Versus Oklahoma two weeks back, Alabama held the Sooners to less than 300 yards total offense. And last Saturday Torbush's troops limited North Texas to only 141. "I think we're tackling better," Torbush said. "We eliminated the big play last week."
Currently rated the nation's tenth-best run defense, Alabama has bought in to Torbush's belief that you've got to stop the run first. "I think we've got some pretty good athletes, and we've got a lot of guys that take a lot of pride in stopping the run," he said.
Interestingly, Torbush believes the Tide defense is aided by Bama's offense. Torbush explained, "A lot of (the defense's success) has got to do with how well we run the ball on offense. We get to see a strong, physical running game all year long (in practice), during spring practice and during early fall. That gets us prepared and also gives us a great deal of confidence of being able to meet any challenge."
Having played one good (MTSU) and one very good (Oklahoma) offense, the Tide stop troops are currently ranked 18th in the country for total defense. But Torbush isn't yet impressed. "We've got to do this over a period of time," he pointed out. "Three games is not enough to say we're a great run defense or even a good defense. We've got to prove that game by game by game.
"I do feel like we'll have the biggest challenge we've had all year this week (versus Southern Miss)."
In MTSU's Dwone Hicks, Alabama faced and shut down a pre-season Heisman Trophy hopeful. And when Bama and OU clashed, the Sooner starting tailback Quentin Griffin led the nation in rushing---only to be limited by the Tide to a startling three net yards on the ground.
"I think (our performance so far) says ‘job well done' on those two particular guys," Torbush grudgingly acknowledged. "But without a doubt the key this week will be Nix (rated the nation's second-best rusher). Because if we don't slow him down, we can't win."
Torbush was asked to rate his squad's performance in each of the first three games.
Versus MTSU, Alabama was playing very well until a penalty-aided drive kept the Tide defenders on the field seemingly for the entire second quarter. "I thought the first week we were doing a lot of great things," Torbush said. "Then we stayed on the field 30 out of 33 snaps (in the second quarter). That caused a fatigue factor late in the fourth quarter. We had played tough until that point.
"If we had been able to get off the field after we forced (MTSU) to punt, I think you'd have seen a lot better defense than you saw in that third and fourth quarter."
On the road versus a second-ranked Sooner squad, the Tide defense started slowly before essentially dominating the second half. "Two weeks ago against Oklahoma, we made a lot of really good plays," Torbush noted. "But we gave up the big play. We had four plays that really took us out of the ball game.
"The other 60 or so snaps we played as well as we possibly could."
Last Saturday the Mean Green offense drove the ball methodically down the field on their initial possession, before missing a chip-shot field goal in close. "Versus North Texas I was very disappointed in the first drive," Torbush admitted. "That should not have happened. I'm not sure we had quite the 'stinger' that we needed to have.
"That said, after that (first drive) I thought we regrouped and played very well defensively."