Crimson Tide defense refusing to allow touchdowns

Crimson Tide defense refusing to allow touchdowns

November 27th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison, left, celebrates with linebacker Tim Williams during the second half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won 30-12. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On the eve of Saturday's Iron Bowl, Crimson Tide junior inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton was made aware of a very unique statistic.

The Crimson Tide had gone 207 minutes and 54 seconds without allowing a touchdown.

"Somebody attached me on Twitter yesterday about how our defense hadn't given up a touchdown in a long time," Hamilton said, "so I attached (senior inside linebacker) Reuben (Foster). I didn't know it, and he didn't even know it, and I was like, 'Dang, this is crazy.'

"We just have to go out every Saturday and do our job."

In their 30-12 dismantling of Auburn, the Crimson Tide did just that, limiting the Tigers to 182 yards and four Daniel Carlson field goals. The updated time that has elapsed since Texas A&M scored a touchdown in the third quarter on Oct. 22 is 267 minutes and 54 seconds.

"Our defensive players really play well together," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Auburn presents some tough issues and challenges with personnel groupings, motions, formations and adjustments, and I thought our guys did a really good job for the most part adjusting to those. The defense was put in some really tough spots in this game.

"There was a point when they had one first down and nine points because of turnovers, a poor punt and poor punt coverage. We had some really challenging field-position situations in this game, and our players really responded well to it. We play one play at a time, and we try to prepare our guys the best we can to go out there and play well."

Auburn did not get into the red zone until late in the third quarter, when the Tigers drove to Alabama's 10 before settling on Carlson's fourth field goal that made it 27-12.

"It just shows how hard we work in our preparation," Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison said. "We take practice very seriously, because we don't like to get scored on."

Said Tide tailback Damien Harris: "They definitely make our jobs a lot easier."

Stewart rebounds

Alabama junior receiver ArDarius Stewart sat out last week's 31-3 win over UTC for "violating a standard of behavior," according to Saban. Stewart made up for the lost time against the Tigers, catching 10 passes for 127 yards and a 38-yard third-quarter touchdown that broke the game open at 27-9.

"He played great today, and he's been very productive for us," Saban said. "He certainly came back and competed well and has done the things we've asked him to do. I'm pleased with the year he's had in total."

Stewart, who had all 10 of his catches in the first three quarters, had eight catches for 156 yards in the Tide's 51-3 thrashing of Mississippi State on Nov. 12. He insisted that being benched did not add any sense of urgency Saturday.

"It wasn't that tough," Stewart said. "I was injured at the beginning of the season, so it's the same thing. This game, period, motivated me. It's Alabama-Auburn. It's the Iron Bowl. What's better than that?"

Tide tidbits

Alabama leads the Iron Bowl 45-35-1, strengthening its edge due to Saban's 7-3 record in the series. Jalen Hurts became the first true freshman quarterback to start an Iron Bowl for the Crimson Tide, and he set an Iron Bowl accuracy mark (minimum of 30 attempts) by completing 75 percent (27 of 36) of his passes. Hurts is responsible for 33 touchdowns (21 passing and 12 rushing) this season and is two off the school's single-season mark of 35 set by Blake Sims two years ago. Tide kicker Adam Griffith and Auburn counterpart Daniel Carlson each scored 12 points, coming within one of the Iron Bowl scoring mark for kickers set by Alabama's Van Tiffin in 1985. Tony Brown was ejected for targeting late in the first quarter, which resulted in Minkah Fitzpatrick moving back to "star" and more playing time for Hootie Jones and Deionte Thompson. Center Bradley Bozeman on the Iron Bowl: "It's a little more personal than the others."

Tiger tales

Auburn has held all 12 opponents below their season scoring average. The 55-yard completion from John Franklin III to Eli Stove in the third quarter marked Auburn's longest pass play of the season. Carlson made four of five field-goal attempts and is now 67-of-81 in his career (82.7 percent), holding the school marks for attempts, makes and accuracy.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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