Last fall, inconsistency and a failure to force turnovers plagued Torbush's unit. Their low interception total (six) was particularly bothersome to him. And low Tide for the defense came on November, 3, at home against LSU, when the Tide lost its third straight game to drop to 3-5 for the second year in a row.
One week after allowing 35 points in a loss to their second-biggest rival (the University of Tennessee), Bama allowed the Tiger offense to post that same number, only this time it was worse.
How much worse?
Ask Rohan Davey, the Tiger quarterback who shredded the Tide secondary for 528 yards passing. Or Josh Reed, the wideout who caught 19 of Davey's passes for 293 yards. All three totals were SEC single-game records.
"We tried to do just about everything I know to do as a defensive coach and none of it worked," Torbush said. "We stunted, we dropped, we blitzed, we dropped everything we could. It was just one of those games where everything they did was right, and everything we did was wrong."
Torbush called it "the worst whipping I've had in my coaching career, ever." Whether he was talking about the game or the sharp rebukes from the press afterwards was unclear.
What followed was a vast improvement from the Tide defense. Over the final four games of the season, each a win for the Tide, the defense allowed only 52 points-an average of only 13 per game. That run included a dominating performance against the heavily favored Auburn Tigers.
Despite their home-field advantage during the Iron Bowl, Auburn managed only seven points and 41 rushing yards (on 28 attempts) against the Tide defense. Torbush credited the defensive resurgence to a recommitment by the entire coaching staff to their overall coaching philosophy, or as he puts it, "putting our guys in the best position to be successful."
It sounds almost too simple. Didn't he feel the need for a major overhaul after LSU rewrote the SEC record book against his defense and the press questioned his coaching ability?
He might have felt that way if Torbush read the paper.
Or the Internet, "If you wanna feel bad about yourself, all you gotta do is read that thing."
"You worry more about your family than you do that stuff," Torbush says of media criticism. "Probably for a coach who hadn't been through the battles, hadn't been through some ups and downs in his career, it might affect him more."
In other words, Torbush might have worried more if he hadn't been named Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 1996 by American Football Quarterly. Or if he hadn't orchestrated a defense that ranked in the top five in every major statistical category during 1996 and 1997, when he was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina.
It's not that he's cocky---he insists that those defenses at North Carolina "had some pretty good players, too." But Torbush doesn't doubt his ability as a football coach. And neither does his boss.
Head coach Dennis Franchione--who developed a reputation as an offensive guru in his previous coaching stops at TCU, New Mexico, and elsewhere--definitely has his share of input on the defense. But Franchione largely leaves the details of that unit to the discretion of Torbush, himself a former head coach at North Carolina (1998-2000) and Louisiana Tech (1987).
"Sometimes when we're standing out there, I spend as much time looking at the defense as I do the offense," Franchione explained, "but I don't feel like I gotta tell Carl what to do. I've got great confidence in him.
"I hired him to do the job."