Heading into the Mississippi State game, Nick Saban was not pleased with Alabama's turnover margin in the previous game. As the head coach pointed out, it's extremely difficult for teams to win with a negative turnover margin like the Crimson Tide had against the Aggies.
Then in Starkville on Saturday, Josh Jobe grabbed an interception on the opening possession of the game. Jordan Battle added two more later, including a pick-six. The offense never turned the ball over, so Alabama finished the game with 3-0 advantage in the turnover category.
"Yeah, we put a big emphasis on breaking on the ball last week," Battle said. "We know we played a lot of eight-drop because they’re an Air Raid offense, and we put a lot of emphasis on breaking toward the ball and creating turnovers, and I’m happy we did that in the game.”
The Crimson Tide offense was able to turn the opening interception from Jobe into a 65-yard touchdown drive capped by a 46-yard touchdown catch from John Metchie III.
"When the defense gives us the ball, it’s just energy," Metchie said. "It’s just energy and momentum. We go out there and do what we do and just score. So as long as we score and the defense keeps getting us the ball, we’ll always be in for a fun game."
Alabama is currently tied for first in the SEC with 10 interceptions on the season. However, the team has only forced three fumbles with two recoveries through seven games. This is at a significantly lower pace than the last few seasons.
Last year in a pandemic-shortened season, Alabama forced 18 fumble with 12 fumble recoveries in just 13 games. In 2019, the Crimson Tide had 15 forced fumbles and 11 recovered fumbles, and in 2018 they forced 12 fumbles with seven recoveries.
The two fumble recoveries in 2021 is tied for next-to-last in the SEC. Saban voiced his frustration with the lack of fumbles, so it's something the defense is continuing to emphasize at practice.
"I mean you know Coach [Saban] does emphasize making turnovers in games a lot," said Alabama linebacker Christian Harris. "That’s something we work on really every day in practice since camp started. We try to work on that throughout practice and try to implement it in a game."
In the speed of the game, it obviously becomes more challenging for the defense to force turnovers than in practice, but Harris said he knows it needs to be an area of the improvement for the Crimson Tide so that the defense gives the offense more opportunities to score.
"It’s a lot tougher in situations, but like I said, it’s something we definitely need to work on because it definitely has an impact on the game," Harris said.
It will be a challenge against Tennessee on Saturday. The Volunteers are leading the SEC with only one interception on the year. Tennessee has lost six fumbles on the season though, so this could be the opportunity for the Alabama defense to improve in that category when the Vols come to Tuscaloosa this weekend.