The clock continues to tick just as surely as Alabama’s punishing defense continues to dominate.
It’s now been 207 minutes and 54 seconds since the Crimson Tide’s defense has allowed a touchdown, dating back to the Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk caught a 25-yard touchdown pass a month ago.
That play gave Texas A&M a 14-13 lead over Alabama early in the third quarter. While the Tide eventually pulled away for a 33-14 victory, moments like that don’t really sit well with Alabama’s defense.
Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson remembers the touchdown and feeling things had to change. However, the Tide’s vocal leader didn’t feel the need to stand up and make a speech or a statement.
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“It’s just something you know,” Anderson said.
There’s a standard of excellence that Alabama defenders live by, anything short of it is failure. It’s the reason why players were less than thrilled following last week’s performance where they held Chattanooga to 184 yards in a 31-3 victory.
“It’s not the fact that we didn’t play well, we didn’t play up to how we felt like we should have played,” Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “We didn’t feel like we really executed, giving too many yards on the ground, personally. That’s what I took away from it. It’s something we’re going to work on and try to improve on this week.”
Alabama gave up 70 yards on the ground last week. For any other team in the nation, that performance would be at least 20 yards less than their average for rushing yards allowed per game. For Alabama, it was a little more than a yard over the Tide’s nation-leading average of 68.91 yards.
Alabama went into the half last week leading Chattanooga, an FCS opponent, 14-3. When asked about his team at the break, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he was embarrassed with the way his team was performing. The statement wasn’t lost on his players, who shared their coach’s dissatisfaction.
“We were (embarrassed), too. I mean, it’s true,” Allen said. “Coach Saban’s never going to lie to us, so if he’s embarrassed then, obviously, we’re playing like crap — which we were. Luckily, we got it fixed a little bit in the second half.”
For the most part, Alabama’s defense has lived up to its high standards this season. Along with leading the nation in rush defense, Alabama is second in total defense (252.6 yards per game), scoring defense (11.4 points per game) and sacks (40).
“I think the guys have played well together. They have a good competitive spirit,” Saban said during his Monday news conference. “They’ve prepared pretty well. I think they have a lot of pride. But this is going to be the most challenging group that we’ve faced, probably, in terms of the multiples of things that they do and how we need to adjust and how people need to be responsible and doing their job.”
This week Alabama will host an Auburn team that comes into Bryant-Denny Stadium with the No. 5 rushing offense in the nation, averaging 297.82 yards per game on the ground this season.
The Tigers are also optimistic for the return of running back Kamryn Pettway, who is second in the SEC with 1,106 rushing yards despite missing the past two games with a leg injury.
None of that matters to Alabama. There is the standard and nothing else. If the Tide can live up to that, everything else will take care of itself.
“This is a normal week for us,” Allen said. “It’s another game on our schedule. We’re going to treat it like such — and we’re going to go out there and play good football.”