Heading into its final two games of the 2021 regular season, the University of Alabama defense is finally putting up the kind of numbers that many expected this season, especially with the unit having so many returning contributors.
Overall, the Crimson Tide is fifth nationally in total defense, yielding an average of 288.3 yards per game. That trails just Wisconsin (216.3), Georgia (247.3), Oklahoma State (276.6), and Air Force (287.5).
A quick glance at the three other big team defensive stats shows why the Crimson Tide's numbers still trail Georgia:
- Rushing: Third (81.5)
- Scoring: 12th (18.2)
- Passing efficiency: 44th (126.59 rating)
Breakdowns have been Alabama's biggest issue, and during recent games played a key part when either LSU or Tennessee scored. Neither of the other two opponents since the loss at Texas A&M were able to reach double digits in scoring.
Some other Crimson Tide team stats:
- First downs: 16 (171)
- Third-down conversions: T13 (.317)
- Turnovers gains: T35th (16)
Incidentally, Alabama is tied for fifth in sacks and tied for 22nd in tackles for a loss.
Play of the Game: Running back Brian Robinson Jr.'s 63 yard touchdown run was the longest of his career. It was also Alabama's longest rushing play of the season. We're giving Jaylen Moody an honorable mention, though, for snagging Christian Leary's blocked punt out of the air and nearly returning it for a touchdown (he was tackled at the 4).
Player of the Game: Bryce Young was 21 of 23 for 270 yards and five touchdowns. His passer rating for the game was 261.7, which is amazingly good but not a career best. His rating was 276.3 against Southern Miss when he was 20 of 22 for 313 yards, five passing touchdowns and one interception.
Statistic of the Game: Jameson Williams had more all-purpose yards, 158, than New Mexico State had in total offensive yards for the whole game (138). Robinson also nearly matched the Aggies as well (135).
5 Things to Note:
1) Blocked punts: Alabama is clearly on to something by using wide receivers to help block punts. Although linebacker Chris Braswell had the block that Jase McClellan returned for a score against Mercer, Ja’Corey Brooks blocked the punt that was recovered by King Mwikuta for a touchdown against Texas A&M. However, if you're wondering if the Crimson Tide is approaching the school record for blocked kicks during a season, the answer is no. The 1994 team blocked five punts, three point-after attempts, and one field goal.
2) Anderson approaching new mark: Will Anderson Jr.'s 23 tackles for a loss has him on the doorstep of having the most by an Alabama player during the Nick Saban era. He only trails Wallace Gilberry, who notched 27 in 2007. He's just the sixth player to tally 20-plus since Derrick Thomas had 39 in 1988, the others being John Copeland (21.5 in 1992), Michael Myers (21, 1996), Jarret Johnson (21 in 2000) and Mark Anderson (25.5 in 2005). Incidentally, Thomas had 19 the year before, in 1987.
3) Young Gun I: Young's passer rating for the season is up to 180.12, which is fourth in the nation. However, none of the three ahead of him (Grayson McCall of Coastal Carolina, Caleb Williams of Oklahoma and Stetson Bennett of Georgia) have comparable numbers in terms of attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. For example, Young has 33 passing touchdowns, while McCall has 17, Bennett 15 and Williams 14. The passer efficiency rating is how the NCAA determines its passing champion.
4) Young Gun II: Young is just the sixth quarterback in Alabama history to have a 3,000-yard passing season, and the other five have all been during the Nick Saban era (Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa, Blake Sims, Jake Coker and AJ McCarron). He's on pace to move into third at the end of the regular season, and to challenge for second in the SEC Championship Game should the Crimson Tide close out the SEC West. However, he would need five games to top Jones at 4,500, although Jones only played in 13 games last season (and averaged almost 50 more yards per game). The record to watch is touchdown passes, as Young is averaging 3.3 per game and is only 10 behind Tagovailoa's 43 in 2018.
5) Young Gun III or How Could You Miss? Young didn't have an incompletion on third down against the Aggies. He had a first-down pass attempt to wide receiver Jameson Williams broken up by a defender, and his first-and-goal throw to tight end Jahleel Billingsley was dropped in the end zone (he caught the next one, though). For the season, Young is still posting his best numbers on third downs (76.5 percent, 206.0 rating).
Alabama leading receivers on third downs:
- John Metchie III, 18 catches, 248 yards (13.8 average), 3 TDs
- Jameson Williams, 12 catches, 294 yards (24.5 average), 2 TDs
- Brian Robinson Jr., 14 catches, 61 yards (4.4 average), 3 TDs
- Cameron Latu, 7 catches, 94 yards (13.4 average), 1 TD
- Slade Bolden, 4 catches, 46 yards (11.5 average), 0 TDs