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Wednesday Notebook: Defense and Special Teams



Oct. 14, 2009

FORCING TURNOVERS: Alabama has produced nine turnovers in the last two games, forcing five turnovers at Mississippi and four at Kentucky. The Tide picked off seven passes in those two games and recovered two fumbles. The Crimson Tide ranks fifth nationally in turnover margin (+1.5); including a plus-8 margin in the last two games. The Crimson Tide has forced 62 turnovers in the first 33 games under head coach Nick Saban, an average of 1.88 per game. The Crimson Tide has forced 13 turnovers in the first six games this season, while the UA offense has only turned the ball over four times (1 interception, 3 fumbles). Alabama forced 24 turnovers in 2007 for a plus-4 turnover ratio and then recorded 25 turnovers and ended the season with a plus-6 turnover margin in 2008. Alabama has recorded at least one turnover in 28 of 33 games under Saban. The Crimson Tide is 22-6 under Saban when they have at least one turnover. Alabama is 3-2 in games without a turnover over the last three seasons.

A LITTLE BIT BETTER THAN LAST YEAR: On defense, Alabama is surrendering fewer total yards through six games. The Tide allowed 1,573 yards (262.2 yards per game) in the first six games last season and just 1,308  yards (218.0 yards per game - second nationally) so far this year.  The UA passing defense has also improved, surrendering just 154.8 yards per game (seventh nationally) after giving up 211.1 yards at this time last year.

Comparing the Numbers: 2008/2009
Defense             2008            2009  09     Difference
Scoring:             81/13.5        75/12.5       -6/1.0
Passing:            1268/211.1   929/154.8    +339/56.5
Pass Efficiency:   101.5           85.26           +16.24
Rushing:            305/50.8      379/63.2      -74/12.4
Total:                1573/262.2   1308/218.0   +265/44.2

DEFENSE TOUGH ON THIRD DOWN: The Crimson Tide defense has been strong on third down in 2009, ranking fourth nationally and allowing just a 24.05 conversion rate (19 for 79).  Alabama's performance at Mississippi was something special. UA did not allow the Rebels a single third-down conversion as UM went 0 for 9.  UA held Virginia Tech to just two conversions on 12 third down attempts (16.7 percent). Florida International was just 7 for 17 (41.1%) on third down while North Texas could only muster a success rate of 28.5 percent (4 for 14). The Tide opened SEC play by limiting Arkansas to 2 for 14 on third down (14.3 percent) and then held Kentucky to 4-of-13 (30.8 percent). That continues a trend for the Crimson Tide after finishing third nationally in third down conversion defense in 2008, holding opponents to a 28.14 percent (56 of 199) conversion rate.

PASS RUSH IMPORTANT FOR BAMA DEFENSE: The Alabama defense will be looking to get pressure on South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia in an effort to slow down a dangerous Gamecocks passing attack. The Crimson Tide defense exploded for five sacks in each of the first two games of the 2009 season and has 16 total sacks this season.  Alabama managed only 26 sacks in 14 games in 2008.  UA ranks tied for 29th nationally in sacks with 2.67 per game. The Gamecocks offensive line has surrendered an average of 2.5 sacks per game coming in (93rd nationally).  Linebacker Eryk Anders (-32 yards) and defensive end Marcell Dareus lead the way for the Tide with 3.5 sacks each, while cornerback Javier Arenas is second on the team with 3 sacks for losses of 31 yards  and linebacker Rolando McClain has two sacks (-19 yards). UA is 28th nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 7.0 per game. That mark ranks second in the Southeastern Conference and accounts for 208 lost yards by UA opponents. Anders leads the Tide with 6.5 TFLs (-50 yards), while Dareus (-29 yards) and McClain (-26 yards) have 5.5 each.

ARENAS NEARING SEC & NCAA PUNT RETURN YARDAGE RECORD: Senior cornerback and return specialist Javier Arenas is quickly sneaking up on the all-time great punt returners in college football history. He has already broken all of the Crimson Tide punt return records, and now has his sights set on the SEC and NCAA records as well. He is the NCAA active leader in career punt returns, yards, touchdowns, returns per game and yards per game. Arenas, who has 1,546 career punt return yards on 110 returns, is just 150 punt return yards away from breaking Lee Nalley's long-standing SEC record of 1,695 (102 returns for a 14.4 average). Nalley set that record from 1947-1949 and it stood for 54 years as the NCAA record until Texas Tech's Wes Welker broke it in 2003. Welker finished his Tech career with 1,761 punt return yards and Arenas needs 216 yards to break his record and become the NCAA's all-time leader in punt return yards.

Javier Arenas Game-By-Game Stats Get Acrobat Reader

Year    No. Yards    Avg.  TD  LP
2006   31   286     9.2    2    86
2007   21    323   15.4   1    69
2008   41    650   15.9   3    87
2009   17    287   16.8   0    46
TOTAL 110 1546   14.1   6    87

Punt Returns:       6 vs. Arkansas, 2007
Yards:                 153 vs. Mississippi State, 2008
Touchdowns:        1 (6 Times) Last vs. Utah, 2008 (2009 Sugar Bowl)
Long Play:           87 vs. Tulane, 2008

TIFFIN MOVES UP CAREER SCORING CHART: Alabama senior placekicker Leigh Tiffin is rapidly moving up the Alabama career scoring chart. After the conclusion of the Mississippi game, when he kicked five field goals and scored 16 points, the Muscle Shoals, Ala., native passed his father, Van (312), for third place on the Tide's all-time in the career list (317) and has now set his sight on second-place Michael Proctor with 326 career points.

TIFFIN No. 2 ON UA'S CAREER FIELD GOALS LIST: Senior place-kicker Leigh Tiffin converted a personal best five field goals at Mississippi to give him 67 career field goals, second all-time at Alabama. He surpassed his father, Van Tiffin (59 from 1983-86) earlier this season against North Texas and the moved past Michael Proctor in the Mississippi game.  Tiffin's 67 field goals leaves him just 12 shy of the school record held by Philip Doyle (78 from 1987-90).

Leigh Tiffin Game-By-Game Stats Get Acrobat Reader