Stuart McNair

Coach Nick Saban Has the SEC's Top Rush Defense As Alabama Plays Auburn's SEC-leading Rush Offense

How Auburn's running attack fares against a stout Alabama rush defense will be a key factor in this year's Iron Bowl game.

Nick Saban (above) is in his 10th season as Alabama's head football coach.

Auburn, Ala.--It will be strength vs. strength when Auburn is on offense this Saturday for the Tigers’ regular season finale vs. Alabama.

Auburn is leading the SEC in rushing offense with an average of 297.8 yards per game and the Tide is No. 1 in rushing defense. Auburn is averaging 5.7 yards per rush and Alabama’s 2.2 yards allowed per rush is a full yard better than the league’s No. 2 rush defense at LSU.

Asked why his team has such a low yards per carry rush defense, Tide coach Nick Saban said a big part of that statistic has been his team’s ability to create lost yardage when rushing the passer. Alabama has 40 sacks for 329 yards in losses, which is 95 yards more than the SEC’s number two team in that category, Texas A&M.

“If you just take the running plays I don’t think it is quite that effective,” said Saban, who added, “I think our guys have done a good job of playing blockers, and getting off blocks, and being physical and playing their gap.”

“The guys have done a good job of tackling, and tackling in the secondary, and getting good leverage on the formation calls. All in all, we have been able to do that fairly well this season.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST and the SEC contest will be televised on CBS. “It is always a great rivalry,” Saban said.

Commenting on the team that will be facing his 11-0 and No. 1 ranked squad, the coach said, “They run the ball effectively and are good all around. It is certainly going to be a challenge. We are just trying to focus on being ready for what we are going to see in this game.”

The Auburn offense is expected to get a boost on Saturday with the return of Kamryn Pettway, who has rushed for 1,106 yards this season. He missed the previous two games with an injury.

“He is really a good player,” Saban said. “He has great vision and instincts as a runner. He has got great power and eyes. The guy does a really good job of running and is especially able to break big runs, which they have quite a few of. He is just a fantastic player.”

Commenting on the AU running game in general, Saban noted that it is important for his players to make sure they aren’t fooled by Auburn’s pre-snap motion. “They do a great job of executing,” he said. “I?think the most important thing is they do a lot of things with formations and motions, but they run the same basic runs that are really well executed.”

Auburn’s offense caused the Tide defense major problems in 2013 and 2014, but last season Alabama won 29-13 by limiting the Tigers to 91 rushing yards on 37 carries and 170 passing yards.

“I think we played better against their tempo probably more than anything else,” Saban said of the 2015 game. “The first couple of years we played against this offense we struggled with poise and tempo--we made a lot of mistakes.

“I think last year because we had played against tempo more, and our offense also going to tempo, we probably did a better job of playing those type of teams.”


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