It’s no secret, and a common complaint of Bill O’Brien’s offense, that Alabama football has struggled to run the football consistently in 2022. As a team, the Crimson Tide ranks 30th in the NCAA in total rushing offense. Not at all what one expects when one thinks of Alabama football.
Overall, the Tide’s rushing attack has been feast or famine as evidenced by the stat line of Jahmyr Gibbs. The Tide’s DeFacto lead back ranks 12th in the country in rushing yards per carry but only 52nd in rushing yards per game. Gibbs’ per-carry statistics are inflated by his homerun potential and his yards-per-game stats are low due to O’Brien’s reluctance to lean on the running game. The Tide seemed to be singing the same tune in Oxford as it limped into halftime down 17-14. However, a resurgent Tide rushing attack in the 3rd Quarter was instrumental in the Alabama football team escaping with a win.
Alabama Football First-Half Issues
At the half, the Tide had 16 rushing attempts for an anemic 26 yards. These numbers are skewed a bit by the fact that Young was sacked twice for a loss of 21 yards. They are further skewed by the fact that Young scrambled two more times for a total of 27 yards. That means the running backs only received 12 designed run attempts in the entire first half. Before you prepare to raise the pitchforks and head to O’Brien’s house. Keep in mind the backs only gained 32 total yards on those carries for just under three yards per carry.
It’s hard to lean on the run with those numbers. The worst offender was Gibbs who received six carries for 3 yards for the entirety of the game. While extreme, these numbers are indicative of Gibb’s struggles throughout the year. His game is dependent on ripping off big runs as he doesn’t have the strength to break tackles and grind out a game.
Turning the Tide in the Run
Faced with an ineffective Gibbs, the Tide turned to Jase McClellan and he rewarded the trust. Jase was one of the major standouts for the Tide. The physical runner received 13 carries in the second half and responded with 64 yards (ending with a line of 19 carries for 84 yards). While these numbers aren’t eye-popping, they’re good for 4.4 yards per carry. As a team, the Tide carried the ball 21 times in the second half as O’Brien showed a tendency to rely on a running game that was having more success. With the increased balance the Tide was able to control the clock and salt away the game using physicality and heart that has felt lacking for much of the season. On the day, the Tide still only had 108 yards on the ground. There is still very much room for improvement, but it felt like a step in the right direction for Alabama football.
It may not be possible to measure improvement in the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack against either Austin Peay or Auburn.
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