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October 13, 2012COLUMBIA, Mo. | As a 21-point road favorite Saturday against a team ravaged by injuries on offense, expectations were the University of Alabama would dominate most phases of its 42-10 win against Missouri.
But the one Tigers unit that figured to give the Crimson Tide some problems - its defensive line - didn't give Alabama much trouble, either.
Earlier this week, UA coach Nick Saban noted communication breakdowns on Alabama's offensive line had led to too many negative plays this season, and he was concerned with the Tigers' ability to penetrate the offensive backfield.
Missouri needed its defensive line, with an NFL-caliber star in Sheldon Richardson and a penchant for stunting to confuse opposing blocking assignments, to carry the day for the Tigers.
The Crimson Tide's game plan included a heavy dose of outside rushing, which served to neutralize Missouri's penetration between the tackles.
"I think they did a great job. I really think we executed extremely well in the beginning of this game. They were doing those things then, and we ran the ball effectively on the perimeter," Saban said.
Given the road environment and the cohesion necessary to pick up Missouri's various blitzes and stunts, Saturday may have been the more difficult challenges of the season for the Crimson Tide offensive line. The Missouri defensive front had been the bright spot of the season for the Tigers until Saturday. It had allowed just 107 yards per game rushing entering the game, one of the Southeastern Conference's best averages.
The Crimson Tide had more than that by the end of the first quarter.
Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both enjoyed 100-yard days - Lacy with 177 and Yeldon with 144 - marking the first time Alabama has posted two 100-yard rushers in the same game since last year's Ole Miss game.
The Tigers' 53 tackles for loss entering play led the entire SEC.
They had six of those. But on Alabama's best rushing day of the season (362 yards) it was not nearly enough. UA center Barrett Jones said the perimeter rushing attack was just what the offense needed.
"I think overall we handled all that pretty well. We had a lot of plays that were designed to go outside, kind of avoid the stunting," Jones said. "I think we did that. We did a good job of tracking our guys. A lot of guys pulled tonight and did a good job getting out in front of the outside plays that we haven't run that much this year."
Still, Richardson had a big day.
He delivered a game-high 14 tackles, eight of them solos, though several were downfield after good yardage had already been gained. He frequently penetrated the Alabama backfield, but too often found that the ball was nowhere near him. Richardson beat offensive guard Anthony Steen with a quick first step on two consecutive rushing plays early in the second quarter, but Eddie Lacy spun away from Richardson for a short gain on one, and took the other around the right edge for even more yardage.
"He was a quick guy. He's one of those guys who didn't want to root hog you out," Steen said. "He mainly made contact, turned around and started chasing the ball. He wasn't as much the hard hitter."
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.