The triple option.
That confounded, cut-blocking abomination of an offense did it again Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Citadel made a national championship-caliber defense look bad – not as bad as Georgia Southern did seven years earlier, but bad nonetheless.
A version of the offense that the late Paul W. “Bear” Bryant rode to three of his six national championship at Alabama was turned against the Crimson Tide by a team from the lower Football Championship Subdivision. A school devoted to developing future military leaders aimed its option attack at a Crimson Tide defense that hadn’t yielded a point in the month of November and came away with 17.
“It wasn’t really frustration,” said defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. “It was just focusing on how we defeat the play at so fast of a pace with the different angles, the different ways (they attack).
“It’s a real learning experience, basically.”
Alabama did learn. The Citadel had 149 rushing yards by halftime and had amassed more than 19 minutes of possession time. The Bulldogs didn’t gain a first down in the third period and ran for only 24 yards.
The option kept coming. The Crimson Tide gave up a 45-yard touchdown run to Dante Smith and a nine-play field goal drive in the second quarter, leaving the game deadlocked at 10-all at intermission.
Alabama, which seemed to be on hits heels, stood its ground and attacked on defense in the second half. Anfernee Jennings scooped and scored on a fumble caused by Deionte Thompson in the third period.
“They’ve got a complicated offense that we don’t see a lot,” Jennings said. “We had to come out and get used to it and make adjustments.
“As a defensive competitor, you’re always up for the challenge. We took it upon ourselves this week, seeing a new kind of offense that we don’t usually see, we wanted to come out and dominate against it. The second half we came out and did that.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t fond of cut blocking — where defenders are targeted below the knees to take them off their feet — but realizes it’s legal. He thought his team accepted the challenge of taking on The Citadel’s option, even though there were breakdowns that led to 275 total rushing yards.
“This is so unique to play this in this day and age,” he said. “It has very little carryover with anything that you do prior to the game. It will have very little carryover beyond this time.”
Alabama didn’t give up a passing yard: The Citadel had three pass-play calls, resulting in a sack and two incompletions.
The option bothered the Crimson Tide, but UA made progress in solving it along the way. Saban may not like the style of blocking associated with the offense, but he isn’t throwing his hands up.
“I’m not going to quit over it, I promise you that,” he said.