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ALABAMA FOOTBALL: Defensive Notebook



Nov. 12, 2008

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – It has been a productive last two weeks for Alabama senior safety Rashad Johnson, who has recorded 17 tackles, four interceptions (96 yards, 2 TDs), 3.5 tackles for loss (-7) and one pass break-up against Arkansas State and LSU. He had four tackles and a school record three interceptions in the overtime win at LSU.  All three interceptions led to UA points, including a 54-yard return in the second quarter that tied the game at 14-14.  Johnson has been named the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Foundation and Football Writers Association of America as well as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.  He had a career-high 13 tackles in the win over Arkansas State and added a 32-yard interception return for his first career TD. Johnson has been recognized by the UA coaching each of the last two weeks as a defensive player of the week. He also earned special teams’ player of the week honors against ASU.

TWO HELMET STICKERS FOR JOHNSON: Johnson has earned back-to-back helmet stickers from’s Chris Low. Johnson made 2008 Homecoming one he will remember forever. The senior from Sulligent, Ala., matched his career high with 13 tackles and found the end zone for the first time in his career with a 32-yard interception return. He also registered a career-best 2.5 tackles for loss and broke up his team-high 10th pass of the season. He then was even better in a 27-21 overtime win at LSU, tying the school record with three interceptions, including one he returned 54 yards for a touchdown. His final pick came in overtime, ending a Tigers’ scoring opportunity.

“How about Johnson’s running skills? On his 54-yard interception return for a touchdown, he showed speed, vision and acceleration. It was his second interception return for a touchdown in as many weeks. Johnson tied a school record with three interceptions against LSU. All three were pivotal plays in the game, too. His first one set up the Tide’s first touchdown. He scored the Tide’s second touchdown, and his third one ended LSU’s possession in overtime.”  - Chris Low,

JOHNSON RETURNS INTERCEPTION FOR TD – TIES SINGLE-SEASON MARK: Johnson returned a pass interception 54 yards for a touchdown with 4:33 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 14-14. That marked the second consecutive game in which Johnson has scored on an interception return. He took a pickoff back 32 yards for a score last week against Arkansas State. That ties Johnson for the Alabama single-season record for interception returns for a score with four others – Hootie Ingram (1952), Bobby Johns (1966), Antonio Langham (1992), and Cedric Samuel (1995). In his career, Johnson has intercepted 11 passes for 179 return yards, a total that ranks sixth in Alabama history.

STOPPING THE RUN: Alabama is 11-2 under Coach Nick Saban when holding opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in a game, including an 8-0 mark in 2008. The Crimson Tide held Clemson (0), Tulane (86), Western Kentucky (42), Arkansas (92), Georgia (50), Kentucky (35), Tennessee (36) and Arkansas State (91) to less than 100 rushing yards in eight of the first nine games of the season. Going back to 2007, the Tide has held nine of their last 11 opponents below 100 yards rushing with Colorado amassing just 75 yards in the 2007 Independence Bowl. Alabama was 3-2 last year when opponents failed to reach 100 rushing yards in a game. In Coach Saban’s 23-game tenure at Alabama, the Tide has held its opponent under 100 yards rushing 13 times.

TIDE 4TH NATIONALLY IN RUSHING DEFENSE: The Crimson Tide ranks fourth nationally in rushing defense 10 games into the 2008 season. Alabama opponents have 273 rushing attempts for 791 yards, an average of 79.1 yards per game and 2.90 yards per attempt this season. The top five teams in the nation in terms of rushing defense are No. 1 TCU (39.5), No. 2 Nevada (73.6), No. 3 Southern California (77.8), No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 South Florida (85). The Crimson Tide defense opened the season in impressive fashion by holding Clemson to zero rushing yards. In the Crimson Tide’s second game Alabama held Tulane to 86 rushing yards on 32 attempts, then allowed just 42 yards on 22 carries vs. Western Kentucky, 92 yards on 31 rushes at Arkansas, 50 yards on 16 carries at Georgia, 35 yards on 20 attempts to Kentucky, 36 yards on 21 carries at Tennessee and 91 yards on 37 attempts to Arkansas State.

RUNNING ON THE TIDE IS TOUGH: Running has been tough against the Crimson Tide defense this season, as evidenced by the fact that no running back has surpassed the 100-yard barrier and all nine opponents’ leading rushers have fallen significantly short of their season run totals when playing Alabama. Here is a look at the Tide’s opposing running backs this season and how they have fared against Alabama, compared to their season totals.

Opponent     Leading Rusher           Season Avg.           vs. Alabama   Difference
Clemson      James Davis            58.4                   13                 -45.4
                  C.J. Spiller               54.4                    7                  -47.4 
Tulane         Andre Anderson      123.4                  32                 -91.4
W. Kentucky Bobby Rainey          37.0                   11                 -26.0
Arkansas     Michael Smith          112.4                  91                 -21.4
Georgia       Knowshon Moreno    111.3                  34                 -77.3
Kentucky     Derrick Locke           43.3                   28                  -15.3
Mississippi   Cordera Eason         48.8                    6                  -42.8
Tennessee   Arian Foster            50.9                   21                  -29.9
Arkansas St. Reggie Arnold         82.2                   72                  -10.2
                  Derek Lawson          67.4                   24                  -43.4
LSU             Charles Scott          109.0                 92                   -17.0

TOUGH TO FIND THE END ZONE: Alabama has allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the country. The Crimson Tide has allowed three touchdowns on the ground this season with two coming at LSU and one at Georgia. The UA defense is allowing just 79.1 yards rushing per game and 13.1 points per game. Auburn is second nationally, allowing just four rushing touchdowns, while Southern California, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio State and New Mexico are tied for third, surrendering five rushing touchdowns this season.

POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: The Alabama defense has forced 20 turnovers this season and 13 of those turnovers have resulted in points for the Crimson Tide. The offense has scored eight times, including four touchdowns and four field goals. The defense has five touchdowns as well, including interception returns by Javier Arenas and Justin Woodall at Arkansas (Sept. 20), two by Rashad Johnson vs. Arkansas State  and LSU and a fumble return by Rolando McClain against Kentucky (Oct. 4). Alabama has forced at least one turnover in eight of 10 games this season (no turnovers vs. Tulane and Tennessee). The Crimson Tide recorded a season-high four turnovers, all interceptions, in its 49-14 win at Arkansas (Sept. 20) and converted three of those turnovers into 21 points. UA then scored 20 points off four interceptions at LSU in a 27-21 win on Nov. 8. Alabama scored 10 points off three turnovers in the 24-20 win over Mississippi (Oct. 18) and scored six points off two turnovers in its 34-10 season-opening win over Clemson (Aug. 30). By comparison, Alabama has 14 turnovers this season, but only five have directly led to points. Western Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and LSU all scored one touchdown following an Alabama turnover this season while Tennessee kicked a field goal.