Crunching the numbers for Alabama’s defense

Crunching the numbers for Alabama’s defense
Alabama Crimson Tide defense facing off with LSU at Tiger Stadium on December 5, 2020 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Source: Brandon Gallego/Brandon Gallego / LSU Athletics)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama defense has been suffocating all season, but just how well does the Tide stack up against Buckeyes’ offense; a team that averages 43.4 points per contest?

Defensive coordinator Pete Golding said it’s all about the execution.

“I don’t think we ever come out of a game looking up how many points was given up, how many did we keep them to. There were several games to where we kept them low in scoring but still didn’t execute, they just didn’t take advantage of it,” said Golding. “So I think the biggest thing going in is evaluating ourselves and the things that we’ve got to be able to clean up and execute the individual jobs within all 11, and then collectively get all on the same page.”

Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) attempts to make the tackle.
Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) attempts to make the tackle. (Source: Brandon Gallego/Brandon Gallego / LSU Athletics)

But, even if the Tide isn’t calculating the number of points scored by opponents each week, that number was impressive.

Through 12 games - 11 of which were SEC matchups - Alabama only allowed an average of 19 points per game. Six of the twelve opponents didn’t even score that many.

Golding says a crucial part of the game plan next Monday is forcing turnovers to limit Ohio State’s scoring.

“Obviously, I think when you hold people to where they’re not used to scoring -- same thing when you look at Ohio State, they’re averaging 43 -- and when they don’t, that’s because they’ve turned the ball over,” he said. “It’s not because people stopped them. It because they made a mistake. People made them make mistakes and they made them pay for it, and they got off the field, whether it be a turnover on 3rd down. So I think that’s the critical piece of this game.”

To their credit, this defense does know how to disrupt opposing offenses; of the 57 defended passes this season, 12 were intercepted, and three of those were returned for touchdowns.

Alabama is also good at getting to the quarterback. The Tide tied with Florida for the most sacks in the league with 35, for a loss of 221 total yards.

Yet another statistic the team hopes to utilize against Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields, who averages 272.3 yards per game, throwing 21 touchdowns this season.

“Obviously, he’s a great talent. He’s got a tremendous arm,” said corner back Patrick Surtain II. “He’s a leader on that team. Whatever he does affects the team a lot. But we’ve just got to look at things to do as far as getting to the quarterback, pressuring him.”

But, at the beginning of the season, the team wasn’t as efficient as head coach Nick Saban would have liked. However, as a defensive-minded coach, he’s been pleased with their progress.

“I think early on, we made a lot of mental errors. The knowledge and experience that we had was probably not what we needed to be able to make the adaptations and adjustments in game and also in preparation,” said Saban. “So I think that has improved as the season has progressed, and I think with that, the confidence of the players has improved.”

The College Football National Championship game kicks off Monday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m.