The defense for Alabama Football has been largely dominant this season.
The unit has been good in every phase, starting with a stingy run defense that allows just 3.1 yards per carry. It gets after quarterbacks, and is tied for first in the SEC with 29 sacks. It also features ballhawks on the back end, and has started to force more turnovers as of late.
Still, one thing separates this group from the vintage Alabama defenses of the Nick Saban era. Although infrequent, it has momentary lapses where it doesn’t play well and surrenders points in bunches. Of course, modern offenses are difficult to shut down for entire games, and Bama’s own offense doesn’t always put the defense in the best positions to win.
If we’re going to start talking about this defense as one of the all-time greats, however, we have to hold it to that standard.
Alabama Football: Early season defensive struggles
After largely shutting down the Texas offense for three quarters, the Bama defense wore down in the fourth and the dam finally broke. Texas’ first 10 plays of the fourth quarter went for 152 yards and three touchdowns, essentially putting the game out of reach. This stretch included completions of 50, 31, and 39 yards.
Afterwards, the Bama defense couldn’t get off the field, giving up a 12-play, seven-minute drive that melted the clock and prevented the Tide offense from getting another chance. Bama allowed Texas to move the chains twice on third down running plays, and then jumped offsides on a 4th & 3 to ice it.
Against Mississippi State, Bama had a stretch in the middle of the game in which it gave up three long scoring drives and 17 total points. These drives (12 plays-62 yards, 9 plays-64 yards, and 11 plays-75 yards) spanned the second and third quarters, and primarily consisted of the ground game. Bama gave up 154 yards rushing in the game (4.4 YPC), as Woody Marks, Jeffery Pittman, Seth Davis, and Mike Wright all averaged between 5.0 and 7.6 yards per carry.
It’s safe to say the Alabama defense has grown since these early-season outings, and is much better against the run. Still, it hasn’t been flawless.