What awaits the Alabama football team after losing the Turkey Day Classic?
For Alabama football, there was no time to think about the first 10 games. Just time to think of another one.
By all accounts, Coach Eddie Robinson Jr. led the Hornets to a successful first season. They’ve won six games for the first time since 2015. They put up one of the SWAC’s best defenses, a unit that has kept them in the game against every non-FBS team they’ve played. And they won the biggest game of their schedule, the Magic City Classic, after a four-game losing streak against Alabama A&M.
But ASU (6-5, 4-4 SWAC) will have a bitter taste in its mouth for a while in the postseason, which included a 21-14 loss to Florida A&M and a 19-14 rout at the hands of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Thursday at Turkey Day. classic.
“There is nothing I can tell them at this point that would make losing any better,” Robinson said. “…I could get involved in the things we’ve accomplished this year, but I lost the last game—I lost in the Super Bowl. I felt horrible. We’d accomplished so much, it didn’t matter.”
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It wasn’t just the loss, but the way it happened. The last-place Golden Lions (3-8, 1-7) held the Hornets to just two touchdowns despite a season-high 497 yards, and drove the ball 72 yards in under two minutes to take the lead on a Kayvon Britten touchdown run. With 49 seconds left.
In the end, the Turkey Day Classic was in some ways a microcosm of Alabama’s entire season.
The Hornets moved the ball up and down the field, but they struggled with consistency and didn’t always execute at critical moments. They played strong defense, holding UAPB scoreless in the second half until their final touchdown. No SWAC team has scored more than 26 points against them this season.
However, ASU paired up its defense, ranking third in the SWAC in points allowed, with conference offense ranked 11th. The Hornets scored more than 24 points only once, against Bethune-Cookman on November 5, and averaged 19 points. points per match.
“I think it’s very clear, we have to score more points and we have to be more dynamic in attack,” said Robinson. “We have an identity in defense and on special teams. We’ve played a lot more big games in big games than in bad games. When attacking, we have to get back to what we do well, and be consistent in what we do well.”
Alabama should take advantage of a more experienced Demetrios Davis quarterback next season. Davis didn’t have a chance to get into a rhythm as a freshman due to multiple injuries, but the quarterback put the talent that made him a four-star recruit on display against UAPB, throwing for a season-high 272 yards and rushing for 44 more.
The Hornets are also slated to return guns like leading rusher Jacory Merritt and receivers Darius Edmonds, Jeremiah Hickson, Kesian Johnson and Isaiah Scott. Their offensive line would benefit from off-season maturity, as none of the ASU players at the Turkey Day Classic were seniors.
On defense, ASU will bring back Colton Adams, who has returned from a shoulder injury and has blossomed into one of the SWAC’s most dominant players. Adams had 128 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and nine quarterback pressures this fall and finished the season strong with 17 tackles, four for loss. Outstanding young defensive backs Adrian Maddox (49 tackles, six TFLs, two interceptions), Cail Jackson (three interceptions) and Demaurez Bellamy (48 tackles, eight PBUs) all bring hope for the future.
He said the Hornets’ two-game losing streak won’t affect the way Robinson approaches filling out the roster for 2023 through recruiting and transfer portal. It likely won’t fuel the team the same way a September or October loss would, as next season’s Alabama State team will be fresh with about 30 new players.
But when next November rolls around, the Hornets will surely get a reminder of what happened a year ago.
“You remember the big wins, but the way we ended up losing two games in a row, we didn’t finish the deal,” Robinson said. “We’ll get to that point in the season again next year, at the end of the year, and we’ll have to focus on, ‘Hey, remember the mistakes we made last year? Let’s not do that same thing. Let’s finish.'”
Jacob Shames can be reached via email at email@example.com, by phone at 334-201-9117 and on Twitter @Jacob_Shames.
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