Alabama Improves Avoiding Turnovers

In the first game of the 2011 season, a 48-7 win over Kent State, Alabama suffered five turnovers – four passes intercepted and a lost fumble. In the five subsequent games, the Crimson Tide has lost two fumbles, had no passes intercepted, and now has only seven total turnovers.

Meanwhile, Alabama had no takeaways in that first game, but has averaged two per game since then to have 10 for the season – seven pass interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

"It's something we emphasize a lot, especially after the first game, when we really emphasized it," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Monday. "The players responded, and we have not turned the ball over.

"That's somethat that we need to continue to pay attention to detail on, because I think that turnover ratio is a critical factor – the most critical factor – in winning and losing."

There's something to that because the team with the best turnover ratio in the Southeastern Conference is LSU, which is plus 11 on the year and leading the SEC. The Bengal Tigers, like Alabama 6-0 on the season, are ranked No. 1 in the nation in one poll and No. 2 in another.

Last week's Alabama foe, Vanderbilt, had gone into the game as the nation's best at intercepting passes, but the Tide did not give up a turnover to the Commodores. In fact, Alabama picked off two Vandy passes. Still, Vanderbilt is second in the league in turnover margin at plus 5. Alabama is fifth on the year at plus three.

This week the Crimson Tide will take on Ole Miss, which is plus one in turnover margin.

Alabama has played well in all phases of the game, which is the reason the Crimson Tide is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in SEC games. Bama is ranked second in the nation by the Associated Press and third in the Coaches Poll conducted by USA Today. Ole Miss, which had an open date last weekend, is 2-3 overall and 3-0 in SEC games.

Kickoff Saturday from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford is 5 p.m. with television coverage by ESPN2.

Saban said, "We put the ball on the ground a couple of times late in the game this past week. That's something we cannot do any place that we play. Making good choices and decisions are very critical. Everybody having ball security awareness is very, very important."

Saban said Bama players are taught to "take what the defense gets you. You don't throw the ball into tight coverage and you don't throw the ball in places where it shouldn't be and you've got to be patient. If you've got to throw the check down, throw the check down. Our guys have done a pretty good job of that."

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron threw two interceptions in his first ever start in the opener against Kent State. Since then, he has not thrown an interception, a streak of 127 passes without a pick.

A.J. has done for the most part a pretty good job of putting the ball in the right place," Saban said. "That's what we coach. I don't think anybody coaches turnovers, but it comes down to judgment. I don't think they have baseball manuals to teach guys to swing at balls out of the strike zone, but some guys do it a lot more than others. It comes down to judgment.

"Ball security is an awareness fundamentally that every player that handles the ball has to have, so that we don't have turnovers."

Alabama tailback Trent Richardson said that ball security is a point of pride. "We had a couple of fumbles last year," he said. "that's one thing Coach Saban has emphasized for us so we make ourselves better at it. We fumble that ball, we're going to be on the bench somewhere. We don't want that happening.

"I try to remind myself as much as I can to just make sure I don't forget, I can't fumble the ball, I've got to hold it tight, high and tight."

Richardson said avoiding turnovers is important to success. "It's real big," he said. "A turnover changes momentum. It can mess with your head, too, thinking about that play. So if you don't turn it over, you get on to the next play and you don't worry about it."

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