Alabama Football: The Tide defense adapted as it always does


On Saturday, the Alabama football defense was put in the unenviable position of defending The Citadel’s potent flexbone offense. And while the stats don’t necessarily show it, the squad actually adapted to it quite well.

I’m not up on FCS teams and the offensive schemes they run, so you’ll have to excuse me if I thought this was the type of game where Alabama football quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s work would be done by the end of the first half. I only have every other game this season, prior to LSU at least, as evidence that the Tide would have a comfortable lead going into halftime.

So on Monday when I heard that Alabama would be defending a triple option-style offense on Saturday, memories of 2011 and tinhorns flooded my brain. That day in November, one of the greatest Tide defenses ever gave up over 300 yards on the ground to then-FCS Georgia Southern.

It stood to reason that despite a losing record, the Bulldogs may be able to have similar success on Saturday. And if you saw the box score of the game, you saw an Alabama football defense that’s given up a paltry 95 rushing yards per game surrender 275 yards on the ground against The Citadel.

FCS team, The Citadel.

Adaptation was the name of the game

The above statistic minimizes, though, what the best Nick Saban defenses do time and again: adapt. And major props to first-year defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi for calling a helluva game that could’ve gone off the rails quickly. The Bulldogs’ first two drives took over twelve minutes off the clock, 73 yards, 20 plays and five first downs. And both drives still ended in punts.

It was a 3-and-out on the Tide’s second offensive possession of the game inside its own 20 that resulted in a short field for the Bulldogs. Due to a defensive breakdown on an option pitch by Citadel QB Brandon Rainey to RB Dante Smith, Alabama football gave up their first offensive touchdown in 11 quarters.

The only real negative on the day in my mind is the same exact defensive breakdown early in the 4th quarter that resulted in The Citadel’s other touchdown. Same play, same running back. A total of 89 yards off two plays.

And on a day when Alabama lost two fumbles, exactly seven plays, five yards and zero points were netted from these mishaps.

A much better second half performance

What about the third quarter? Five offensive possessions for The Bulldogs: a missed field goal, a fumble and three, 3-and-outs. The fumble resulted in a scoop-and-score by Anfernee Jennings, but the real marvel of the play is Xavier McKinney not giving up the running lane as he was being blocked. This freed up Deionte Thompson to jar the ball loose from the running back. It was textbook and it was beautiful.

When we think of Alabama football defenses over the last decade, we think of fundamentally sound, disciplined play. 2018’s squad has had to do a lot of growing up over the last several games and they’ve been equal to the task. Saturday’s game is no different.

I saw eleven guys being chop blocked for over 50 percent of the game, yet they continued to play the next down. This is important for a team with two challenging games on the horizon. When they get knocked in the mouth, how will they respond?

Next. What it takes to beat the Tide. dark

It doesn’t seem like much given the opponent, but the Tide defense’s performance against The Citadel should show fans what this team can do when challenged. The Tide allowed 17 points and 275 yards from a FCS team and I came away pleased.