Fumble Recoveries Winning Formula

Alabama did not use a familiar formula to defeat Western Kentucky Saturday. The Crimson Tide modus operandi is a smothering defense and relentless ground attack, which is how Bama blasted Michigan and to the top of the national polls a week earlier.

Alabama will continue number one this week because a 35-0 win over Western Kentucky is satisfactory. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban had to pull out a few tricks to get his team motivated to play against the Sun Belt Conference Hilltoppers. He may need some more motivation this week as Arkansas – the loser to the Sun Belt's Louisiana-Monroe Saturday – seeks to bounce back hosting Bama.

Alabama will be at Fayetteville for Saturday's 2:30 p.m. CDT game against the Razorbacks. CBS will televise the game, which is the first Southeastern Conference contest for both teams.

"We've got a lot of stuff we have to work on, a lot of stuff we need to improve" said Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri. "Arkansas is a great team."

Sunseri also thought Western Kentucky was "a very well coached team and they do a lot of stuff well."

It is understandable that talk of Alabama's victory begins with quarterback A.J. McCarron, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns. But the defense did its part in getting the ball for the offense with four turnovers – three fumble recoveries and an interception.

"Those are huge momentum plays, opportunities for our offense to get out there and switch field position or get a score," Sunseri said.

Three times McCarron followed Bama defensive takeaways with Tide touchdown passes.

One of those came in the second quarter. WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes was flushed from the pocket, caught from behind by Xzavier Dickson, and fumbled. Sunseri picked it up and the 25 and struggled to pick up seven yards.

Seven plays later, McCarron completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Christion Jones.

"That was real good," Sunseri said of seeing the fumble. "We definitely wanted to get better at forcing fumbles, and that's something we accomplished today.

"We were able to hit them and get the ball off them."

Sunseri said the secret to forcing fumbles is "gang tackling. The first guy there wraps up and the second rips it out."

That wasn't the case in the fumble and recovery he was involved in, however.

"We sent a blitz and he (WKU quarterback) started to roll out. Xzavier (Dickson) made a great play and was able to strip it out from behind. He was holding the ball out, and I saw Xzavier following him and I thought he might be able to strip it, so I wanted to make sure I was there to pick it up."

Saban was asked about the success at causing fumbles when that has not been the case for Bama in recent years. He said practice was the same when the Tide was not causing many fumbles as it was last week.

"We have been doing it for two years," he said. "We did it all last year, we did it all this year. Last year we didn't get any more, so whatever we did didn't work last year. So we are doing the same things now in terms of doing turnover circuit, working on ripping the ball out, teaching guys how to rip the ball out. We did rip a couple out today, so I think it did pay off.

"Every day in practice, first thing we do when we have a defense meeting is put up who caused turnovers, who forced fumbles, who got interceptions each day so that we positively reinforce every guy that is doing it. I think we are more conscious of what we are trying to get done.

"Last year as good as we were on defense, we didn't cause many fumbles; but it was a pretty good trade-off for as well as they played. This year, I think if we can be a really good turnover team and have a great turnover ratio, that would probably be very beneficial to us."

Although Sunseri, a 6-0, 215-pound sophomore, did not start the game – Nick Perry was in his safety spot to open the contest – Sunseri was in on four tackles (three primary) in addition to his fumble recovery.

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