"It was a great effort," said senior cornerback Gerald Dixon, speaking of Saturday's 31-0 victory over LSU. "It just goes all the way to last year. They put up all those yards on us, but we redeemed ourselves."
"All those yards" is an understatement. In a game that Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush recalls as a "nightmare," the Bengal Tigers humiliated the Tide at home, racking up 611 yards of total offense--the most in the history of Alabama football.
Last year the yardage difference between the two schools was 228. Saturday Alabama gained 477 yards to LSU's 281, 281 more than the Tigers.
Senior defensive end Kindal Moorehead was motivated for the game. "That's all we heard last week was how many yards they put up last year. We all knew that. We knew we had to come out and reverse that. We did that Saturday night."
Last season the final score was 35-21, a two-touchdown margin. Saturday Alabama shut out the Bengal Tigers, 31-0.
Kenny King was injured in the first half, but afterwards he was fine and talked about the score. "This was the first time that this senior class got a shutout," he noted. "It was great because of that. I'm happy and proud of the guys."
Bama's secondary was scorched last season, giving up 528 yards through the air--another all-time school record. But Saturday LSU was frankly fortunate in managing a meager 65 yards passing. "We wanted to go out and show that we were a whole lot better than that," Dixon said. "That was our game plan going in--beginning last year when it happened."
In 2001, LSU earned 27 offensive first downs to Alabama's 18, a nine down margine. Saturday the Tide bested the Bengal Tigers in that category by 11, 23-12.
"Getting a shutout against a good team like LSU was sweet," Moorehead said. "They came out thinking they were the best in the West. To get the shutout against a team like that was real good."
Two Bengal Tiger receivers (Josh Reed and Michael Clayton) combined in 2001 for 26 receptions and 419 yards. Saturday Clayton and Devery Henderson, the top LSU receivers, could manage only six catches for 38 yards.
"We kept the pressure on them all night," Dixon said. "I'm thankful to play with guys like Kindal and Kenny. This is a great team."
Senior quarterback Tyler Watts led the Crimson offensive onslaught. "We knew we'd be able to pick up some yardage here and there," he said. "We just had to be patient.
"How about that two-minute drive?"
Watts was referring to Bama's second scoring effort of the game. Backed up to their own goal line with less than two minutes to play in the first half, the Tide ran around and through the (previously) vaunted LSU defense to go ahead 14-0 at the half.
"We have felt very confident all year that our defense has prepared us every week to play well," Watts explained, "because they are so good. For us to be able to go out there and pick up some yardage and hopefully vault our defense into the number one slot, it's a good team thing."
Before Saturday's game, LSU's defense was yielding only 246.4 yards per game, ranking them as the top defensive unit in the nation. But after Watts and Co. ran roughshod in Death Valley, that number had swelled to 269.5, dropping the Bengal Tigers to fourth.
And who is the new No. 1?
Giving up a nation's best 244.27 yards per game, that would be the Crimson Tide.
"I think we showed them Saturday night," Moorehead said. "That was a great game. The No. 1 defense versus the No. 3 defense. In a way that kind of overshadowed how good our offense was. Our offense came out and put up 31 points. That determined it all.
"Alabama's got the No. 1 defense in America."
Having practiced all season against some of the toughest athletes in the nation, Watts and his offensive teammates were happy to help out their defensive counterparts. "You can't say enough about our defense," Watts said. "They're tough. They're tough."
"Right now you can say that we're the best," King acknowledged. "But we have two more games, so we have to continue to prove that we are the best team. Auburn is a great team, but we have to show them what Alabama football is all about."
Bama's last conference opponent, Auburn, has a solid defense as well. Rated 25th in the nation in points allowed per game, the Tigers specialize in forcing turnovers. "We're not done yet," Watts agreed. "We've got one more team in the West to play.
"That's the one that means the most."
Don't think that Dixon doesn't also respect the Auburn Tigers, quite the contrary. He just likes his team's chances this Saturday. "Oh, we're going to take care of them," he said.