Alabama’s defense came out with a strong defensive intensity to start the game against Colorado State. The unit forced three-straight three-and-outs and only allowed 11 yards in the first quarter. Everything was going smoothly. That wouldn’t last.
Colorado started to string together long touchdown drives, including a monotonous 11 play, 85-yard touchdown drive that spanned six minutes and 17 seconds that cut Alabama’s lead to just seven. The drive was sparked by a long pass from Nick Stevens to Michael Gallup, who was wide open due because of a busted coverage. Levi Wallace blitzed, and no one picked up his man.
According to head coach Nick Saban, that was the theme for Alabama’s defense the rest of the night: lack of execution.
“We didn’t execute,” Saban said. ‘That’s what happened. We didn’t execute. When you’re playing against good players who can make plays and respect them for what they can do and you don’t do what you’re supposed to do and do it well, they’re going to make plays. They made some plays that I wasn’t pleased with. We need to do a better job of executing.”
The Crimson Tide defense did just enough to hold off the Rams and earn a 41-23 victory. From the second quarter on, the Rams were able to find holes in both the front seven and the secondary and turn it into big plays. Colorado State finished with 391 yards of total offense.
The defense was unable to get off the field on third downs as well. The Rams converted on 10 of 17 third down plays.
“We have a lot of work to do,” linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “That was just pathetic…We were just on the field for entirely too long.”
The Crimson Tide was missing multiple players at the linebacker position. Hootie Jones said it was good for the players stepping in to get the game experience. The lack of depth was not a reason for Alabama’s struggles, according to Jones and other Alabama defenders.
“We got great players that are right behind them,” Jones said. “It’s just they haven’t had much playing time, so it’s kind of like they’re finally getting to play.”
Despite its struggles, the defensive unit came up with big plays when it needed to. In the third quarter, it looked like Colorado State was going to drive down the field to cut Alabama’s lead back down to seven. On second down from Alabama’s 33 yard line, Levi Wallace stretched out to tip a pass up in the air, which was picked off by Ronnie Harrison. That led to a touchdown for Alabama.
On the next drive from Colorado State, Hootie Jones grabbed his first career interception and returned it 65 yards to Colorado State’s 11 yard line. Alabama’s defense wasn’t perfect, but it was opportunistic.
“It’s exciting and it gives you a lot of momentum,” Hamilton said. “It gives the ball back to the offense and let’s them be productive. It’s always exciting whenever we can get a turnover.”
One bright spot of the defense was the individual play of multiple members of the secondary. Harrison not only had an interception, but had five total tackles. Levi Wallace finished with four pass breakups, while Anthony Averett had a pass breakup and a tackle for loss.
Minkah Fitzpatrick was perhaps the most impressive out of the secondary and proved once again that he is a versatile force. Fitzpatrick rushed the passer multiple times and was able to pressure Stevens and bat a ball down at the line of scrimmage.
“I’m just glad (Fitzpatrick) is on our team,” Hamilton said. “He’s one of the most versatile guys in the country. We can line him up anywhere.”
Alabama will have to go back to the drawing board on defense in preparation for its SEC schedule. The Crimson Tide will travel to Vanderbilt next Saturday. Before that, Hamilton says the defensive players will have a special meeting to talk about their performance.
“We have to get back and work hard,” Hamilton said. “We’re fixing to get into SEC play. We’re going to have a ‘come-to-Jesus’ meeting on Monday.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports