Tide limits 'Wildcat' in victory over FIU

Tide limits 'Wildcat' in victory over FIU

Alabama uses powerful rushing advantage to amass 275 yards on the ground Saturday.

September 14th, 2009 by The Decatur Daily in Sports - College

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For seven days, the talk of Alabama's newfound acceptance of something new dominated the news cycle.

Nearly every newspaper covering the Crimson Tide, including this one, wrote in detail about Nick Saban's sudden embrace of the "Wildcat" offense after rolling it out on the first offensive play of the season. All indications pointed to further experimentation Saturday against Florida International.

So, of course, Alabama ran just one play out of the formation against the Panthers.

The game plan, Saban said, did in fact call for further use of the spread offense variant that puts someone other than the quarterback behind center for a shotgun snap.

"It's just one of those things that didn't get dialed up much," Saban said afterwards. "We were running the ball pretty effectively so I didn't feel like we needed to get to it."

Having seven different players combine to roll up 275 rushing yards qualifies as effective.

Running back Mark Ingram's midweek bout with the flu may have factored into the decision as well. The sophomore took eight of the nine snaps as the Wildcat quarterback in the season-opening win over Virginia Tech, but he played a lesser role against FIU.

After the game, Ingram said he felt "winded" following a 10-run, 57-yard game that also included four receptions for 47 yards.

Roy Upchurch took the only Wildcat snap of the night and ran seven yards up the middle after faking the end-around. The senior's sprained ankle took him out of the game and effectively killed any hopes of seeing the Wildcat's return for this week.

Sure, freshman Trent Richardson had a breakout performance with his 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns. But it may be a little soon to hand him the keys to a fairly new offensive concept especially since Alabama didn't take a two-touchdown lead until the end of the third quarter.

Square injures knee

Reserve linebacker Damion Square received an ovation as he left Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Only it was the kind of cheer no football player relishes.

Square, who had one assist against FIU, was on the back of a cart when his exit drew a knowing cheer from the fourth-quarter crowd.

Saban called the injury "probably serious" although he wasn't sure of a prognosis in his postgame news conference. The coach does expect the injury to require surgery. That likely means the end of the redshirt freshman's season leaving Eryk Anders and Courtney Upshaw as the remaining Jack linebackers on the depth chart.

Coming out of Yates High School in Houston, Square was the ninth-best linebacker in the class of 2008 according to Scout.com.

Official word on injuries to Square and Julio Jones are expected at Monday's news conference. Jones suffered what Saban called a bruised knee on an end-around that gained five yards.

"We'll do everything we can to check him out and make sure he doesn't have any other issues," Saban said. "I'm not sure of the prognosis of when he will be able to come back, but we'll probably be able to find that out (Sunday)."

Front four do job

Looking deeper at the dominant pass rush of the last two quarters of Saturday's game reveals a pleasing trend for Saban.

Most of the pressure that made quarterback Paul McCall's night miserable came from the front line. Of the five sacks, three came from defensive ends Marcell Dareus, Lorenzo Washington and Anders, whose Jack linebacker position frequently means playing with a hand down.

Having the lineman penetrate the offensive front means dropping more linebackers into coverage and take away throwing lanes for the hurried quarterback.

Poll watching

Alabama remained fourth in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls released Sunday.

Again, the Tide received a pair of first place votes.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Jon Wilner kept Alabama at No. 1 for the second straight week. He reasoned on his blog that the Tide's opening-week win over Virginia Tech was more impressive than USC's 18-15 win at Ohio State on Saturday.

Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer publicized voting Alabama atop his ballot a week ago, but did not write about his most recent ballot on his blog by Sunday evening.