Twenty-one yards. That’s all that stood between Alabama’s defense and the end zone- something that it had held opponents out of for the last 13 quarters of play dating back to the Texas A&M game.
The defense found itself backed up so far not because of a defensive error, but because of a 58-yard punt return, but how it got there didn’t matter to the defense. All that mattered was defending the end zone.
“We don’t care about what the offense do,” linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “It’s about the 11 guys on defense do. If they turn the ball over on the one-yard line it’s our job [to get the stop].”
If anything the defense did more than that and held the Tigers to negative three yards on three offensive plays which then forced Auburn to settle for a 42-yard field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson. That field goal allowed the Tigers to take the early lead, but it didn’t last.
Alabama secured its third straight Iron Bowl win with a suffocating defensive effort that held the Tigers to 182 yards of total offense in the 30-12 victory.
Alabama’s defense took the field inside it’s own territory two additional times in the first half thanks to interceptions from the offense. Both times the defense forced the Tigers to settle for field goals after holding them to drives of six and 19 yards respectively.
Those nine points were all the defense allowed in the first half, but Alabama’s lead was far from secure- the Crimson Tide were only up four points.
“I guess everybody thought I was going to throw a fit (at halftime), but I just said, ‘Look guys. All we have to do is go out and play with some poise and confidence,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Trust and believe in how we do things, what we do, and everybody needs to go do their job.”
Alabama’s defense continued to keep the Tigers out of the end zone in the second half, but the team’s performance wasn’t perfect. Some of the plays Auburn ran with success in the second half were plays the coaching staff drew anticipated.
“We actually drew the plays up that they hit us on,” Saban said. “When you play somebody for 10 years here and five years at LSU and we played against this coaching staff a lot. They’ve got our coaches so they know what we do. We kind of know a little bit about what they do.”
After the game, Saban did not pin the miscues on guys that found themselves taking unexpected snaps in the secondary. The Crimson Tide lost Tony Brown in the first half (ejection on a targeting call) and Marlon Humphrey in the second, but Saban expects Humphrey to return to the lineup next week.
“We got a lot of guys that can play so we got a lot of talent on sideline so one guy goes down another guy comes in. We don’t miss a beat,” defensive back Ronnie Harrison said.
Some of those guys that were forced to step up included redshirt-freshman Deionte Thompson, who lined up as a safety when the Crimson Tide shifted to its dime formation, and Levi Wallace who replaced Marlon Humphrey at corner.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Hootie Jones were also asked to fill different holes at times due to the absence of Brown. Ejections, injuries or miscommunications none of them are acceptable excuses to the defense.
“If we come out and execute, the team shouldn’t get a yard so we gave up a lot of them,” Hamilton said. “We still gave up a lot of plays in this game so we’re going to go back to the drawing board.”
Hamilton led the defense with a team-high eight tackles and an a assist on a tackle for loss. He also found himself mobbed by his teammates when he grabbed Alabama’s only interception.
After the game, Hamilton said this victory meant a lot to him as a native to Alabama. He said this rivalry has been a part of his life since he was three or four years old.
“I grew up watching this game,” Hamilton said. “I was talking to my dad earlier I said ‘Dad like these kind of games that we sat on the couch and watch together and now I’m playing in them so I mean it’s just a blessing.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports