The Alabama defense turned in its most dominant performance of the season Saturday, allowing just 179 total yards and 10 first downs in a 66-3 win against Western Carolina.
Dominance was expected against the now 3-9 Catamounts but no one expected this level of play from a Bama defense missing multiple starters due to injury.
The defense forced five turnovers, all by Catamounts quarterback Tyrie Adams. Xavier McKinney contributed two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and a forced fumble. Jared Mayden also had two interceptions. The offense converted the opportunities provided by the turnovers, scoring 28 points on the ensuing drives.
Both of McKinney’s interceptions came during the first quarter when the Catamounts were in UA territory. The first set up the Tide offense at their own 21, the second ended with some fireworks.
“I’m taught to run to the ball wherever the ball is at,” said McKinney. “So I ran to the reception area, I saw the tip and caught it and I saw grass in front of me so I tried to get to the end zone.”
He returned the pick 81 yards for a touchdown after Trevon Diggs made the initial play to tip the ball away from the Western Carolina receiver.
“Obviously any time you score on defense that’s a big thing,” head coach Nick Saban said. “We practice that a lot, intercept the ball, go down the numbers, everybody blocks. I thought there were some guys who got some great blocks on that and ‘X’ did a great job of carrying it in.”
The Tide defensive line lacked its usual depth as Raekwon Davis, DJ Dale, and Phidarian Mathis all sat out. Christian Barmore, Stephon Wynn Jr, and Justin Eboigbe started in relief while Byron Young, Ishmael Sopsher, Tevita Musika, and Braylen Ingraham saw much more significant playing time.
“I think they did a pretty good job,” Saban said. “Especially on the inside runs for the most part we did a pretty good job. Any plays that they made were on boots, edges, losing contain on the quarterback, not really something that the interior guys had a lot to do with. I haven’t watched the film but I feel like we controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well. Their guys obviously aren’t as big or physical as what we will face in the future but I’m not disappointed and I’m sure the experience did them a lot of good.”
The redshirt freshman Barmore turned in one of the best games of his brief Alabama career, racking up a career-high six tackles and adding half a sack. There was a scary moment in the second half when Barmore appeared injured on the field but he walked off under his own power and appeared OK on the sideline.