AUBURN — Alabama didn’t do a good enough job in the passing game.
Those were the words out of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s mouth following another crushing loss at the hands of Auburn ended an unbeaten regular season inside Jordan Hare Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 13 of 23 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown and had a couple of other long passes disrupted by defensive pass interference. But it wasn’t enough.
Saban didn’t place all the blame at the feet of his quarterback. He put partial blame on the offensive line for not protecting better, the wide receivers for not getting open, the game plan for not helping the offense enough and his quarterback for not reading the coverage well enough.
For better or worse, the face of the offense, and in particular the passing game, is Hurts.
“We didn’t execute,” Hurts said. “Usually in the games you lose it’s a lack of execution somewhere throughout the game.”
Five of Alabama’s 10 drives (not counting the one-play drive to end the game) ended in five plays or less including three three-and-outs. That doesn’t fall directly on Hurts, but it’s a trend that continues when the Alabama offense runs into better defensive competition. UA finished the night 3 of 11 on third-down-conversions.
“We didn’t do a very good job on third down, so we didn’t sustain drives because of that,” Saban said. “That affects time of possession and a whole lot of other things. That was probably the biggest difference in the game.”
Hurts also pointed to third downs as an area that likely swung the game.
“A critical part of the game,” Hurts said. “We have to do a better job of executing. It comes down to execution.”
Calvin Ridley, arguably the best wide receiver in the country, recorded three catches for 38 yards. In the regular season he averaged less than five receptions a game.
Saban pointed to his quarterback’s competitiveness, his ability to scramble and make plays, but those scrambles sometimes come at the expense of pushing the ball down the field to an assortment of talented wide receivers. Hurts ended the regular season averaging 167 yards passing per game and 8.95 yards per attempt.
Not good enough
“I think Jalen really competed in the game,” Saban said. “He made a lot of plays in the game. He scrambled a lot with his feet.
“We just didn’t do a good enough job in the passing game. But that’s not just Jalen. We didn’t have good enough protection. We didn’t have guys getting open. Maybe we just needed to have better design in what we did, and he probably could’ve done a little better job of reading some things.
“I was fine with our play calling. Play calling is like anything. If it works, it’s a good play. If it doesn’t work it’s a bad play. The way we pass the ball, every pass that we called, other than about five or six, were bad calls. Because they didn’t work.”
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