University of Alabama

Slow start ignites Alabama’s defense in SEC title game

Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) runs against Alabama linebacker Tim Williams (56) during the SEC championship game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.
Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) runs against Alabama linebacker Tim Williams (56) during the SEC championship game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta. AP

When is allowing two defensive touchdowns a disappointment? When you are part of Alabama’s defense.

The Crimson Tide gave up two offensive touchdowns in a 54-16 win over Florida Saturday night. The defense hadn’t allowed an opposing offense to score since a 33-14 win over Texas A&M on Oct. 22.

Alabama played four full games — three against SEC opponents — without allowing a team in the end zone.

After Florida stopped the streak by scoring on its opening drive, Alabama’s defense played the rest of the game with a chip on its shoulder.

“It was a rough start at first, but we had to overcome it, show mental toughness and really just dominate for real,” Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster said. “Like we don’t like that. We don’t like giving up points. We don’t like giving up first downs. We hate that.”

It showed.

Alabama sacked Florida quarterback Austin Appleby four times, forced three turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown.

“Nobody on our team defense played more than 30 plays tonight,” Alabama linebacker Tim Williams said. “They just straight dawgs man. Everybody here.”

Alabama has the top scoring defense in the country giving up 11.4 points per game. It also is allowing the fewest rushing yards per game (68.7) and total yards a game (246.8) this season.

Florida’s 16 points and 261 total yards were above the Crimson Tide’s season averages, but the Gators finished with 0 rushing yards on 30 carries.

It was the second fewest rushing yards in the history of the SEC Championship Game (Auburn -15; 1997).

“That’s what Alabama is built on,” Williams said. “You run the ball at us? We welcome it. We going to embrace it helmet on helmet, hat on hat, that’s football that’s what we have pads for.”

Williams credited talented teammates like Foster for setting the standard. Foster won the game’s MVP award with 11 tackles, nine solo, and two sacks.

“I saw Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Rueben was a man possessed,” Williams said of his teammate. “He inspired me. When I looked back, I just knew I had to go to keep up on his level.”

With a front seven loaded with similar NFL-ready talent, sometimes the only question mark for Alabama’s defense is which player will come up with the next sack or tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

“Man, it’s really a race (to the ball),” Williams said. “If I don’t get there I know JA (Jonathan Allen) going to get it, if JA don’t get it then Ryan Anderson or Dalvin (Tomlinson) going to get it. There’s just competition all around.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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