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It Takes Eleven

Quoth the Raven...
BAMA vs Houston

by It Takes Eleven

Game Day Info:
When: Saturday October 6th @2:07PM CT
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Television Coverage: CTSM Pay-Per-View.

BAMA Team Stats
Total Offense: 415 ypg (45th) Total Defense: 331 ypg (39th)
Points Per Game: 30.8 ppg (46th) Points Per Game Allowed: 20.2 ppg (36th)
Rushing Offense: 182 (38th) Rushing Yards Allowed: 133.8 ypg (47th)
Passing Offense: 233 (56th) Passing yards Allowed: 197 ypg (47th)

BAMA Key Stats and Personnel
Passing: John Parker Wilson (100-186, 1,091)
Rushing: Terry Grant (82-519, 5td), Glenn Coffee (48-252, 2td), Roy Upchurch (11-75, 1td)
Receiving: D.J. Hall (23-420, 3TD), Mike McCoy (19-127), Matt Caddell (15-137, 1TD), Terry Grant (11-86), Nick Walker (11-69, 2TD)

Houston Team Stats
Total Offense: 484 ypg (15th) Total Defense: 364 ypg (56th)
Points Per Game: 33.5 ppg (33rd) Points Per Game Allowed: 31 ppg (85th)
Rushing Offense: 202 ypg (24th) Rush Defense: 178 ypg (81st)
Passing Offense: 282 ypg (23rd) Pass Defense: 186 ypg (33rd)

Houston Key Stats and Personnel
Passing: Case Keenum (51-81, 5INT, 5TD, 656yds), Blake Joseph (46-61, 1INT, 4TD, 464yds)
Rushing: Anthony Alridge (76-443, 3TD), Terrance Ganaway (33-177, 1TD)
Receiving: Donnie Avery (29-434, 2TD), Jeron Harvey (18-153), Teric Williams (12-110, 1TD)

BAMA Quick Hits

After two close losses, the Tide looks to get back on track this homecoming weekend at The Capstone. An offense that has become unreliable has raised more questions than it has answered over the past two games. Against Florida State, the Tide was unable to force its will in establishing the run, eventually opting for the pass and attempting 53 passes (just two shy of Scott Hunter’s record) in order to move the ball. With the last three games settled by a total of just 13 points, another nailbiter is not out of the question, particularly if The University’s offense has another slow start. Bama is 3-0 when scoring first this year. With the success of Florida State in stopping the run and forcing the Tide to take to the air, look for Houston to follow the Seminole blueprint, while Bama seeks better balance.

After starting the season with a feature back in redshirt freshman Terry Grant, the running game has transitioned into a committee approach, with significant contributions by Sophomores Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch. Although setting the Alabama record for career receiving yards in the Arkansas game, Senior receiver DJ Hall is three catches shy of becoming Alabama’s all-time leader for receptions. Hall currently has 150 career receptions and trails Freddie Milon’s (1998-2001) school record of 152 career receptions.

Defensively, the Tide has proven capable, if not outstanding. At the beginning of the season, it was expected that a high scoring offense would have to compensate for a thin defense. However, the defense has proven to be up to the task. This week will be a test in preparation, recognition and discipline as Houston’s complex, balanced spread offense feasts on defensive miscues. With big play capability at running back and receiver, a defensive lapse could result in a quick score.

Sophomore return specialist Javier Arenas is second in the league in punt returns. The Cuban Missile boasts a 15 yard average per return. Leigh Tiffin continues his solid performance, boasting a nationally ranked 11th best 1.8 field goals per game.

Tide Player Houston Must Focus On: The Tide Running Backs. Whoever gets the nod to carry the rock this weekend (Grant, Upchurch, Coffee, Johns), our backs and line will have an opportunity to take advantage of what has proven to be, thus far, a porous run defense. If Houston crowds the line and tries to take away the run, look for Wilson to have a confidence building, marquee day through the air.

BAMA Will Win If: The running game returns to form. A successful day for Alabama will include an ability to run roughshod over the Cougars, control the clock and keep the Cougars’ potent offense off the field. It will be important for the defense to put pressure on a turnover prone Houston squad, and to take advantage of shaky special teams play.

Houston Quick Hits

After losing key offensive players from last year’s C-USA championship team, Houston has had some dropoff in offensive production, but it remains a premier offensive team, boasting a 15th best 484 yards per game of total offense. Averaging almost 34 points per game, the offense has kept the Cougars in every game. After being used sparingly in the first two games, sophomore Blake Joseph came off the bench in the second quarter of last week’s game after two first half interceptions by Case Keenum (both set up East Carolina TDs). Joseph was impressive, going 24 of 29 for 250 yards, two TDs, and no INT. He also rushed for 27 net yards, including an 18 yard scamper.

Turnovers have been key in the Houston’s two losses. In its downing by the Ducks of Oregon, Houston put up 30 first downs, rushed for over 330 yards and outgained the Ducks in total yards. Four turnovers fueled Oregon’s victory. In a frustrating, two-point loss to East Carolina last week, Houston’s D limited the Pirates to just 14 first downs, while the Houston offense generated over 150 yards more than the Pirates. Three turnovers aided in the Pirate victory, including two first half INT that both set up scores. Special teams miscues were also critical, with two field goal misses late and a blocked FG that set up an East Carolina TD from the 11 yard line.

Donnie Avery is the receiver to watch in the Cougars passing game, but he is also a threat on special teams. Last week against Eastern Carolina, Avery had a career day, snagging nine passes for 189 yards and two TDs. The game against ECU was Avery’s fifth career 100-yard day in receiving. On special teams, Avery had four kickoff returns for 161 yards and one TD. The TD return went for 100 yards.

Player BAMA Must Focus On: Stop RB Anthony Alridge by denying the run and accounting for him in pass patterns. Alridge is averaging 110 yards per game, and has proven dangerous as a receiver, with an 86 yard TD reception to his credit. The Cougars have surprising balance for a team that uses the spread formation. If they remain close and aren’t forced to play catch-up through the air, their balance may prove problematic for Tide defenders.

Houston Will Win If: If the defense can clog the run and Wilson proves ineffective. Defending a spread offense can be particularly exhausting for defensive linemen and linebackers, two places where Bama lacks depth. If given time to operate, the varied attack of the Cougars could take its toll on Bama’s D.
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