Alabama’s defense brings down Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, but linebacker C.J. Mosley, right, couldn’t quite get the ball away from him. (Copyright photo by Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily)
This is my story for today’s editions:
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – Alabama has forced 24 turnovers this year, which already is ahead of the 20 the Tide caused all of last season.
But in the last three games, the Tide has forced only one, which was a fumble by Western Carolina that defensive back Deion Belue recovered and returned for a touchdown. Alabama’s last interception came against Mississippi State on Oct. 27. That’s when safety Robert Lester picked off a pass in the end zone.
Alabama has fallen from second nationally in turnover margin three weeks ago to No. 13 now. This is an especially relevant statistic this week because No. 2-ranked Alabama (10-1) is facing Auburn (3-8), which is No. 106 nationally in turnover margin. Within the SEC, only Arkansas is worse.
“We’ve got to practice it better,” Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson said. “Coming into the season, we had a chip on our shoulder. That’s all we did. We practiced it all the time to our best. I think we’ve gotten away from that those couple weeks.”
Clearly, it’s become an issue for Alabama, but compiling those statistics seems a whole lot easier than figuring out a sure way to create turnovers — at least for Tide head coach Nick Saban.
From what Saban has said, Johnson is right — the team worked in preseason on making turnovers a priority.
The Tide even incorporated a New Orleans Saints philosophy into defensive practice. Whenever anybody recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass, the play wasn’t blown dead immediately. Instead, the players still ran down field all the way to the end zone, which helped reinforce the idea of how much a turnover could swing a game.
And turnovers cleary can swing a game. Imagine if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had thrown three interceptions against Alabama as he did against LSU, which beat the Aggies by five points. Instead, he didn’t make a turnover against the Crimson Tide, and A&M won by five.
“If I knew the explanation and we could fix it, we would,” Saban said. “We emphasize turnovers. We emphasized turnovers the same way in the first half of the season. I used to get asked questions, ‘What are you doing different this year that you didn’t do last year when you didn’t get turnovers?’
“Well, we did the same things then that we do now, and we got turnovers. And we’re doing the same things now that we did in the first part of the season, and we’re not getting turnovers.”
In some cases, turnovers might be where opportunity meets desire. Against Tennessee, as Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley dropped into pass coverage, he tracked the movements of Vols quarterback Tyler Bray. And in one instance in which Bray threw a pass, Mosley was there for the interception, almost as he had been in the way of the toss.
Against Texas A&M, Manziel was hit by two Tide players on a scramble. Mosley joined the group, and while his teammates were taking down Manziel, Mosley had one arm around the ball and the other trying to push the A&M freshman away from it.
But Manziel didn’t let go, and the whole pile went to the ground. Somehow, despite Mosley’s best efforts, he didn’t get the ball.
“We want to get three turnovers a game, but you can’t get it every game,” Mosley said. “We have to keep working in practice, ripping the ball out, and hopefully when we get a chance, we’ll make that play in the game.”
Also find and follow The Daily Bama Blog on: