Alabama Football: Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama Defense deserve all the credit

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Da'Ron Payne /

Alabama football used its past championship formula against Clemson. Outgoing defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his squad led the Tide to victory.

Alabama football has always been about the defense. We’ve all known that. What we saw Monday was an angry, motivated and emotional defense.

It wasn’t a perfect defensive stand against Clemson, by no means. There were a few mental mistakes that game Clemson some life. Yet, you can’t deny that Alabama won this because of the defense.

ICYMI: Will Monday be a Rose Bowl or a Sugar Bowl type game?

The Alabama defense usually brings a stoic and business-like attitude to their games. After the 26-14 loss to Auburn, it was easy to see why Alabama’s defense was angry. They gave up way too many plays, let the crowd get to them and gave up the win.

After getting beaten up in games, like the Iron Bowl, Alabama throws down the gloves, says “That’s it!” and just wails on the next opponent. That opponent happened to be Clemson.

Pruitt proves his worth

This time around, however, there were more questions. Jeremy Pruitt, two years after taking the job of defensive coordinator at Alabama, was announced as the Tennessee coach next year. It’s a solid choice and you won’t hear any gripes about that. As bad as Tennessee mucked up their coaching search, they came out smelling like, albeit weeks-old, roses.

That being said, we’ve been in this boat before. Then-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin took the job at FAU before the Peach Bowl semifinal last year. While Alabama got the win, the offense looked inept. It forced Saban to make a change before the 2016 Championship Game, putting Steve Sarkisian in. We all know how that worked out.

That didn’t happen this time around. The Tide only gave up 6 points and no touchdowns, compared to 40 points and five TD’s last year. Alabama football scored one non-offensive touchdown by Mack Wilson.

And, oh…Who could ever forget the big man, Da’Ron “Twinkle Toes” Payne? The 308 pound, 6-foot-6, defensive lineman brought down a key interception. He followed up with a ballerina reception from Jalen Hurts to put the game away.

The players obviously deserve the credit for executing Jeremy Pruitt’s plan. It’s admirable for Pruitt to keep his focus on the current task before moving on. Pruitt’s Crimson Tide focus allowed his defense to give a marvelous performance.

The injury question

Were the injuries a legitimate excuse for the season performance? The performance against Clemson gave a clear answer. Against the Clemson Tigers, the full potential of the defense was unleashed.

Admittedly, the writer of this very piece has to eat his own words every so often. From our predictions before the game:

"Yes, Alabama is better when the LB unit isn’t bruised and battered. I don’t think it’s that much of a significant difference, however. Even though Bryant isn’t Watson, he’s dynamic enough to keep this defense on its toes."

The returning starters for Alabama made one heck of a difference against Clemson. As bad as Alabama defenses have played against Clemson in the Playoffs, it was nice to see Alabama “being Alabama” against the No. 1 team in the nation.

Next: Why Georgia beating Oklahoma helps the Tide

As we turn our attention to Georgia, you’d hope that the defense beings the same fire. Jake Fromm and Co. did not get here by luck. The defense will need to be as stout as ever in order to come away with the Championship.