Throughout the season, college football analysts and fans alike have pointed out stark differences between this year’s Alabama team and teams from years past.
One of the most glaring differences? This team’s lack of forced turnovers.
For years, the Crimson Tide defense was revered for its almost superhuman ability to create takeaways at opportune times while always maintaining an advantage over their opponent in turnover margin. Alabama has even led the nation in nonoffensive touchdowns since the 2016 season.
This season, however, the defense simply hasn’t found a way to consistently force turnovers. As of today, Alabama ranks 96th out of 131 teams in terms of -4 revenue margin for the year. That means the Crimson Tide has four more giveaways than takeaways in 11 games this season.
Prior to Saturday’s game against Austin Peay, Alabama had only forced nine turnovers this season. That’s seven fewer turnovers than the 2021 team, who had forced 16 through the same number of games.
Despite those struggles, the Alabama defense forced three turnovers against Austin Peay — the most they had in a game all season.
Below are the sales and how Alabama caused them:
2nd and 6th, 5:46 2Q
Towards the end of the second quarter, the governors were back in Alabama territory, having previously had two drives that stalled and overturned on precipices in the Crimson Tide red zone. Austin Peay had a lot of success moving the ball early, and Alabama’s defense had to leave the field to give his offense a chance to extend the lead even further.
The governors lined up with their receivers spread out as widely as possible, with one receiver stacked at the numbers on the broad side of the field and two receivers stacked at the border.
This also spread out Alabama’s defense, leaving Crimson Tide cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry seemingly on an island alone with a whole lot of green grass.
Out of the snap, Austin Peay quarterback Mike DiLiello looked all the way to the left and threw it to his receiver. The ball was thrown off and McKinstry made sure he turned his head to see the ball. This resulted in an interception, McKinstry’s first of the year.
4th and 4th, 7:19 3Q
Austin Peay, now facing an even bigger deficit in the third quarter, was beginning to feel some despair. The Governors decided to try the 40-yard line in fourth place to try to get their offense back in play.
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Austin Peay lined up under center with a tight end in the backfield, masquerading as a run blocker. On the snap, DiLiello threw the ball to his running back, who then returned it for a flea flick.
Running back to DiLiello’s move was mishandled and the ball landed on the ground.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Damon Payne shared his blockers to get into the backfield, landing in the right place at the right time to regain the fumble and give Alabama the ball with excellent field position.
1st and 10th, 11:02 4Q
Once again, this time in the fourth quarter, governors found their way into Alabama territory, this time threatening the Crimson Tide’s lockout bid.
Austin Peay put two receivers on the short side and one on the wide side, while Alabama put four rushers on the line of scrimmage and moved Jordan Battle back for a single high safety.
Before the snap, DiLiello sent his slot receiver Drae McCray from the right side of the field to the left side and Brian Branch shadowed him.
McCray ran a bike route along the sidelines with the goal of getting to the edge faster and burning Branch in the field. Once again, DiLiello saw his way from snap to throw and lobbed the ball up for his receiver to get.
Branch was in excellent position on his cover, turning his hips and eyes on the ball and pointing it up to secure an impressive interception for Alabama’s third and final takeaway of the afternoon.
Heading into next week’s Iron Bowl, Alabama is gearing up to face off against an Auburn team currently ranked for the sixth most giveaways in college football. If the Crimson Tide can force turnovers like they did against Austin Peay, they would be in good shape to win their third straight game in the rivalry.
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