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Tuesday Notebook: Alabama Offense



Sept. 29, 2009

A BALANCED ATTACK: Alabama made its name a season ago with a punishing ground attack that wore down defenses and took shots down the field to Julio Jones. In 2009, the Crimson Tide has brought a little more balance to the table. Although the Tide still has an outstanding ground game, the aerial attack of new quarterback Greg McElroy and a more seasoned crop of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs have given the Tide a little more offensive punch. The Tide has shown tremendous balance in their offensive numbers, averaging 234.25 rushing yards and 256.25 yards passing per game, which gives UA the eighth-ranked total offense in the nation. On the ground, Alabama is rushing the ball an average of 44.25 times per game for 5.30 yards per rush. The passing game is averaging 26.5 pass attempts per contest for an average of 9.67 yards per attempt. In the end, those numbers equate to more points on the scoreboard. Alabama averaged 30.1 points per game last season and is averaging 40.5 points per game in 2009 to rank ninth nationally.

MULTIPLE OPTIONS CREATE DIVERSE OFFENSIVE ATTACK: One of the keys for the Tide’s high-powered offense in 2009 has been its ability to find playmakers all over the field. UA quarterbacks, led by starter Greg McElroy, have completed 67.9 percent of their passes to an impressive 14 different receivers in the first four games of the 2009 season. That includes the SEC opener against Arkansas where McElroy spread out 17 completions to nine different receiving targets. The UA receiving numbers are headed by running back Mark Ingram, who has caught 13 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Behind him is a duo of wide receivers, including sophomore Marquis Maze (8 catches, 194 yards & 2 TD) and senior Mike McCoy (8 catches, 138 yard & 1 TD). Senior tight end Colin Peek also has eight catches for 95 yards with seven of his eight grabs going for first downs. Junior Darius Hanks (7 catches for 126 yards) and sophomore Julio Jones (seven catches for 120 yards and 1 TD) are next. Jones missed most of the FIU game and all of the North Texas with a bruised knee. In all, the Tide has 35 receptions from its wide receivers, 24 from backs and 13 from tight ends.

TIDE GETTING OFFENSIVE: Alabama’s offense is off to a solid start under first-year quarterback Greg McElroy. The Crimson Tide has piled up 1,962 yards of total offense this season (490.5 ypg) in wins over Virginia Tech, Florida International, North Texas and Arkansas. The 1,039 yards combined vs. FIU and North Texas are the most by Alabama in back-to-back games since compiling 1,104 yards in consecutive games against South Carolina (516) and UTEP (588) during the 2001 season. Alabama had its best offensive output of the season vs. North Texas, and its third- and fourth-best offensive showings in the Saban era against FIU and UNT. The Crimson Tide had 263 passing yards and 260 rushing yards vs. North Texas after rushing for 275 yards and throwing for 241 yards against FIU. In the season opener, Alabama racked up 498 yards of total offense, the sixth-best offensive day under Saban, in a 34-24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech.

TIME OF POSSESSION: An Alabama trademark over the past two seasons has been its ability to control the line of scrimmage offensively and, consequently, control the tempo of the game. This has played out with an impressive advantage in time of possession. A year ago the Crimson Tide finished 11th nationally with an average time of possession of 32:08. In 2009, the Crimson Tide is off to another great start in that category, ranking 11th nationally at 33:15. The Tide held the ball for 37:02 in the opener against Virginia Tech, 31:38 against FIU, 30:43 vs. North Texas and 33:36 against Arkansas. The Crimson Tide has won the time of possession battle in 13 of the last 18 games overall and all four contests in 2009.

McELROY ON THE MARK: Greg McElroy has been impressive in his first four games as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, completing 67.7 percent (63 of 93) of his passes for 938 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. The junior boasts a 175.15 passing efficiency rating, which ranks third nationally. He has now won his last 20 starts at quarterback, going 16-0 as a high school senior in 2005 and 4-0 for the Tide in 2009. In his collegiate starting debut against Virginia Tech, the Southlake, Texas, native threw for 230 yards on 15-of-30 passing with one touchdown and one interception in leading the Crimson Tide to a win over the No. 7 team in the country. The 230 yards ranks as the fourth-highest total by a quarterback in his UA debut behind Brodie Croyle (285), Andrew Zow (272) and John Parker Wilson (253). McElroy followed up that outing with a deadly precise performance against Florida International, completing 18-of-24 attempts for 241 yards and one touchdown without throwing an interception. In just a half of play against North Texas, McElroy continued to find is mark with 176 yards on 13-of-15 passing and two touchdowns. He showed that starting SEC play would not have an effect either, going 17-of-24 for a career-high 291 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 14-of-17 passes for 275 yards and all three touchdowns in the final three quarters against the Razorbacks.

McELROY STREAKING: McElroy has strung together some pretty impressive passing numbers during his first four starts at quarterback for the Tide. Since halftime of the season opener against No. 7 Virginia Tech, McElroy has completed 57-of-75 passes for 844 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. That computes to a 76.0 completion percentage, a 205.81 collegiate passer rating and a 145.64 NFL passer rating over those 14 quarters of play. He set a new Alabama record for consecutive completions against FIU by connecting on 14 straight passes. Then against North Texas, he tied the school mark for highest completion percentage with a minimum of 10 completions, going 13 for 15 (86.7 percent). McElroy has not thrown an interception in 81 pass attempts, dating back to a second-quarter pick against Virginia Tech in the opener. He was 9 for 9 in the second half against Arkansas for 188 yards and two touchdowns. McElroy has completed 10 consecutive passes entering the Kentucky game.

INGRAM FINDING THE END ZONE: Mark Ingram has shown the ability to find the end zone just about any way he can during his Alabama career. The sophomore has at least one rushing touchdown in seven of his last eight games and one in each game in 2009. He also has a receiving touchdown in 3-of-4 games this season. Overall, Ingram has scored at least one touchdown in 13 of his 18 games for the Tide. He had 19 career touchdowns (three receiving), including a freshman record 12 (all rushing) in 2008. Ingram leads the SEC in scoring at 10.50 points per game while ranking tied for 15th nationally.

BALL SECURITY: Mark Ingram has also developed another impressive reputation during his 18-game Alabama career as the Flint, Mich., native is an expert at holding onto the football. The sophomore has not lost a fumble in 204 career rushing attempts and 20 career receptions for a total of 224 career touches. He has only put the ball on the ground one time (at LSU in 2008), which was recovered by the Tide. He has 1,075 rushing yards in those 18 games with 16 rushing touchdowns while also catching 20 passes for 198 yards and three scores.

RICHARDSON HAS IMPRESSIVE DEBUT: True freshman running back Trent Richardson has enjoyed an impressive debut in his first four games with the Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against FIU and followed that up with 87 yards on 11 carries (7.9 ypc) against North Texas and 65 yards and a score vs. Arkansas. Richardson scored on runs of nine and 35 yards in the second half vs. FIU, plunged in from one-yard out against North Texas and then broke five tackles en route to a 52-yard touchdown vs. Arkansas.

80-YARD TOUCHDOWN TIES FOR 7TH-LONGEST PASS IN UA HISTORY: Sophomore receiver Marquis Maze hauled in a Greg McElroy pass for an 80-yard touchdown play last week against Arkansas, a career-long pass catch for Maze and a career-long pass play for McElroy. The play ties for the seventh-longest touchdown pass in Alabama history and the longest since 2003.

Longest Touchdown Passes in UA History
94           Freddie Kitchens to Michael Vaughn vs. Florida                    1996
90           Jeff Dunn to Pierre Goode vs. Tennessee                           1987
87           Albert Elmore to Bobby Luna vs. Tulsa                               1954
87           Brodie Croyle to Zach Fletcher vs. Mississippi State              2003
85           Gary Rutledge to Joe Dale Harris vs. California                   1973
81           Ken Coley to Joey Jones vs. Vanderbilt                              1981
80           Greg McElroy to Marquis Maze vs. Arkansas                                  2009
80           Gary Rutledge to Wayne Wheeler vs. Tennessee                 1973
80           Walter Lewis to Jesse Bendross vs. Mississippi                    1982

BAMA SCORES ON BIG PLAYS: Alabama’s first three touchdowns against Arkansas occurred on plays of 50 yards or more – a 52-yard run by Trent Richardson, a 50-yard pass from Greg McElroy to Julio Jones, and a 80-yard pass from McElroy to Marquis Maze.  Those plays accounted for 182 of Alabama’s 287 total yards through the midway point of the third quarter.  On the year, the Alabama offense has 22 plays of 20 yards or more with eight of those plays going for touchdowns. The Tide also has 10 plays of 35 yards or more with five of those going to scores.

JONES BACK IN THE LINEUP - CATCHES TD PASS: Sophomore receiver Julio Jones returned to action last weekend vs. Arkansas after missing the North Texas game due to an injury and caught two passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Jones extended Alabama’s lead to 14-0 in the second quarter on a 50-yard pass from Greg McElroy, Jones’ first scoring catch of the season. The play began with Alabama in the “Wildcat” formation with a direct snap to running back Mark Ingram, who handed the ball to running back Terry Grant on a reverse. Grant then pitched the ball back to McElroy who fired the pass down the middle of the field to a wide-open Jones. It is Jones’ first touchdown reception in 12 games dating back to the Georgia game in 2008.