Alabama’s linebacker core was beat up to say the least coming into its game against Mercer. With four linebackers out, the Crimson Tide shifted true freshman linebacker Dylan Moses from the outside to inside, and it payed off against the Bears.
Moses was paired with senior linebacker Rashaan Evans in the starting lineup for the first time of his career. He showed off finishing with a game high 11 tackles, 10 of which were solo, and an interception in the 56-0 win.
“I think Dylan has a lot more confidence,” head coach Nick Saban said. “Last week was a little much for him, but this week he was better in practice. We simplified things [the defensive scheme] a little more. This was a little bit easier preparation from that standpoint. I think the knowledge and experience that he gained out there today will help his development for the future.”
The interception came after Mercer drove into the Alabama red zone for the first and only time of the game. Quarterback Kaelan Riley dropped back and threw the ball over the middle of the field right to Moses. He returned it from the nine-yard line to the 20.
“I was just proud of him,” Evans said. “Today was a day to showcase his skills. I believed in his skill set and I feel like he showed that today.”
After a lackluster performance against Mississippi State last week, Alabama’s defense needed a big game. Alongside Moses, sophomore safety Deionte Thompson and senior safety Hootie Jones each intercepted a pass.
“It was a great feeling,” Jones said. “We went out there and executed what we needed to do.”
Thompson returned his 21 yards to the Mercer six-yard line, setting up Alabama’s seventh touchdown on the day.
“I was just happy for him,” Jones said. “He was just doing what he needed to do to be successful.”
One aspect of Alabama’s defense that was lost when Shaun Dion Hamilton went down against LSU was the ability for his replacement to make calls at the line. Moses filled that role Saturday with ease.
“I feel like we wanted to emphasize that in case something happened to me,” Evans said. “We want him to be able to run the defense as well. I feel like he did a good job of that today.”
The Crimson Tide dominated the Bears, holding them to just 161 yards, including only 54 through the air. The Mercer quarterback combination of Riley and Tanner Brumby were a combined 7 for 22.
“They [the secondary] did really well,” Evans said. “I’m proud of those guys for doing what they did. We just wanted Minkah to rest his body.”
Junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t play against the Bears because of a hamstring injury that limited him against Mississippi State.
Alabama turns its attention to Auburn for the winner-take-all Iron Bowl that decides the SEC West on Nov. 25.
“It’s just kind of crazy,” Evans said. “It seems like everything is going full circle. Basically, I’m going to end my regular season career at Auburn, the place I came from. I’m just looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports