When Alabama’s defenders leave the sideline, it’s safe to say they aren’t looking to make friends.
“We hate everybody on the other team,” linebacker Ryan Anderson said. “Everybody that is lined up across from you, we hate you. We are going to try to kill you.”
On Saturday, Alabama coach Nick Saban said the hate the defense channels played a role in the team’s 10-0 win over LSU. The Tigers finished the game with 125 yards of total offense, and on Monday, Anderson said he thought it was the defense’s best performance to date.
A lot of the success for Alabama started up front as the Crimson Tide’s defense sacked LSU quarterback Danny Etling five times. Almost a month prior, that same defense recorded a season-high seven sacks against Arkansas, and two weeks ago, Alabama had five sacks against the Aggies.
Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson has three sacks this season and would likely have more, but linebackers Tim Williams (7 for 77 yards) and Ryan Anderson (5.5 for 42 yards) beat him to it. If they don’t get there first, then fellow defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (7 for 55 yards) probably flew there.
“It’s a race. You know you got to hit your move, you got to get off,” Anderson said. “You got to do it before those guys do it if you want to get the sack.”
Including sacks, the Crimson Tide defense has made 73 tackles behind the line of scrimmage that have resulted in a loss of 399 yards. Only 211 plays ran by an opponent (that didn’t end in a kick or a pass attempt) made it back to the line of scrimmage or further. Added together those 284 plays resulted in a net gain of only 594 yards rushing yards (2.09 yards per play).
“To be a good competitor, you’ve got to have a little stuff in your neck, if you know what that means,” Saban said. “We want a guy that’s going to go hit a guy that weighs 250 pounds running downhill as hard as he can hit him.”
LSU running back Leonard Fournette weighs about 235 pounds, but Alabama’s defense didn’t show mercy to the Tiger running back. Fournette carried the ball 17 times (for a net gain of 35 yards) Saturday, but the Crimson Tide defense tackled the running back behind the line of scrimmage four times for a loss of 9 yards.
Alabama running back Damien Harris understands all too well the challenge Fournette faced. When the Alabama defense has a target in its sights there’s not much relief for an opposing back.
“I mean, honestly, take your pick,” Harris said. “We got guys like Reuben [Foster], Jon Allen, Da’Ron [Payne]. Even our secondary – Minkah [Fitzpatrick], Marlon [Humphrey]. Those guys, they come lay the wood. So it’s kind of like pick your poison.”
Fitzpatrick isn’t the only member of the secondary who has a reputation for coming in for a big hit. He’s just one of five defensive backs who have combined to record nine tackles for loss this season.
“[Safety Ronnie Harrison], he’s one of those, I guess, hateful guys that coach was saying. He loves to hit,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “He’s one of those guys that is just, he’s hungry for contact.”
Emotion might give the defense an edge, but Saban said the whole team will have to guard against a letdown on Saturday when Mississippi State comes to town. The Bulldogs just beat then-No. 4 Texas A&M. This is not the time for relief.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has rushed for 839 yards. That’s almost 200 yards more than Alabama’s leading rusher, Harris, has to date, and Fitzgerald has more yards of total offense than everyone else in the SEC except former Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and Missouri quarterback Drew Lock.
“It’s almost like the old wildcat where you had a running back at quarterback except the running back can’t throw. Well, this guy can throw,” Saban said. “These running quarterbacks that have a significant amount of quarterback runs create a whole different set of keys and responsibilities [for defenders].”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports