it wasn’t ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 was against Auburn in 2015. It was No. 2.

8] Alabama has seven players who have reached double-digits in explosive plays: Jeudy, Damien Harris, DeVonta Smith, Irv Smith Jr., Najee Harris, Waddle and Henry Ruggs III. Nick Saban defines them as a run of 13 or more yards, or a pass of 17 or more yards.

9] In the big four defensive categories, Alabama ranks:

Rushing: 6th (97.4)

Scoring: 2nd (to Clemson, 12.6 to 12.7)

Total: 5th (283.9)

Pass efficiency: 9th (104.1)

Only one other defense ranks in the top 10 in all four, and it’s the one already mentioned, Clemson.

10] We mentioned last week that sophomore linebacker Dylan Moses has taken over the team lead in tackles. However, there’s a new leader in “defensive touches” or the player who is most around the ball. It’s found by adding together tackles, assists, sacks, passes broken up, interceptions, hurries, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Williams is the new leader, which is amazing considering he plays nose tackle.