Nick Saban OK with Alabama football's pass rush despite no sacks against Texas A&M
Allowing 450 yards of offense has become more common in the modern era of offenses, even for the traditionally stingy Alabama defenses. It happened six times in the first nine years of the Nick Saban era, but has now happened 10 times in the most recent four seasons plus two games of 2020, as Texas A&M gained exactly 450 on Alabama Saturday.
The 450 yards the visiting Aggies (1-1) gained in the 52-24 loss, came without one obstacle: a single sack from the UA defense.
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond attempted 44 passes and was never sacked, putting the UA defense off to the slow pass-rushing start of three sacks through two games.
Saturday was just the seventh time in the last decade UA went an entire SEC game without a sack, but it stood out as being the one with the most opportunity. The previous six games saw UA’s opponent attempt no more than 34 passes, in all but one case attempting 31 or fewer; the Aggies attempted 47 passes without allowing a sack.
In sacking opposing quarterbacks just three times against 86 attempted passes, Alabama ranks 63rd of the 74 FBS teams that have played at least one game this year. Alabama (2-0) is averaging a sack per 28.6 opponent passes faced; the national average, when excluding sackless Charlotte and East Carolina, is around a sack per 17 opponent pass attempts.
Saban argued the defensive front executed its job, not needed a sack to justify its impact.
“I thought the way we played the game was kind of the way we needed to play it,” Saban said. “I thought the front did a good job of pressuring the quarterback. We only lost contain one time today. Kellen didn’t run all over the lot like he did last year against us. They pushed the pocket well, they affected him some. I thought we did a good job of executing the pressures we had.”
Containing Mond was a runner was clearly a priority for UA, and one it executed well. Last season, after adjusting for sacks, Mond ran 11 times for 106 yards; on Saturday, Mond’s eight runs went for 19 yards, with eight of those yards coming on one carry.
UA also tallied eight quarterback hurries on Saturday, something it has done against SEC teams just six times in the previous three seasons. Evaluating a pass rush on quarterback hurries is tricky, considering there is no definition for the statistic in the NCAA’s football statistician’s manual. Some schools don’t keep the stat at all — Missouri did not keep any in its game against UA, for instance — and those that do have no choice but to do so subjectively.
More on Saturday's game:Three things we learned: Alabama 52, Texas A&M 24
UA is also still working its personnel in its pass-rush package. Three players in the pass-rush package used against Texas A&M are either new to the role (outside linebacker Christopher Allen), new to college football entirely (freshman outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr.) or new to the 2020 team, having missed the season opener (defensive lineman Christian Barmore).
As Saban has said in the past, sacks are not the only way to evaluate a pass rush, a belief that works for and against his current defensive front.
“I thought the front did a reasonably good job in the game today,” Saban said. “If we could’ve eliminated some of the big plays that came, several of them on mental errors, I think we could’ve played better.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or email@example.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson