Alabama defense stout in home opener, but improvements necessary

Tyler Martin

Getting back to the "Alabama Standard" that head coach Nick Saban preached about all offseason means playing sharp, fundamental, and disciplined football on the defensive side of the ball. 

On Saturday against New Mexico State, the defense forced three turnovers, sacked Aggie quarterback Josh Adkins three times, and only gave up 161 yards through the air in the team's 62-10 victory.

Overall, Saban was pleased with his team's performance, but noted that some improvements still have to be made. 

"I was pleased with the ones that played," Saban said. "But when we put the other guys in, I was not satisfied with their disposition about playing well and what they need to do to play winning football." 

Junior defensive back Xavier McKinney led the team in total tackles and created one turnover thanks to a forced fumble. 

"I pride myself in tackling, even in practice," McKinney said. "I do not worry about it too much, but when the play comes to me, I want to make the tackle. I want to make sure I’m set up in the right position to make that tackle. The plays just come, so I just try to make them."

The Crimson Tide gave up their first touchdown of the season when Aggies running back Jason Huntley caught a four-yard pass from Adkins with 5:59 left in the third quarter, ending any shutout hopes. 

"The mindset for us was to get a good first outing for the fans and for us as a defense," McKinney said. "We want to get a shutout every time, but it did not happen today. We had a couple of errors here and there. There is always room to improve, and we’ll work on that this week in practice.”

On that touchdown drive for the Aggies, Crimson Tide cornerback Trevon Diggs was hurt chasing down wide receiver Tony Nicholson at the 5-yard line to prevent a score after Nicholson broke a few tackles. Diggs would not re-enter the game and later Saban said, "It was cramps. He is fine."

Defensive lineman, Labryan Ray and Raekwon Davis, recorded one sack each. 

The next challenge for the Crimson Tide defense is stopping a South Carolina offense that put up 72 points and 775 yards of total offense this week against Charleston Southern. 

"So, obviously we start SEC play this next week on the road," Saban said. "We’re going to have to clean some things up and get more guys to play winning football. Try to be more efficient as a team."