While Drew Lock, Missouri’s strong-armed quarterback, got most of the attention coming into Saturday’s game against No. 1 Alabama, the Crimson Tide’s first defensive priority is always to stop the run.
The Tigers came into the contest with a sneaky-good ground attack. Missouri was ranked sixth in rushing in the SEC at better than 211 yards per game. They had used the run to balance with the passing game and keep defenses honest, allowing Lock better situations to throw downfield.
The job of making Mizzou one-dimensional by taking away the run game fell upon UA’s defensive front seven, particularly defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and Quinnen Williams, with support from linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses.
The Tigers gained just 70 rushing yards on 35 carries with yardage deducted for four sacks figured into the total.
“It was definitely physical,” Wilson said. “We knew coming into the game they were going to run the ball a lot, they were a balanced team.
“It definitely came from practice, just watching film and knowing what play was coming. Everybody communicated well.”
The Crimson Tide had given up 100-yard games to running backs in its two most recent outings, against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas, and was ranked an uncharacteristic eighth in the SEC against the run, yielding 134.3 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. Not terrible numbers, but not the standard set at UA in the Nick Saban era.
Missouri running back Larry Roundtree III, who was averaging 76.6 yards per game and 5.63 yards per carry, finished as the Tigers’ leading rusher with 48 yards on 17 attempts. Tyler Badie gained 41 on six rushes.
Missouri gained 7 yards on their first carry and Badie gained 13 and 16 yards on runs late in the first quarter. By the end of that period, Mizzou had rushed for 56 yards, but got little on the ground the rest of the way.
“It was just probably guys not fitting the right gap,” Wilson said. “That’s basically all it was. We went to the sideline, corrected it and did a good job.”
Wilson led UA with eight tackles, including a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Williams made 6.5 stops, including a sack and two tackles for loss. Davis made five tackles.
“We wanted to come in and be the most physical team, the most dominating team up front,” Williams said. “We came in thinking we could do that and really wanting to prove that we could do that.
“Really our big thing this week was holding each other accountable, make sure everybody knows what to do; make sure everybody knows what’s going and the situation from (whatever) down to their personnel to the formation.”
It added up to a defensive performance much more like what had been seen from UA in recent years.
“They tried to run the football and at times in the first half they did, but I think when we settled into the game and saw what they were trying to do, the guys did a really good job up front,” Saban said.
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.