Alabama didn't expect to be picking up the pieces this early, especially defensively.
After opening this season with a 56-7 smothering of Middle Tennessee State, the Crimson Tide were torched for 454 yards and 6.1 yards per play during Saturday night's 34-24 loss to Texas inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama surrendered 349 passing yards and three aerial scores to Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers and didn't sack him once.
"We were OK with our pressure in the first game, but it wasn't the same level of competition," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday in a news conference. "Obviously we didn't get any sacks in this game. We didn't have the kind of success we would like to have on third down, and I think that's something we need to improve on, no doubt.
"We didn't do a great job of covering them, and sometimes you get coverage sacks. We didn't affect the quarterback in this game at all, and we need to improve on that."
In the opener against the Blue Raiders, the Crimson Tide yielded just 211 yards while recording three sacks and collecting an interception and a fumble.
"We can put more pressure on the quarterback," junior outside linebacker Dallas Turner said. "There are schemes that we can put more pressure on and that kind of stuff, but everything needs to be worked on."
Alabama will look to bounce back this Saturday (3:30 on ABC) against South Florida inside Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, which will be the Crimson Tide's first contest in that venue since losing to Clemson 35-31 in the national championship game of the 2016 season. The Bulls are in their first season under Alex Golesh, who was Tennessee's offensive coordinator the past two years.
The Bulls lost their opener to Western Kentucky, 41-24, before downing Florida A&M, 38-24, and they are averaging 441.0 yards a game after averaging 389.7 a season ago.
This is the earliest Alabama has tasted defeat in the Saban era, and the Southeastern Conference schedule is right around the corner. The Crimson Tide will host Ole Miss next Saturday in the first of five league games in a five-week span.
"We know what we have to do as a team, and we know the standard that we have to play to," Turner said. "We have to play to that standard at practice and in meetings and everything. We can't let a game from week two determine how our season is going to be. There are still a lot more things to look forward to."
Said Saban: "We're all responsible for it, and we're all going to work hard to try and get better. The future is now. We've got to do it now."
Not very amused
Sophomore guard Tyler Booker was rather direct Monday when asked about the mindset of the squad.
"The mindset of the team? We're pissed off," Booker said. "I'm not going to lie. Who wants to lose at home? There have only been two undefeated (Saban-coached Alabama) teams to win the national championship here, and all of our goals are still attainable.
"We can still win the SEC West. We can still win the SEC and get a College Football Playoff spot, so this was just a wake-up call for us."
Alabama will welcome USF to Tuscaloosa in 2024 and again in 2026, representing the first two-for-one agreement the Crimson Tide will have played in the Saban era.
"When you're trying to play home-and-home games, the goal is to try and enhance the quality of the opponents that you have," Saban said. "You just can't go out and say, 'Let's play a game,' and everybody agrees to it. You've got to negotiate your way through to see who you can play and who you can't play.
"It's been our goal — and this was before this conference realignment — that since we're not going to play in a neutral-site game, can we get two quality opponents to be able to play every season besides the SEC games? It's not always easy to find people, and sometimes there is some give and take."
Alabama's only previous matchup with USF was a 40-17 triumph in the 2003 opener, which marked the first game of the Mike Shula era and the final time the Crimson Tide played at Birmingham's Legion Field. ... Fifth-year senior kicker Will Reichard is already Alabama's all-time leading scorer with 443 points, with that career tally also ranking 22nd in NCAA history.
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].