Joe Kines said a long layoff between the final regular season game and a bowl game invites rust to tackling skills. "We didn't tackle well early, but it was no surprise," said Kines, who is Bama's linebackers coach as well as defensive coordinator. "It has been a long time since we tackled for real."
Kines said, "I've been watching bowl games and seeing the poor tackling, and it worried me. In our case, we are too short-handed to scrimmage as much as we needed."
Kines said, "You have to give a lot of credit to Minnesota. They have a fine offensive line and those two great running backs." The Golden Gophers' tailback duo of Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, both 1,000-yard rushers on the season, did something no other backs have done against Bama's defense this year. Both rushed for over 100 yards against the Tide. Barber, the game's most valuable player, had 37 carries for 187 yards, while Maroney had 29 runs for 105 yards.
"They do a nice job of their formations. And then it looks like you have those backs for about a yard gain and they've slipped along the sideline and it's second-and-one," Kines aid. "They had a lot of seconds-and-one and we don't have a lot of good defensive plays for second-and-one."
He added, "We knew how good those backs were. They didn't gash us for 50- or 60-yard runs, but they nickeled and dimed us to death."
Both teams came into the game with 6-5 records. But, Kines said, "Minnesota was probably just three plays from being 9-2. Minnesota is a strong football team."
Kines said, "It took us the best part of two and a half quarters to get our feet under us against those two backs. After the first drive of the second half we did better. When we finally decided to play, we got after them pretty good. I thought it was decent after the first drive of the second half, but we were never great."
Asked what Alabama's defensive plan was for the Golden Gophers, Kines said, "We threw the whole playbook at them."
Kines said that despite the performance, "I was proud of the effort and I think we're going to benefit from it."
While the outcome for Alabama was not good, Kines can take one good memory from the contest. "The only good thing we did was when we had to have them go three and out to have a chance to win, we did it," Kines said. Late in the fourth quarter, trailing by six points, Bama punted back to the Golden Gophers. The Tide held on three downs, forcing Minnesota to punt formation. The Gophers took a safety to close Bama to within the final score of 20-16, but the defensive stand proved for naught as Alabama's offense was unable to get the winning touchdown.
And Kines believes there is a benefit yet to be realized. "The best thing about this will go unnoticed until next year," he said. "We had great work in Tuscaloosa and great work here in Nashville."