The Alabama offense started this season at a relentless pace. Now the Alabama defense is showing how uncompromising it can be.
The Crimson Tide hasn’t allowed a single point in its last two games. It’s the first time in school history Alabama shut out a pair of teams ranked in the top 25 in back-to-back games.
“Coach Saban challenged us,” inside linebacker Dylan Moses said. “He said going into November it’d be a different season, a new season. He’s really emphasizing on finishing strong. That’s really the talk around the locker room. We want to finish strong and do what we didn’t do last year around this time. We want to keep that same energy.”
It’s also the first time Alabama has had a pair of shutouts against any opponents since November 2012, when the Crimson Tide went on to win a national championship. Alabama posted consecutive shutouts twice that season.
Alabama’s defense was allowing 15.9 points per game and 18.4 points in SEC play when it left Knoxville on Oct. 20. Now it’s tied for best in the nation, allowing 12.7 points per game and 13.1 in SEC play.
“I think the entire group has improved,” Saban said. “I think first of all we’re making a lot fewer mental errors. I think we’ve simplified things a little bit. We just helped the players develop some confidence in what they’re doing. You know, we’re playing better up front, the linebackers are playing better. I think we’re playing better in the secondary. I don’t think it’s one specific thing. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things that have created better execution on a more consistent basis.”
This weekend’s meeting with The Citadel won’t impact the conference statistics, but Saban has been quick to point out that option teams have been difficult matchups in the past. Georgia Southern ran for 302 yards and scored 21 points against Alabama in 2011, both the most allowed by that championship defense.
That 2011 defense remains one of the strongest in recent history. Even with two shutouts, defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs said the defense still has work to do to match some of the Alabama defenses that came before.
“Each and every day we work our tail off to get to that standard,” he said. We’re not all the way there yet, but that’s why we continue to progress each day in and each day out to get better and play to that standard.”
Alabama’s defense has grown to this point. It’s been 10 quarters since it allowed a touchdown, dating back to the first half against Tennessee on Oct. 20. Alabama can extend its shutout streak this Saturday, but the season doesn’t stop there.
“Around this time of year, teams are getting tired, bodies are hurting, wanting the season to be over with,” Moses said. “We have an ultimate goal. We want to do better than last year and obviously we won a championship last year. We want to finish on top, a better record and all that.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.