The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) got their first conference win of the season in Columbia by beating the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-2) with a 47-23 score. Alabama got an extra treat by beating the Gamecocks for the first time since they lost 35-12 in 2010. This game against the Gamecocks didn’t indicate how much a difficult matchup it was for the Tide. The Tide changed game plans and adjusted to certain matchups facing this aggressive South Carolina team. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continued to make his mark for the Heisman Trophy but without a few surprises along the way. Alabama beats South Carolina, let’s look at how they did it
Alabama Beats South Carolina
Tagovailoa Relied on Two New Leaders for the Passing Offense
Throughout the preseason, the Crimson Tide was regarded as one of the most premier passing offenses with Tagovailoa having the best group of receivers in College Football. 2018 Fred Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was the leader of that group. On Saturday, the Tide didn’t need to solely rely on him to carry this offense. Junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith lined up at the outside receiver slot and ran highly inefficient inside routes. This was a result of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian changing the flow of the Tide’s highly efficient offense. Smith emerged as the most open and available receiver for Tagovailoa. Smith accounted for 136 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions for an average of 17 yards per reception. The Gamecocks’ main key for their defensive backs was locking down Jeudy but this only gave more space for Smith to emerge.
Another player on Alabama’s offense to emerge was running back Najee Harris, who left unchecked often out of the backfield. Harris rushed for 36 yards on seven carries but also accounted for five receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Harris got Alabama on the scoreboard first with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa. He was left alone on a corner route. In the second quarter, Harris caught a quick cut route where he slammed a defender down and hurdle over another. He then raced his way into the endzone for a 42-yard touchdown reception. The Tide’s offense needed Harris’ reliability. With the offense being pass-heavy, Harris became the role player of a dangerous versatile target in the backfield.
Tide’s Defense Pushed by South Carolina Quarterback Ryan Hilinski
Last week, South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski got his first collegiate start at home against Charleston Southern. Going from Charleston Southern to a No. 2 ranked Tide team with a ferocious defense is a tough transition. This did not falter Hilinski as he proved himself to be a more efficient quarterback than his final QBR ranking would indicate. The gameplan for the South Carolina offense was to have Hilinski throw the ball constantly. Hilinski had 57 pass attempts with 36 of them being completions. He threw for 324 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He did, however, fumble the ball twice and lost one of them. Hilinski pushed the Tide’s defensive backs, especially in the deep safety zones. Alabama star safety Xavier McKinney led the team in tackles with nine total tackles, five of which were solo tackles.
The defense for the Crimson Tide made too many mistakes with missed tackles and not making efficient zone coverages. The defensive line for the Tide found themselves in the backfield often with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Freshman defensive tackle D.J. Dale had himself a good game with three total tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Senior outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings found himself in the backfield often by accounting for six total tackles, five solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and a quarterback hurry. South Carolina exposed Alabama’s defense multiple times, especially in the linebacker corps and safeties.