By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
With a showdown against a top-10 Auburn team looming, Alabama used Saturday’s game against Chattanooga to knock off some rust from a close win over Mississippi State last week, while tuning up the offense for what is expected to be a shootout at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Judging by the 49-0 final score against the Mocs, it looks like the Tide have found their sixth gear once again.
Aside from a muffed punt, Alabama looked sharp in all phases of the game, as it raced to a 28-0 lead in the first half, which was enough of a cushion to give the starters a rest by the third quarter.
Though the Mocs’ option offense was a step or two (or three) slower than what Gus Malzahan runs at Auburn, Bama’s defense looked stout snuffing out misdirection plays before having a chance to cause much confusion. All told, the Tide defense held the Mocs to just 175 yards on the day.
Considering Auburn leads the conference in rushing and has been averaging almost 40 points per game, that’s the type of production they’ll need. Alabama’s defense is among the best in the country, but it will be tested in a way it hasn't since September’s shootout against Texas A&M, which saw the Tide give up more than 500 yards and 42 points.
Netting the Tide’s third shutout of the season was as good a way as any to get primed for the Tigers.
So, what stood out as Bama gets ready for Iron Bowl week and the showdown for the SEC West?
‰ Special Teams Were Special: After losing possession on a muffed punt early in the first quarter, Alabama’s special teams went from liability to asset with a punt return for a touchdown by Christion Jones, as well as a field goal block, to keep the Mocs scoreless in the first half.
As the Tide get ready to hit the road for Auburn, a game-changing special teams unit could make a huge difference.
‰ The Gunslinger is Back (and Efficient): Senior quarterback A.J. McCarron built his reputation on efficiency, but after tossing five interceptions on the year, including two last week, the signal-caller reversed the slide Saturday to throw for 171 yards and two touchdowns in limited duty — with no picks.
That’s good, because considering how quickly Auburn’s been piling up points this year, the Tide can’t afford for McCarron to toss any balls to Tiger defenders.
‰ Ground and Pound: Alabama’s rushing attack hasn't matched the sheer ferocity of previous years, but every running back who hit the field looked good Saturday against the Mocs’ overmatched defense. Four different players scored on the ground, with Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry, Chris Black, Dee Hart and Altee Tenpenny piling up more than 200 combined yards.
% Trent Moore can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.