What We Learned: Alabama vs Texas

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) runs the ball against Texas at Darrell K RoyalÐTexas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX on Saturday, Sep 10, 2022.

Alabama was incredibly lucky to escape Austin with a 20-19 win. In a game that few expected to even be close, Alabama just as easily could be 1-1 if a few things had gone differently, and all things considered, Crimson Tide fans should feel relieved to not be taking another trip back from Texas with a loss. There is plenty to take away from this one, but let’s start with the good:

Bryce Young is the best player on this team by a mile:

While maybe we already knew this, Young’s performance today was as dazzling as ever and Alabama really has him to thank for the win. With absolutely nothing going on offense and after FIVE straight three and outs, Young put the team on his back and went and stole this game from Texas himself. We’ll dive into this more on Monday, but Young is facing adversity on offense that his predecessors simply did not, and it’s what makes him the best quarterback in Alabama history.

While there were moments at times that I would have liked to have seen Young be more willing to take off with his legs (first down on the set of downs that led to 4th and short late in the game comes to mind), Young’s legs were more than once the only spark that the Tide’s offense would see in multiple possessions. Tide fans should be singing his praises, because Alabama loses that game with any other quarterback that has ever played for Nick Saban.

Jahmyr Gibbs is the best weapon on this offense:

In a game where the receivers couldn’t create a semblance of separation for most of the night, Gibbs led the Crimson Tide in receptions by a large margin, finishing with nine catches for 74 yards and a huge touchdown in the fourth quarter. No other Alabama player had more than four catches. Gibbs is a massive mismatch every time he’s on the field and adds exactly what we thought he would to this offense.

The lack of separation created by the WR group is an issue:

I don’t want to take credit away from Texas, they came in with a great game plan defensively and rendered this offense ineffective for most of the day. But while many are quick to blame the offensive line, I see it more as an issue in the receiver room. There were plenty of plays where Young had time to throw the ball but just had nowhere to go with it.

There is no one to take the top off the defense (i.e. Jameson Williams), and while there is still time, Jermaine Burton does not appear to be the steady security blanket that he was billed as. To put it simply, this receiver group lacks explosiveness. The offensive struggles today were eerily reminiscent of the Iron Bowl after Jameson Williams was ejected for targeting.

Play calling ability between O’Brien and Sarkisian on full display:

Steve Sarkisian is the best offensive coordinator Alabama has ever had. Yes, I understand the difference in talent he had to work with vs. what O’Brien is working with now, but Sarkisian did a wonderful job today getting rid of the ball quickly, putting his BACKUP quarterback into positions to succeed, and giving Texas a chance to win.

Meanwhile, after a sputtering offensive performance and a chance to shut down the game, O’Brien incomprehensibly elected to send the third running back out there and run a counter out of the pistol formation on fourth and a foot. It was a truly shocking, but not so shocking decision. Would it kill this offense to have Young take a snap under center in a situation like that? I really don’t get it.

Alabama offensive line shell shocked by Texas pass rush:

Like I said earlier, Texas came in with a masterful defensive game plan and their pass rush appears to have significantly improved from last year. But outside of the Jase McClellan 81 yard touchdown run, Alabama struggled to run the ball with any consistency and had to completely abandon the run and let Bryce Young take over in order to win the game. While I believe this line is better than last year’s edition, they still have a lot of work to do.

Lack of discipline on both sides of the ball nearly loses the game:

Will Anderson probably played his worst game in an Alabama uniform today, drawing multiple offsides penalties along with a ridiculous late hit to give Texas a free first down when they had a chance to force them off the field. In total, Alabama took 15 penalties, which was the most in the Nick Saban era. It’s a miracle it didn’t cost them the game.

Overall assessment:

This team has quite a bit of work to do. The defense tightened up nicely but if we are being honest, Alabama got bailed out and probably loses if Quinn Ewers doesn’t get hurt. The penalties will be cleaned up, but the issues in the receiving core are a major concern and could hamper this team in their pursuit of a national championship. Bryce Young got it done pretty much by himself today, but this will not fly against the likes of Georgia. Overall, while all hope is not lost, Alabama better make sure that this was by far the worst game they play all season.