TUSCALOOSA — Alabama won a national championship last year with a run-based offense. It was the same way in 2009.
And 1992. And all six of Bear Bryant’s Alabama national-title years. And probably all those seasons before Bryant when the Tide won crowns, too. Although complete statistics aren’t available, the history of the football program makes it seem likely then-Alabama coach Wallace Wade was pushing his 1925 and ‘26 crimson-clad national champions to run the ball first, middle and last.
But as for 2012? Alabama is unbeaten and a solid No. 1 in all three major polls, but the Crimson Tide is struggling at times on the ground.
After leading the SEC in rushing yards last season, Alabama is sixth in 2012. The Tide is seventh in rushing touchdowns after ranking second last year with 34, which was one behind LSU.
“I’m not satisfied,” Alabama guard Chance Warmack said. “I tell my teammates that we need to do better and show that instead of just saying it.”
Alabama lost All-America running back Trent Richardson to the NFL, but the Tide returned four of five starting offensive linemen and a top blocking tight end in Michael Williams.
Last year, Alabama rushed for fewer than 143 yards only once in 13 games — 96 in a home loss to LSU. This year, the Tide has fallen under 143 twice already — 103 against Western Kentucky and 125 against Ole Miss.
“There’s a few technical things we’re working on,” Alabama running back Eddie Lacy said. “Just because we don’t have a good game every week doesn’t mean we have to get down about it. It just means have to go out and prepare and come out every week and help the team out.”
Alabama’s running attack has had some good games. The Tide rolled up more than 200 yards against Michigan, Arkansas and Florida Atlantic.
As for Tide head coach Nick Saban, it’s not so much Alabama struggled against Western Kentucky and Ole Miss that bothers him. Instead, it’s watching the Tide run the ball so well at times but not at others.
“I think inconsistency has been probably the biggest thing on the line of scrimmage in terms of not getting a hat on a hat, where people have given us bad plays at times,” Saban said.
But, bottom line, are these numbers really all that big of a deal? It’s only five games, and Tide quarterback AJ McCarron said his offense simply wants to take advantage of what it’s given. After all, Alabama has 201 points, which is nine more than it had through five games last year.
“Some teams are going to load the box, play man, make you throw the ball vertically and beat them,” McCarron said. “Some teams are going to play zone. They can have the outside linebackers stacked in, closer to the box, so they’re able to guard the pass in zone and play the run at the same time.”
And it isn’t like Alabama is getting a break this week against the run. Missouri ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing defense, and the four teams ahead of the Tigers have a combined one loss: Alabama, South Carolina, LSU and Florida.
“They’re a little more run-first oriented as a defense,” McCarron said. “So they’re going to give you different looks, you just got to take what they give you and go from there.”