Mack Wilson voluntarily takes the blame for Alabama’s lack of communication on defense against Louisville. So does Deionte Thompson.
The way they described the Crimson Tide’s play-calling chain of command goes something like this: Wilson, a linebacker, gets the call from defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi and then relays it to the others up front and to Thompson, who then shares the information with the other defensive backs.
“It has to be very quick,” Thompson said. “But it’s what we work on in practice, so (it) shouldn’t be a big job.”
But it was in the season opener. There was a disconnect somewhere.
After the game, Alabama coach Nick Saban pointed to mental errors as the biggest issue on defense, which allowed Louisville 268 offensive yards. He reiterated that message Monday.
“We had way too many penalties as a team, and I think it was even more clear on defense when we executed and did things correctly, we had pretty good success,” he said. “And when we made mental errors and didn’t do the right things, they did take advantage of it on occasion and it led to some of their very big plays.”
Alabama finished with 10 penalties for 111 yards. Six of those were on defense – Xavier McKinney’s pass interference, Anfernee Jennings’ personal foul, Quinnen Williams’ offside, Christian Miller’s unsportsmanlike conduct, Saivion Smith’s facemask and LaBryan Ray’s personal foul, in order – and five created first downs for Louisville.
The Cardinals’ longest series consisted of 10 plays. It was their first scoring drive, ending with a 12-yard touchdown pass. And there were three penalties on the Crimson Tide for 35 yards during that possession.
“It’s about how you get back to work and how you correct those things and move on to the next thing,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of mental errors and we busted a lot of plays, but that’s football.”
Another issue was tackling.
“There were a lot of bad angles taken, a lot of just things we can get corrected easily,” Thompson said. “But later in the game and as the game went on, we kind of got sloppy.”
Most of the mistakes are being chalked up to communication, which is something the defense plans to continue to work on in practice this week.
“Practice like you’re going to play the game,” defensive back Shyheim Carter said. “Go after practice and play the game. You play the game even before you play the game.”
Alabama’s next opportunity is its home opener Saturday against Arkansas State, a team that averaged 495 offensive yards per game last season and totaled 685 in its first game last weekend. That’ll show whether the Crimson Tide has worked out communication kinks and can talk the talk.
On the field, it’ll start with Wilson.
“That’s my job basically,” Wilson said. “Coach Saban tells me all the time that if someone messes up, he’s coming at me regardless. I’m the signal-caller, and I need to make sure everybody in on the same page.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.
Arkansas State at No. 1 Alabama
When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Records: Alabama 1-0, Arkansas State 1-0
Radio: 95.3 FM. 102.9 FM