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Alabama football: Run game loses steam against LSU

November 8, 2017

TUSCALOOSA — Let’s address the elephant in the room, and no, it’s not Big Al.

Alabama finished with a season-low 116 rushing yards this past weekend against LSU. It went three-and-out six times and lost 37 yards on the ground. Both are season highs.

“We didn’t do a good job of blocking them up front,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I don’t think we did a good job of getting movement in the running game, which affected our ability and consistency in the running game.”

There were a lot of firsts, and they weren’t the desired ones like first downs. The Crimson Tide did tally 14 of those, just one more than its current low.

This is the same offense that was averaging 298.8 rushing yards a game the week before. So what happened? Alabama tight end Hale Hentges thinks the blockers lost sight of their fundamentals.

“As you get tired and sore, sometimes you don’t want to do those things,” Hentges said. “But that’s something that coach Saban really preaches on is that, ‘I don’t care if you’re tired or sore. Everyone’s tired and sore at this time. Every football player in America is tired.’”

Back to the basics again for Alabama as it prepares for Mississippi State.

Credit also goes to the Tigers. They were the ones who found a way to limit the Crimson Tide’s ground attack. Take running back Damien Harris, for example. He’s Alabama’s leading rusher, averaging 87.1 yards a game and 8.6 a carry. Against LSU, he finished with 33 yards and averaged 3.5 an attempt.

Harris, however, never got tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Jalen Hurts did for a loss of 27 yards. Running back Bo Scarbrough did for a loss of 7.

“They had eight in the box, so what do you expect?” Scarbrough said. “But it shouldn’t matter what they do, if they do have eight in the box. We can get guys blocked, but there are always going to be unblocked guys and it’s the responsibility for the running back to beat them.”

It’s the responsibility of Hurts and his receivers to make plays, too.

But, Hurts didn’t have enough time always. He was sacked a career-high four times. The sophomore completed 11 of his 24 passes for 183 yards and rushed for a team-high 44 yards.

“I can’t really fault Jalen for anything he did or didn’t do in the pocket,” Saban said. “Nor do I think he should have just done something differently to avoid those things. I think basically he has to have the time to operate.”

It doesn’t help when 12 of Alabama’s 14 third downs required gaining at least 6 yards to convert.

But now one position is receiving all the blame.

“Everybody on the team has to worry about himself, doing his job and not worrying about someone else’s job,” Scarbrough said. “I think once everyone realizes that, everything can be fixed and there won’t be mistakes.”