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Monday, November 19, 2012
Film study: Alabama vs. Western Carolina

By Alex Scarborough

An analysis of three key plays in Alabama's 49-0 win over Western Carolina on Saturday at home -- and what those plays mean moving forward for the Crimson Tide:

Hitting the ground running

Dave Martin/Associated Press
Eddie Lacy scores on a 7-yard touchdown run during Saturday's win over Western Carolina. Watch Video

The score: No score, 12:06 left in the first quarter

The situation: Second-and-goal from the Western Carolina 7-yard line

Why it worked: Alabama did what it hadn't in the last two games -- it ran the football down the other team's throat. Granted that's easier to do against the likes of an out-manned Western Carolina defense, but the fact remains Alabama went to Eddie Lacy and the offensive line early and often Saturday.

The breakdown: Doug Nussmeier opted for the single wide receiver look with Amari Cooper split out to AJ McCarron's right. H-back Kelly Johnson lined up off the line of scrimmage alongside tight end Michael Williams on the left side of the line. Brian Vogler lined up at tight end on the right side of the line. Lacy was 7 yards deep behind McCarron.

Western Carolina employed just three down linemen in the 3-4 look, blitzing just the strong side linebacker. From there it was easy work for the offensive line as McCarron turned to his left to hand the ball off to Lacy. Johnson and Williams were able to get to the second level of the defense while Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and Cyrus Kouandjio sealed the line of scrimmage. Kouandjio moved his defender 6 yards downfield before he was done. Lacy made the right read went into the end zone basically untouched.

What it means: If you forgot just how dominant the Alabama offensive line can be running the football, this play served as a reminder that, no matter the situation, they're capable of getting the job done. Alabama went away from a consistent run game against Texas A&M and LSU, but returned to it Saturday, rushing the ball 28 more times than it passed. With three Outland Trophy candidates to run behind, the Tide can take that all the way to the bank.

McCarron sets the record

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
AJ McCarron celebrates his record-setting touchdown pass with WR Christion Jones. Watch Video

The score: Alabama leading 21-0, 8:15 left in the second quarter

The situation: First-and-10 from the Western Carolina 29-yard line

Why it worked: Nussmeier worked off the run all day. UA rushed the ball on six of seven plays before McCarron hit for his record-breaking touchdown.

The breakdown: Alabama went four-wide after running the ball down Western Carolina's throat for the better part of the first half. Kenny Bell lined up to the far right side at Y, Marvin Shinn to his left at H. Cooper was at his usual X position and Christion Jones in the slot at Z. Lacy lined up alongside McCarron in the shotgun.

Western Carolina went to the nickel formation with four down linemen, two linebackers and seven defensive backs. Jones' defender played up near the line of scrimmage and Cooper's 5 yards off. Cooper ran a go-route for the benefit of picking Jones' defender. Jones went underneath Cooper and up the sideline. Cooper's defender didn't shift over and the safety failed to recognize the play as McCarron found a wide open Jones in the end zone for the easy touchdown.

What it means: Remember the last time Alabama tried to run a pick? It was fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line against Texas A&M, down 4 with less than two minutes remaining. It didn't work on a short field then, but it worked Saturday. The play made the most of Jones' ability to get by defenders with his speed, something Alabama hasn't been able to take much advantage of, of late. The score also secured McCarron't 21st passing touchdown of the season, setting an Alabama single-season record in the process.

Sims gets his chance, too

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Backup QB Blake Sims shows off his running ability during a touchdown run Saturday. Watch Video

The score: Alabama leading 42-0, 7:15 left in the third quarter

The situation: First-and-goal from the Western Carolina 5-yard line

Why it worked: Alabama's offense was clicking on all cylinders by this point, using Blake Sims and the read-option to near perfection.

The breakdown: It was a glimpse at Alabama's future, at least on the offensive line. Ryan Kelly came on at center, Arie Kouandjio at right guard, Austin Shepherd at right tackle, Chad Lindsay at left guard and Kellen Williams at left tackle. Brent Calloway worked at running back and played well off Sims on the zone-read. Vogler and Harrison Jones spent time at tight end.

The man who stole the show was Sims, though, showing off an athletic ability that Western Carolina's defense couldn't match. If there was a hole, he was going to find it Saturday. If there wasn't, he looked to be capable of creating one out of thin air.

Alabama went zone-read on first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Sims faked the handoff to Calloway, who was heading to the left side, and instead went right where there was a clear path to pay dirt. Sims easily dove in for 6 points, his second touchdown of the season.

What it means: There aren't many wrinkles in the Alabama offense. It's about as straightforward as they come these days, but Sims ability to run the zone-read could change that. It might not come this season, but if Sims continues to have success working the two-man game at quarterback, he could find himself in specific offensive packages next year. Saban wants more diversity on offense and Sims could be the man to give him that. Remember Saban went after a dual-threat quarterback in Jameis Winston a year ago and lost out to Florida State. Could he have the itch to incorporate, on some level, a more athletic presence in the backfield?