Week by week, Alabama's identity shows a little more of its teeth.
It's become apparent three weeks into the season that part of that identity is creating turnovers. After getting just 20 last season, the Crimson Tide has forced 12, scoring 70 points off of them, and has only give up one. Alabama is No. 1 in the country with a plus-11 turnover margin.
Saturday in Fayetteville, Alabama had five takeaways and converted all into touchdowns on the ensuing possession in its 52-0 victory over an imploding Arkansas team.
Saban took what he learned, implemented it into his system and it's clearly working.
"We have the greatest defense in the SEC," said cornerback Dee Milliner, who had two tackles, broke up a pass and looked to have had an interception, but it was overturned upon review, against the Razorbacks. "It's great to have turnovers like we did. We pride ourselves on that."
The rainy conditions proved both teams susceptible to mistakes and turnovers, but only Arkansas got into trouble.
Things started to get bad for the Razorbacks in the first quarter. After a three-and-out, Arkansas punter Dylan Breeding fumbled the punt snap and as the ball skipped along the slippery turf toward the end zone, he kicked it out of bounds and got called for "illegal kicking," a 5-yard penalty. Alabama took over at the Arkansas 6-yard line and only needed one play for running back Eddie Lacy to plow into the end zone and put the Tide on the board.
The bad snap didn't count as a turnover, but it sure was a catalyst.
With Alabama up 10-0 in the second quarter, Arkansas was finally putting together a drive. But then safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted quarterback Brandon Allen and Alabama's offense took the field and scored six plays later when A.J. McCarron found true freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper for a 20-yard catch-and-run.
Later in the quarter, safety HaHa Clinton-Dix intercepted Allen and returned it 46 yards to the Arkansas 3. Three plays later, Lacy was in the end zone again and the Tide was up 24-0.
The Razorbacks would fumble twice in the third quarter and again in the fourth, all of which led to Alabama scores.
"It changes the game entirely when you create turnovers like that," Milliner said. "It puts the offense in good field position to score touchdowns."
Added linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who had three tackles and a sack: "Whenever you affect the quarterback, it's always going to lead to mistakes. We just executed our plays."
Saban explained how much the Tide works on turnovers in practice, whether its teaching stripping techniques to the defense or ball security to the offense.
"It really helps when you can compete against each other in practice and guys are trying to make that happen," he said. "It makes the offensive guys aware of what might happen in a game."
Arkansas fumbled the ball eight times, five of which were caused by the Tide (they recovered three). The nasty weather may have been a factor, but Alabama only fumbled once—a bad snap at the goal line—but McCarron was all over it.
Interceptions haven't been much of a problem for the Tide in the past, but fumbles were a different story. Last year Alabama only caused seven and just four in 2010. This season the Tide has racked up six and it's only the end of Week 3.
Now that the turnovers have come, they're coming in bunches.
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