Alabama’s lessons learned against Longhorns didn’t benefit Aggies

Crimson Tide photos / Alabama fifth-year senior defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe pressures Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson during last Saturday's 26-20 win by the Crimson Tide in College Station.
Crimson Tide photos / Alabama fifth-year senior defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe pressures Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson during last Saturday's 26-20 win by the Crimson Tide in College Station.

Alabama will never be able to erase its 34-24 loss to Texas inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 9, or the statistics that came with it.

The Longhorns racked up 454 total yards that evening, with quarterback Quinn Ewers accounting for 349 through the air with three touchdowns. Yet there is one stat in particular that continues to haunt the Crimson Tide defensive front.

Zero sacks.

“We looked at that game as a lesson,” Alabama fifth-year senior defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe said this week in a news conference. “Hopefully there are no more lessons to be learned this season, and each and every week we’re just looking to get better and become a more dominant defense. Whether it’s our pass rush or stopping the run, we’re just looking to get better, and that’s something we showed on Saturday.

“Our goal is to continue to show that.”

The lessons Alabama learned against Texas did not do Texas A&M any favors, with the Crimson Tide having ventured to College Station this past weekend to claim a 26-20 triumph. Alabama held the Aggies to 306 total yards, including 103 in the final 30 minutes, and they sacked Max Johnson five times.

Alabama has reached the midway mark of its season at 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play entering this Saturday’s game (noon Eastern on ESPN) against visiting Arkansas, with the No. 11 Crimson Tide scheduled to host No. 19 Tennessee next week.

“Our defensive players have played hard, and they’ve been a really solid group from an attitude standpoint,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They practice well, and they try to prepare well. They’ve played well together, and they’ve done a good job of minimizing mental errors.

“We didn’t have a lot of mental errors in this last game, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do that.”

Despite having the one outing when they allowed 454 yards and 34 points, the Crimson Tide rank 19th nationally in total defense (allowing 298.5 yards per game) and 14th in scoring defense (15.2). Alabama’s 3.67 sacks per game is tied for third nationally, and its 7.17 tackles for loss each contest is tied for 16th.

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson has been sacked 20 times the past four weeks, which were each losses for the reeling Razorbacks.

In the interception department, Alabama has seven through six games for a 1.17 clip per contest that ranks tied for 20th nationally. The Crimson Tide had seven all of last season to tie for 101st.

“I feel like it goes hand in hand,” Eboigbe said. “If we can get the quarterback off his original plan to where he wants to throw and get him out of the pocket and create pressure, it makes it easier for the guys on the back end. It’s the same thing when guys on the back end cover great, because we can get sacks when the quarterback is holding the ball too long.

“We’re playing great ball right now, and I feel like our best is still to come.”

Defensive speed

Redshirt junior outside linebacker Chris Braswell nearly topped his 28-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 40-17 win at Mississippi State on Sept. 30 with a 70-yard return of a blocked field goal at Texas A&M. His score against the Aggies, however, was wiped off due to a personal foul penalty.

In each case, the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder from Baltimore displayed plenty of speed.

“In the offseason, he clocked at 21 miles per hour,” quarterback Jalen Milroe said. “As a defensive player, you don’t see that too often.”

Playing the point

Milroe’s rushing threat was kept in check by the Aggies, as the redshirt sophomore had eight carries for minus-31 yards, with Texas A&M’s six sacks obviously affecting that.

Still, Milroe’s eight rushes marked his fewest since his seven in the opening rout of Middle Tennessee State.

“It was just taking what the defense gave,” Milroe said. “They gave us a lot of problems, and our key thing was to be a problem solver. It was key for me to just be a point guard on the field. It wasn’t predetermined at all.

“It just came with the flow of the game.”

Saban superiority

Alabama held a 10-7 advantage in its series against Arkansas before Saban arrived in 2007, and that lead is now 26-7. … The Crimson Tide are 26-0 under Saban in games that kick off at noon or 12:30. … Saban is seeking his 200th win with Alabama against just 28 defeats.

Contact David Paschall at [email protected]

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