After a dominating 44-13 win over the #14 Miami Hurricanes in week one, Alabama head coach Nick Saban was cautious with the mentality of the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama kicked off its home-opener versus the Mercer Bears. The Tide had a slow start to the game offensively while the defense remained strong through the first half. Alabama came out their first game in Bryant-Denny with a 48-14 score over Mercer. While there were great things from this Tide team in this game, there were concerns expressed by Saban. He is a perfectionist when it comes to his team’s play style and effort. Here are the main takeaways on both sides of the ball.
#1 Alabama Has Up-and-Down Performance
The Offensive Line And Receivers Of Alabama vs. Mercer
Last week, the Tide’s offense had some great explosive plays as they dominated the Hurricanes. This past Saturday, the Bears were ready for the Tide’s established offense. Mercer forced Alabama to punt the ball in the first two drives of the game. The defense for Mercer was highly aggressive with their blitzing schemes at the beginning of the game. In the first drive of the game for Alabama, right tackle Chris Owens was beat on the outside by a speedy pash rusher to sack quarterback Bryce Young. The receivers for Alabama did not have the same explosive and eagerness as they had last week. In two consecutive plays in the second drive, wide receiver Jameson Williams dropped a great pass from Young and then initiated a personal foul that cost the offense.
The Tide couldn’t get an offensive score until late in the first quarter of the game with a four-yard rushing score from running back Brian Robinson Jr. Once they found a rhythm on offense, they were able to get two scoring drives going in the second and third quarter. Young passed for 227 yards, three touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 177.7 on 19 completions (on 27 passing attempts). Freshman wide receiver JoJo Earle was the team’s leading receiver he caught all seven passes he was targeted for 85 yards. Williams caught three of his seven targets, while John Metchie III caught five of his eight targets. The defense of Mercer focused on limiting the explosive plays that Williams and Metchie could bring, but the Tide had too many weapons. Young continued to develop in this game despite the protection and his best weapons being suppressed.
Defense Improves With New Starters
After holding the Hurricanes to 266 total yards, the defense had a different offensive scheme to face. Alabama had a new set of obstacles in this game against Mercer as they would be without their starting cornerbacks in Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis. The Tide’s defense shut down any opportunity for the Bears to create any consistent drive early in the game despite some unique fronts that have caused Alabama troubles in recent history. Alabama held Mercer to 216 total yards of offense with 48 of them on the ground. Mercer was 3-for-12 against the aggressive defense of Alabama’s defense that constantly got into the backfield. Alabama’s defense accounted for eight tackles for loss and three sacks. Defensive end Bryon Young accounted for four total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack.
This game against Mercer was a big game for cornerback Marcus Banks and true freshman “Kool-Aid” McKinstry. They were late inserts as starters due to the injured Jobe and Davis. McKinstry had a great first start in his collegiate career as he accounted for six total tackles and one interception of a tipped pass from outside linebacker Drew Sanders, who also made his first collegiate start. Sanders was starting at the sam linebacker after the season-ending injury to senior Christopher Allen. Sanders accounted for two pass breakups against the dynamic offense of Mercer. The Bears couldn’t get on the scoreboard until the middle of the third quarter. Alabama fell for a play-action pass that resulted in a 60-yard score. The front-seven of Alabama’s defense was highly dominant. They held Mercer’s offense to an average of just over one yard per carry on 36 rushes.
Alabama Prepares For Another Ranked Matchup Next Week
It wasn’t the blowout that most Tide fans or even Saban wanted. It should, however, be a good sign that the offense, defense, and special teams for Alabama look solid. Saban reiterated that the players should have more respect to the Bears going into this game. Saban also said there will be some work to do on both sides of the ball in practices. That might give some role players more reps. The Tide will need to fix their efficiency on offense and keep the intensity on defense after Mercer. Alabama travels to face the #13 Florida Gators in Gainesville this upcoming Saturday. Florida have a more dynamic and dual-threat offense when Alabama defeated the Gators in the 2020 SEC Championship 52-46.