Tide Defense Works To Improve Weekly

It wasn't just about the shutout. For a brief time following Alabama's 40-7 win over Florida Atlantic in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, a focus seemed to be on Bama failing to hold FAU scoreless and thus secure a third consecutive shutout.

In the long run, Alabama isn't going to be known for the number of consecutive shutouts it delivers. After all, who knew that it had been 30 years since the Crimson Tide had two in a row until last week? Or that it had been since 1966 since there had been three in a row?

But almost any Bama fan could tell you the years of the national championships since 1980, or even 1966. That's the big picture.

Alabama was much, much better than Florida Atlantic, and Bama players knew that coming into the game. You can't fool players when they are watching videotapes of the upcoming opponent. And yet, the Tide didn't play with the lack of intensity that sometimes hits a good football team against lesser competition.

No less an observer than Tide Coach Nick Saban said, "I was really much more pleased with the way our team approached this game, with the way they actually played the game in terms of the kind of intensity that we played with, the sense of urgency, the discipline that we had.

"We were focused.

"We challenged the players not to be normal."

The game is 60 minutes long, so it all counts, but it's interesting to note that with FAU getting the ball down 40-0 in the fourth quarter, the Owls had a total of 41 yards of offense and one first down to go with their zero points. To be sure, Saban wants his back-up defensive players to do well, too, and there is now a learning experience.

FAU got five of its six first downs on its final drive. The Owls got 46 of their 76 total rushing yards and 23 of their 34 passing yards. That final drive also produced their only third down conversion (in 12 tries).

It could be losing the shutout is not all bad. Now the focus returns to winning the next game, which will be Ole Miss at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams, whose biggest play came on special teams, said, "At the start we were kind of feeling it out, but after a while we were camped back there (in the FAU backfield) most of the time and we were happy to get the win.

"We haven't really started our full SEC streak yet, so we're not really up to pace yet. I think we're getting better week by week, slowly improving as a team, and hopefully when we hit this SEC streak we'll keep it up and keep improving."

Williams said, "We have a lot of hard working guys. Everyone wants to make tackles and sacks. We're all hungry for everything. We're trying to do everything we can to get to the ball."

Williams said his block of an FAU field goal try was a matter of knowing what to do and where to do it.

"I saw a little gap where I thought he would try to kick it, and I tried to hit it as hard as I could," Williams said. "I just tried to jump and make the biggest body I can and I was lucky enough that it hit my hand. Unfortunately, it didn't bounce forward where I might have been able to pick it up and..."

The defensive lineman dreams.

As for missing the shutout, Williams said, "The win is more important to us, and obviously getting the twos more experience. They faced some adversity and tried as best they could, but made a couple of bad mistakes. But we're trying to improve every week and get better all the way to the end of the season."

Even those who wanted the shutout would admit that it was better to get the back-up players in the game, protecting starters who will be needed down the road, as well as giving game experience to the back-ups, many of whom will also be important in the future.

Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner said, "We came out and had a good day today. We executed our game plan like we were supposed to. I wish we could have had more turnovers, but I think we played well."

Alabama did not have a takeaway in the game after coming in leading the nation in that statistic.

Florida Atlantic Coach Carl Pelini had a good view of the Alabama defense.

"That was a great defense that we faced," said Pelini. "They're a very good defensive football team, and they were just physically handling us up front early in the game.

"They are as physical a team as there is out there. We saw it on film and it translated today. They're a great football team, that's for sure."

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