Everyone agrees that Alabama’s defense was outstanding against LSU in the Crimson Tide’s 10-0 win in Baton Rouge Saturday night. The fourth quarter defensive numbers weren’t particularly impressive, though.
The defensive highlight of the fourth quarter was Minkah Fitzpatrick’s interception on LSU’s second play of the period. Other than that, there was a tackle by Reuben Foster, a tackle by Ryan Anderson, and a tackle by Marlon Humphrey.
The reason, of course, is that the Alabama offense had the ball for 13 and a half minutes of the 15-minute period, Bama scoring all its points in that final quarter. The Crimson Tide got a 21-yard touchdown run from Jalen Hurts and an extra point and a 25-yard field goal from Adam Griffith to account for all the points in the game and the victory.
So what did the defense think about spending all that time on the sideline while the offense put the game away?
“It was exciting, like throughout the rest of the game,” said Bama defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson. “When we went out there at the beginning of the fourth quarter, we just knew we had to stop them.
“We were just energetic on the defense. We knew we could stop them because we had been doing it throughout the game and we knew we had to stop them one more time.
“Our offense normally keeps the ball for a long period of time in the fourth quarter.”
Tomlinson, a 6-3, 305-pound senior from McDonough, Ga., had another good game for the Tide. He was in on six tackles and had a sack for an 11-yard loss.
LSU statisticians credited Alabama with only three quarterback pressures, but LSU quarterback Danny Etling (and everyone else) knows there were a lot more of them, helping account for Etling completing just 11 of 24 passes for 92 yards.
The Alabama defense had two particular challenges following Bama turnovers.
On the third play of the game, a Hurts pass was intercepted by LSU at the Tide 33. Three plays later the Tigers had moved only a yard and tried a 49-yard field goal, which was partially blocked by Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison.
In the third quarter, Hurts was sacked and fumbled and the Tigers had the ball at the Tide 42. On third down, Etling was sacked by Tomlinson at the LSU 49, forcing a punt.
Tomlinson said the defense understands its role when the offense suffers a turnover.
“Pretty much in that situation, you know you have to play defense,” Tomlinson said. “Swings like that are going to happen in a game and throughout the season. You have to come out with the mnindset that we have to get the ball back for our offense.
“We just went out there and knew we couldn’t let them score and got the ball back.”
Alabama’s defense is considered by many to be the best in the nation, allowing just 13.2 points and 257 yards per game, including only 66 rushing yards per game. The Tide has 37 sacks for 300 yards in losses.
“We’re all like a big family and we all push each other every day in practice,” said Tomlinson in explaining why the defense is so good.
This week Alabama (9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference hosts Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3) at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 11 a.m. CST with ESPN televising the game.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 35-28 upset of Texas A&M, which had been ranked fourth in the College Football Playoff poll.
Mississippi State presents a challenge with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, a dual-threat quarterback who is fifth in the SEC in rushing (93.2 yards per game) and who is passing for 189.4 ypg.
“They have another running quarterback who can throw,” Tomlinson said. “We have to make sure we collapse the pocket and not let him slip through the seams.”
Tomlinson said the Bulldogs offense is similar to when Dak Prescott, now starring for the Dallas Cowboys, was quarterback at State. “It’s pretty much the same offense, but they changed a few things because of the running style [Fitzgerald] has.”