Stuart McNair

Alabama leads nation in rushing defense and Auburn leads SEC in rushing

Alabama preparing for return of Pettway to Auburn offense

One of the biggest surprises of the 2016 Southeastern Conference football season has been the Auburn running game, particularly with the emergence of the Tigers’ big tailback, Kamryn Pettway.
It was no surprise that most of Coach Nick Saban’s commentary in Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference centered on the challenge Auburn’s running attack brings to Alabama’s defense.
Alabama (11-0 overall, 7-0 in SEC games) hosts Auburn (8-3, 5-2) in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday. CBS will televise the game.
Alabama is not only No. 1 in all national polls, including the College Football Playoff ranking, but No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 68.9 yards per game. Auburn leads the SEC in rushing offense with 297.8 yards per game. The Tigers have 32 rushing touchdowns this year, while Bama has allowed only three TDs on the ground.
Although Pettway missed Auburn’s last two games with injury, he has been pronounced as healthy and ready to play against Bama. Pettway, 6-0, 240, leads the SEC in rushing in conference games with 158 carries for 954 yards (6.0 per carry and 159 per game). Even though he did not have a carry in the Tigers’ opener against Clemson and missed three total games, he has rushed for 1,106 yards in all games.
“He’s just a good player,” Saban said. “He’s got great vision and instincts as a runner. He’s got great power because of his size. The guy does a really good job of running, especially their direct runs, which they have quite a few of. We just think he’s a fantastic player.”
As for the Auburn running game, Saban said, “They do a great job of executing it, I think is the most important thing. They do a lot of things with formations and motions but they run the same basic runs that are really well executed. But because of the adjustments you have to make on defense sometimes I think players get a little distracted about playing those plays. They just do a really, really good job. They always have. And it’s always a real challenge to stop their running game.”
Saban said that Alabama’s rushing statistics are skewed because of the college methodology of including opponents’ lost yardage to sacks (Bama has 40 for 309 lost yards) in rushing.
“If you take the running plays, I don’t think it’s that effective,” Saban said, adding, “but it’s been pretty good. I think our guys have done a good job of playing blockers and getting off blocks and being disciplined and playing their gaps. At times when we give up plays, it’s because we don’t do a good job of that.
“You’ve got to do a good job of tackling and tackling in the secondary and keeping good leverage.
“All in all, we’ve been able to do that fairly well this season.”
Last year Alabama held the Tigers to 91 rushing yards on 37 carries in a 29-13 Tide win in Auburn.
“I just think we played better against their tempo probably more than anything else,” Saban said of last year’s success against the Auburn running game. “The first couple of years we played against this offense, we struggled to keep poise against tempo and we made a lot of mistakes. I think last year because we played against tempo teams more and our offense was also doing some tempo, we probably did a little better job of playing against those types of teams.”

BamaMag Top Stories