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            A few extra observations, notes from Alabama’s 6th win of 2020

            Alabama reached the open week after a six-game sprint to open this all-SEC season. It’s clear they need a break with a number of players banged up coming out of the 41-0 blowout of Mississippi State.

            Before heading to LSU next Saturday, the Crimson Tide (6-0) gets a Saturday away from competition. You can bridge that gap by spending a few minutes reading these observations from a second viewing of the Tide’s first shutout in two seasons. We do this every Sunday courtesy of the DVR and the rewind button.

            A few observations and some context to what you saw from Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night.

            -- Najee Harris started things with a 9-yard run on first down on a trend that would continue. I wrote about this earlier Sunday as Harris had 15 of his 21 carries on first downs and averaged 7.2 yards on those carries.

            -- Miller Forristall caught a 14-yard pass on the second play. That would be his only catch of the game as only five players caught passes for Alabama.

            -- With tight end Carl Tucker back for the first time in a few weeks, Alabama was doing some different things formationally. They had Tucker, a grad transfer from UNC, stacked with Forristall at times out wide before pulling them into the line.

            -- There was a play later in the first possession that was interesting in the way it was schemed. Harris has been such a threat in the passing game that the middle linebacker hesitated just long enough when Harris sprinted out that he missed John Metchie dragging across the defense right in front of him. This is the eye control Saban references with defenders. The LB was lured by the candy in the backfield and missed what came right through his kitchen for a 7-yard gain.

            -- You saw an Alabama defense that was much more disciplined tackling, limiting the big plays and keeping the ball in front of them. The longest MSU play of the game covered just 20 yards and the first five possessions were 3-and-out for the road team.

            -- Mississippi State also moved into the national lead with 14 interceptions (in five games) after Will Rogers threw two. K.J. Costello got away with at least two that should have been picked by Brian Branch and Josh Jobe, respectively.

            -- Mac Jones was overshooting his receivers on deep balls early in the game. Jones later said MSU threw some different looks at him that they didn’t show in film. Saban noted there was a lot of zone defense that begged Jones to check down and throw shorter passes. That’s evident in the face Harris' six receptions were second on the team behind only DeVonta Smith’s 11.

            -- Mississippi State’s two punters were kicking low line drives (10 punts, 38.8-yard average). It’s a shame Jaylen Waddle wasn’t back there to catch them because he could have done some creative things with all the green grass Slade Bolden saw in the return game. His best attempt was called back for a blocking infraction.

            -- Saban was not at all happy with the 10 penalties Alabama drew. Six of the 10 were on the offensive line with a few holding flags sprinkled in.

            -- Jones had a real subtle pump fake on the first TD pass to Smith. The safety came up in coverage with the CB blitzing and he never had a shot against Smith. The overthrows from early in the game recalibrated and fell right in the breadbasket for touchdown No. 1 of 4 for Smith. Jones actually had a more pronounced pump fake on the second long TD pass to Smith. I’d be interested to know how much that impacts DBs in coverage because with speed like the Alabama WRs have, sometimes it just requires a split second to get behind the secondary.

            -- If we’re being honest here, I was very underwhelmed with the Mike Leach offense. Maybe I should’ve watched more of the Bulldogs but there wasn’t much flash there. Alabama had surrendered a few big plays in the deep passing game but there weren’t many shots taken. I mean, this offense destroyed records against LSU by throwing for 623 yards. It had 200 total Saturday and only threatened to score once.

            -- The 17 first-quarter points were a season-high for an Alabama team that’s outscoring opponents 73-21 in first quarters.

            -- Freshman Brian Branch was around the ball quite often. His seven tackles were second behind only fellow newcomer Malachi Moore’s eight.

            -- Will Reichard is 8-for-8 kicking field goals this year after drilling both against MSU. There’s no hesitation or lack of confidence in the way he kicks it, either. Just a solid kicker with good mechanics.

            -- The Alabama defensive front did a great job getting to the passer with two sacks. More importantly, it had eight QB hurries with freshman Will Anderson getting a pair.

            -- Didn’t see it in real time but that tight camera shot on Costello after getting an obvious concussion was hard to watch. He was clearly hurt badly and didn’t get off the grass for several minutes.

            -- Mississippi State had one of the best time-of-possession rankings in the SEC before Saturday. Alabama held it for 31:42 of the game and 19:44 of the 30 minutes before halftime. The fact it had 18 first downs to MSU’s 1 in the opening half explains why.

            -- Alabama didn’t try a fourth-down conversion before Saturday night and it was 0-for-2 against the Bulldogs. Tide opponents have tried 15, converting 10. MSU was 2-for-2.

            -- It was interesting to see Trey Sanders enter midway through the second quarter. Saban later said No. 2 RB Brian Robinson was a little banged up and Sanders seemed to run the ball better Saturday. Saban said he liked some of the cuts he made after he appeared to be pretty north-south in his first few appearances. Sanders finished with 80 yards on 12 carries.

            -- Not sure if it translated in real time during the game but there wasn’t a ton of electricity in the air compared to the Georgia game. That’s not stunning given the stakes, but it felt pretty casual in person -- just the reality of the situation we’re in this fall. It was especially flat coming out of halftime with the first two Tide drives ending in punts.

            -- The 200 yards Alabama surrendered were the fewest by an opponent since the last time it recorded a shutout. Mississippi State managed just 169 in a 24-0 loss to Alabama in 2018. LSU had just 196 a week before that in a 29-0 Tide win.

            -- Jones got away with a few passes that could have been intercepted on a night Saban said the QB would admit probably wasn’t his best. Still, he was 24 of 31 for 291 yards and four TDs. Jones has been intercepted just twice in 177 passes this fall.

            MFB

            Alabama LB Dylan Moses intercepts a third-quarter pass against Mississippi State. (UA photo)Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

            -- The interception recorded by Dylan Moses required outstanding concentration (seen above). Really impressive for a middle linebacker. It also made up for a missed open-field tackle on QB Will Rogers on a third-down play. Moses was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct earlier in that drive -- an uncharacteristic penalty for the veteran.

            -- DeVonta Smith had a leaping 34-yard catch after the INT that could have been historic. He had a few steps on the DB but the pass was slightly underthrown, so he had to come back to the ball. Otherwise, it had the potential to equal the school (and national) record for a 99-yard touchdown. Amari Cooper has the school mark on a 99-yarder from AJ McCarron recorded in the fourth quarter of the infamous 2013 Iron Bowl at Auburn.

            -- I was kinda surprised you didn’t see Bryce Young and the rest of the freshmen a little earlier in the game. There was a point in the fourth quarter when it was Young and the three rookie WRs in the same formation. It felt a little like Tua Tagovailoa entering with the big-three freshmen in 2017, though this group of WRs didn’t enter with quite the hype as Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith.

            -- Saban had a fascinating breakdown of Patrick Surtain’s interception that pushed Alabama to its 19th straight 35-point game.

            -- Congrats if you made it until the end. Couldn’t finish it before sunset this week but the sun was cheating.

            Previous Sunday rewinds:

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