AP: No. 3 Alabama’s defense scored on a fumble return, had a batted ball for an interception and doubled its forced turnovers on the season.
It’s the kind of opportunistic performance the Crimson Tide has been known for under coach Nick Saban, but hadn’t quite managed in the first four games. That doesn’t mean Saban was satisfied when the defense forced four turnovers in Saturday’s 38-20 win at Kentucky.
“He’s never satisfied. Ever,” said linebacker Rolando McClain, who had a hand in three of the takeaways. “He always feel like we can do better. That’s the motto we’ve taken: We can always do better. Turnovers wasn’t something we’ve been getting. We got four this game, but in our mind we should have gotten six or we should have gotten eight. That’s the way we take it.”
The Tide (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) had done everything but force lots of turnovers, getting just four in the first four games. The defense had contained dangerous quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and been consistently stuffing the run.
Alabama ranks second nationally in total and rushing defense, 13th in scoring defense and 15th in pass defense. No. 20 Mississippi coach Houston Nutt, whose team hosts the Tide on Saturday, figures ‘Bama gets that much more dangerous when you add turnovers to the equation.
“Defensively is where they’ve just been manhandling everybody,” Nutt said. “Very few people have gotten very many points on them, and they get turnovers. That’s the thing you can’t have. Kentucky’s there, they’re fighting with them toe to toe 7-6, and all of the sudden the gates open up when you turn it over.”
Alabama forced 49 turnovers in Saban’s first two seasons and the defense is still averaging 1.78 in his 32 games.
That’s cause for concern for Nutt. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead is coming off a three-interception game against Vanderbilt, though he has only five on the season.
Nutt said he might work with Snead on throwing the ball out of bounds or dumping it off to the running backs.
“We can’t force the ball especially against the team we’re getting ready to play,” he said. “That’s what they want you to do. They expect to get turnovers. They do a great job of getting the football and we just can’t do it. We can’t give up the ball to Alabama.” (read more of this report embedded in this post)