Alabama football defense rebounds for impressive second half, win against Georgia
Alabama went into the locker room at halftime having allowed 24 points over its last four possessions. The Tide gave up five plays of 18 yards or more, and a crucial offside penalty in the final minutes turned a likely Georgia field goal attempt into a touchdown.
No. 2 Alabama came out of the locker room wanting to do more than right its most recent wrongs. The miscues of the week prior were also in the Crimson Tide's crosshairs.
“I think we made a tremendous statement to bounce back from the game before,” sophomore defensive back DeMarcco Hellams said. “Coming out for the second half, we wanted to make a statement as a defense. Holding them to zero points was a great job of that.”
The much maligned Alabama defense put up their best performance of the season in the second half against No. 3 Georgia in a 41-24 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night.
Excluding one 36-yard completion, the Bulldogs (3-1) gained just 115 yards on 28 plays, their five possessions ending in two punts, two interceptions and a missed field goal. A scoreless second half was more than enough to work with for Alabama (4-0), which scored three straight touchdowns.
“I thought the turnovers in the second half were huge. They got off the field on third down better,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “It was just a better job of executing.”
After allowing its first three opponents to convert on 54 percent of their third downs, Alabama allowed just one conversion on seven attempts in the second half. Some of those third downs came at critical junctures, such as the third-and-10 on the 25-yard line late in the third quarter where a Malachi Moore interception turned a scoring opportunity into an Alabama touchdown six plays later.
The first play of the fourth quarter was also the Crimson Tide defense coming up with a third-down interception, this time Daniel Wright’s second of the season.
Saban was proud of the unit’s resolve but also noted big plays conceded: three plays of 20 yards or more, plus four more of either 19 or 18 yards. He implored the defense to react better to things opposing offenses are surprising them with, noting the example of the 82-yard touchdown pass to James Cook where a safety should have adjusted to the perimeter, instead leaving inside linebacker Christian Harris isolated in that situation.
Those miscues, one week after a record failure, were few and far between in crunch time. One week after quarterback Mac Jones recognized the offense felt it needed to score on every possession, he was looking to his defense for a boost.
“They gave us the energy we needed,” Jones said. “Sometimes we need them and sometimes they need us.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson