TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In 10 games this season, there has only been one time for the Alabama defense to have more than one turnover in a game, and it happened in the Tennessee loss.
Head coach Nick Saban has been emphasizing turnovers “like crazy” for weeks, and on Saturday against Austin Peay the defense made up three turnovers for the first time this season.
“Three is our goal in every single game, so getting to that number was tremendous for us,” said Alabama linebacker Henry To’oTo’o.
The Alabama Secondary doubled their season’s in-game interception total, with Kool-Aid McKinstry and Brian Branch catching interceptions against the governors.
“We’ve been talking about losing possession since the start of the season,” Branch said after the game. “It felt good to get one. I knew if one came… We all knew if one came, it would keep coming. If everyone just plays their part, they will come to us.”
Austin Peay quarterback Mike DiLiello led a drive in the fourth quarter to try to get the Governors on the board for the first time, but Branch’s interception killed any opportunity to do so. It was Branch’s first interception of the season.
McKinstry’s interception came in the second quarter when Austin Peay once objected to going into the Alabama area. The second defender grabbed the subdued ball and threw it back 26 yards from midfield. It was also McKinstry’s first interception of the year.
With a fourth deficit in his own territory, Austin Peay attempted a little trick play and ended up fumbling with the ball. Red shirt newcomer Damon Payne Jr. jumped on it and was visibly cheered after the turnover. He ran to the sidelines and was allowed to hold the ball-out belt for the first time this season.
“It was good to get the sales today,” said Saban. “It was exciting for the defenders. I think hopefully that can be contagious for us and we can continue to do that.”
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Due to Alabama errors on offense and special teams, the Austin Peay offense was set up with good field position to score on two separate occasions.
A muted punt was recovered by the governors at the Alabama 36. Austin Peay got into the red zone, but the Crimson Tide defense forced a turnover to downs. Then, after a fumble from Isaiah Bond near midfield, Austin Peay got red-zoned again. But governor’s kicker Maddux Trujillo missed a chip-shot field goal to keep Austin Peay off the scoreboard.
It was Alabama’s first shutout since the season opener against Utah State.
“It felt like everyone was doing their jobs,” Branch said. “The goal isn’t really just a shutout, it’s to dominate. I think it came with a shutout today so we’re just happy and have to move on.”
Alabama also turned the ball over three times, so Saban wasn’t happy with the turnover ration and said he wants to emphasize ball safety going forward. But overall, he liked what he saw on defense in the win.
“The defense got some really important stops after we rotated the ball in the red zone a couple of times in the first quarter,” said Saban. “It’s always great to get a shutout.”
Inspirational win? no But Alabama still pulls off a businesslike 34-0 win over Austin Peay
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