TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Here’s one final look back at the Crimson Tide’s 33-14 win vs. Texas A&M as well as a peek at Alabama football’s November schedule.
During his weekly radio show last Thursday, Alabama coach Nick Saban stressed that every game has a breaking point.
Saban said the Crimson Tide’s players would have to play longer and harder to find that point against a quality opponent like Texas A&M.
Saban was right on both points as the moment didn’t come until there were 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
Ryan Anderson with the hit to knock the ball out.
Jonathan Allen runs it in for the touchdown pic.twitter.com/Uk2xPUcyZR
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) October 22, 2016
Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson flew into the backfield to knock the ball out of the hands of Texas A&M running back Keith Ford. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen scooped the ball and ran it in for a 30-yard touchdown.
Credit to Texas A&M for fighting hard to get back in the game, but those types of defensive touchdowns are demoralizing.
The game was over from there. Texas A&M went three-and-out on its next drive. With the defense forcing a punt, Alabama’s offense took advantage and scored a touchdown to put the contest out of reach.
Alabama’s defense is on another level
For two drives, the Aggies appeared to have figured out things. Texas A&M scored on its final drive of the first half and the opening drive of the second half.
For Texas A&M, 155 of its 278 offensive yards came on the team’s two touchdown drives.
That means Alabama’s defense held Texas A&M to 123 on the other 11 drives.
Texas A&M did become just the second team to rush for 100 or more yards on Alabama this season (Ole Miss had 101). But the Aggies averaged just 3 yards per carry.
For as much talk as there was about Texas A&M’s receiver group, Alabama’s secondary blanketed the Aggies. No Texas A&M receiver had more than 60 yards.
Alabama sacked Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight 5 times, and had 11 tackles for loss.
Jonathan Allen’s fumble return for a touchdown gave Alabama its 9th defensive touchdown of the season, which is the most in the country.
Alabama has scored at least one defensive touchdown in its last four games.
Point being even when you move the ball or score on Alabama’s defense, the Crimson Tide eventually find a way to get some of the points back.
On a down note, Alabama lost safety Eddie Jackson for the season after he suffered a fractured leg during a punt return. Being a senior, Jackson’s Alabama career is over. But Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday that Jackson won’t suffer any long-term affects from the injury, which is one positive out of the situation.
Now, Alabama must figure out how to replace Jackson.
Alabama has recruited well enough to have talented players ready for the opportunity.
Hootie Jones, Tony Brown and Deionte Thompson are options already working with the safeties. There’s also the possibility of moving Minkah Fitzpatrick to safety and bringing freshman Trevon Diggs back to the defense.
Jones has served as Alabama’s third safety this season, playing when Alabama lines up in its dime package. After being suspended by the NCAA for the first four games, Brown still is working his way back into the rotation. He played money (sixth defensive back) after Jackson went down.
Thompson mostly has played in the reserve role, but he is an intriguing young talent as a redshirt freshman. Diggs moved back to receiver after Brown returned from suspension. He’s a versatile player who could make the switch if need be.
Moving Fitzpatrick would shake up the secondary quite a bit, but if there is any player who could handle a change like that, it’s Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick already is playing cornerback in Alabama’s base defense and star (fifth defensive back) in the nickel and dime packages.
Moving Fitzpatrick to safety would allow Alabama to bring Brown in at star, one of three positions Brown has been working. Fitzpatrick is a natural at reading the defense so being able to play centerfield would fit his skill-set.
The bye week comes at a perfect time for Alabama in terms of making a major adjustment like this one.
Looking ahead to November
Alabama made it through the first eight games of the season unscathed, which is impressive given the three-game stretch of ranked opponents the last three weeks.
The November schedule sets up favorably for Alabama.
The two challenges are at LSU on Nov. 5 and the Iron Bowl vs. Auburn in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 26.
Both will be tough games, but Alabama should be a pretty big favorite. What LSU and Auburn do well offensively plays right into Alabama’s hands on defense.
Auburn leads the SEC and is No. 4 in the country with 302.86 rushing yards per game. The Tigers are tied with Alabama for first in the SEC with 21 rushing touchdowns. The Tigers are averaging 5.51 yards per carry, which is fourth in the SEC.
All of Auburn’s numbers are up after 543 yards, 9.5 yards per carry and 7 rushing touchdowns in a 56-3 stomping of Arkansas.
For LSU, Leonard Fournette is arguably the best running back and player in the country. But he has struggled in two career games against the Crimson Tide (21 carries, 79 yards and no touchdowns as a freshman in 2014).
Alabama was one of two teams to hold Fournette under 100 yards last season. He ran for for a putrid 31 yards and a touchdown for an average of 1.6 yards per carry (19 carries).
Still, Fournette is coming off a monster game vs. Ole Miss in which he ran for 284 yards (17.8 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. Many pundits have Fournette back in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
The rushing numbers are impressive for both sets of Tigers, but no team has proved they can consistently run on Alabama this season.
Alabama is No. 1 in the country in rushing yards allowed (70.13) and yards per carry (2.18).