Takeaways from the 52-6 win for the Alabama Crimson Tide over the USC Trojans
They say numbers don’t lie but in the 52-6 win for the Alabama Crimson Tide over the USC Trojans, the final stats revealed some things that went against what many fans were expecting to see when they tuned in to the match-up between two storied programs.
You must capitalize on turnovers
Early on, the game resembled a championship boxing match with both combatants not having much control but a fumble by new quarterback Jalen Hurts appeared to give the Trojans the opportunity to seize momentum. Unfortunately for the USC faithful, nothing came of it as the team lost three yards on the subsequent drive and punted the ball right back to the Crimson Tide.
Iman Marshall later intercepted Hurts, but just like the first turnover USC could not take advantage of the opportunity and were forced to punt the ball after only having it for three plays.
Conversely when Alabama forced its only turnover in the game, the impact was instant as cornerback Marlon Humphrey returned his interception 18-yards for a touchdown to make the score 17-3. The turnover happened early in the game but momentum had clearly shifted to Alabama’s side for the rest of the game
The star receivers were a no-show but the understudy came up big
Three catches for 18 yards… That does not scream all-conference, hell it barely whispers starter for either team but those were the combined stats for star receivers JuJu Schuster-Smith and Calvin Ridley. Smith and Ridley had perhaps the worst game of their collegiate careers but for different reasons.
Because of the constant pressure from the Alabama defense, no Trojans receiver had the performance that they were hoping for to start the 2016 season. New USC quarterback Max Browne was only sacked three times on the evening and outside of the long 36-yard pass to Dareus Rogers, he never seemed comfortable in the pocket and it wasn’t until the third quarter, when the game was well in hand that Brown found Smith for a short nine-yard pass.
Everyone in AT&T Stadium knew that whoever the Crimson Tide had under center would be looking for the talented Mr. Ridley – including USC head coach Clay Helton – not only did USC assign its best cornerback, Adoree Jackson, to cover him they also shaded safety coverage as well. It worked, as Ridley only had two catches but the attention opened the door for Alabama’s other receiver, ArDarius Stewart, to take advantage. At one point in the game the Trojans sent both its corner and safety on a blitz and left Stewart wide open for a 71-yard touchdown. The long touchdown was the last catch by Stewart on the night, but the damage was already done.
New players, same results for the Bama defense
We should be used to this by now; Alabama sends a ton of guys to the NFL and their replacements are just as good, if not better. The most impressive thing about the defense on Saturday wasn’t the 194 total yards, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss it was that they played so well with a new defensive coordinator. Jeremy Pruitt replaced Kirby Smart but you couldn’t tell on the field. Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen turned down the riches of the NFL and on Saturday played like a guy that will reap the benefits of that decision come next May as he finished the day with two sacks and four tackles. Shaun Dion Hamilton is off to a great start of continuing the legacy of great Alabama as he had five tackles and one sack in his debut as the starting middle linebacker.
Harris, not Scarborough, could be the best Alabama running back
Everyone was anticipating the debut of Alabama’s new super back Bo Scarborough and for good reason. After watching the 6’3 242-pound Derrick Henry wreak havoc on the nation on the way to winning the 2016 Heisman, Bama nation was excited to know that the offense would have a clone in Scarborough. Against the Trojans, however, the star running back was junior Damien Harris. Harris rushed for 140 yards on only nine carries and showed shiftiness and burst on the 73-yard run that set up an Alabama score. Harris may not dominate carries like previous Alabama running backs but right now he appears to be the best compliment in the backfield if Hurts is going to be the starter.
USC will be ok
Nowhere on the remainder of the Trojans schedule will there be a team as talented and well coached as Alabama, so USC can breathe a sigh of relief. As bad as the score looked there is a lot to learn – and grow – from the blowout. The two toughest games remaining on the schedule will be a road game versus Washington on November 12th and hosting Notre Dame Thanksgiving weekend. Both teams may have individual units that are talented but nothing on par with Alabama. How Browne, running back Ronald Jones, and Smith-Schuster respond against Utah St this weekend will determine if they are going to be contenders or pretenders in the PAC-12.