Tide must stop the run to win

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I can’t sit here and quote every final score of every Iron Bowl, or even recall every game by some legendary phrase written on a Daniel Moore painting, but I know this Iron Bowl is going to be a close one.

Auburn has been a cute, “rags to riches” story this year, but I think the Crimson Tide can close the book on the Tigers. To do so, however, the boys from Tuscaloosa will have to stop the run. I’ll repeat it, as if it’s some kind of Gregorian chant that brings them good fortune. Alabama must stop the run.

A week and a half ago the Tigers won on a pass play because Georgia defenders forgot the No. 1 rule in pass coverage at the end of the game — bat the ball down. This mistake saved the Tigers from giving up a massive lead and losing to the Bulldogs.

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While he’s no Johnny Football, Nick Marshall is an offensive force and must be stopped in order for Tiders everywhere to celebrate a win. That’s going to be easier said than done, my friends.

Marshall has rushed 123 times this season for a total of 823 yards and nine touchdowns. Marshall has as many rushing touchdowns as passing scores.

He averages 82 yards per game and almost 7 yards per carry. Those are decent numbers, considering he joined a team that was 3-9 last season.

His passing numbers aren’t too shabby, either. He’s thrown for 1,530 yards on 108-of-185 passing this year. He’s averaging 153 yards per game in the air, but this doesn’t bother me as much.

Take it from a man who knows from experience; Alabama has a terrible time stopping a mobile quarterback. It perplexed the Tide last year with Texas A&M and almost again this year, save a seven touchdown performance from the Tide’s own offense.

If Marshall can successfully scramble early in the game, it could spell disaster for the Tide. Even if Alabama reins Marshall in, let’s not forget about the havoc that can be caused by Tre Mason.

Mason has been a beast for the Tigers this season. He’s averaged 104 yards per game and has 17 touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has more than 1,150 yards this season.

Early on Alabama had trouble getting pressure up front. That’s been a lot better recently (we all remember a crawling Zach Mettenberger at the end of the LSU game), but if that inability to get pressure pops up again in this game, it could be a pretty miserable Iron Bowl for the Alabama faithful.

While I’ve made a lot of Auburn’s top rusher and quarterback, let’s not forget that the Tide is pretty rich in those categories too.

Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron is in the running for this year’s Heisman Trophy and rightfully so. With a humdinger of a ballgame Saturday, I think McCarron will lock up the award. He and Jameis Winston stand alone in the running after a wrecking ball of a Saturday destroyed the hopes of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

McCarron has been consistently good since his redshirt season in 2009. He has led Alabama to two national titles as a starter and was on the bench for a third.

He could end his career with a total of four titles in five years, but he’s got to get past Auburn first.

T.J. Yeldon has also been productive in his career at Alabama and this season as well. He started slow, but has really begun to pick up steam and was the Yeldon I remember, against LSU this year.

I’m buoyed by the defense and their run-stopping expertise, especially with C.J. Mosley at the helm, but something tells me this will be a high scoring game regardless.

I think the Tiger defense has holes, which will help the Tide offense, and I think Gus Malzahn will have a solid game plan up his sleeve to help Auburn score. However, I hope the so-called “Gus bus” runs out of gas on Saturday.

I feel brave enough to make a prediction in this game. I pick Alabama 41, Auburn 38 in a high-scoring affair. If the game goes the other way, though, I will be screaming loudly for the Gamecocks, or the other Tigers, to end that cow college’s happiness.


Dale Liesch is a reporter for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at dale.liesch@ atmoreadvance.com.