Report card: Defense suffocates, special teams shine in Alabama’s win over Florida State

ATLANTA — The greatest opener of all time didn’t quite live up to its name as No. 1-ranked Alabama football pounded No. 3 Florida State en route to a 24-7 victory on Saturday.

Alabama’s defense and special teams powered the Crimson Tide to victory, while the offense did enough to keep Florida State down.

Here are our grades from the matchup.

Offense: C

It was an average night for Alabama’s offense against a very good Florida State defense. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line didn’t consistently get much push, and the passing game wasn’t as crisp as it could have been.

Alabama football only finished with a 269-250 edge in total yards, and was 3 of 16 on third-down attempts. Running back Damien Harris found a few holes, rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown while averaging 8.1 yards per carry. It also was nice to see Calvin Ridley had a strong day, catching 7 passes for 82 yards and 1 touchdown.

There are still some kinks to be worked out on Alabama’s offense, but they did enough to earn the victory.

Defense: A-

Alabama’s defense went with the slowly-strangle method of death when defending Florida State.

Florida State scored 7 points and gained 185 yards of offense in the opening half. Whatever “Nick fit” or “ass-chewing” Nick Saban gave at halftime obviously worked. The Seminoles gained 65 yards of offense and scored zero points in the second half.

For the game, Florida State was credited with 40 rushing yards on 27 attempts. That’s 1.5 yards per carry.

There are still some things to clean up. Alabama’s defensive backs need to focus on getting their heads around. But for the most part, Alabama’s defense appears to be headed toward another dominant season.

Special teams: A

Special teams flipped the game for Alabama football. There was a shanked punt by JK Scott and 2 missed field goals by Andy Pappanastos, but the group more than made up for those mishaps.

Pappanastos drilled 3 of his field-goal attempts, all from 35 yards or fewer. Alabama blocked a punt, a field-goal try and forced a fumble on a kickoff return.

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s block of a field-goal attempt at the end of the first half may have been the biggest play of the game. It kept Florida State from tying the game, and the Seminoles were set to get the ball at the start of the second half.

Coaching: B+

There were some questionable play calls in the red zone that led to field goals instead of touchdowns, but other than that, things looked clean for the most part.

Defensively, Alabama appeared to play a lot of soft zone, which allowed Florida State to move the ball in the passing game.

When grading coaching, it’s always hard to know whether there was a busted assignment by a player or if a coach called the wrong play.

Overall: B+

Alabama football did what Alabama football does: slowly and methodically break an opponent down. Florida State made some nice plays on both sides of the ball, but even the No. 3 ranked team in the country was no match for Alabama’s stable of 4- and 5-star recruits.

These next three weeks should give Alabama time to heal some of its injured players while also giving young players an opportunity to play. It’s still early, but this Alabama team looks poised for another College Football Playoff run.

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