Alabama Football News

Alabama’s defense has a daunting task against Miss. State’s improved offense

Byron Young (#47) tackles Texas A&M receiver Ainias Smith
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics/ SEC Media Portal

It suffered a loss to Texas A&M, but Alabama football looks to regain focus.

In Tuesday’s player interviews, DJ Dale (defensive line), Slade Bolden (wide receiver), and Emil Ekiyor (offensive line) spoke about how the defeat at Kyle Field woke everyone up.

After going undefeated in 2020, the Crimson Tide — especially its young players — understands it has a target on them.

Alabama travels to its third hostile venue on Saturday to face Mississippi State.

RELATED: Mike McCoy on 2021 Alabama team: “They look like they’re dead over there.”

The cowbells will ring loudly at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama’s defense struggled to handle a backup quarterback and two freshmen on Texas A&M’s offensive line; however, the Bulldogs present a more daunting task. Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense is starting to take root in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State would be unbeaten if not for a combined five points in losses to Memphis and LSU. The Bulldogs defeated Texas A&M, 26-22, at Kyle Field before the Crimson Tide suffered a loss.

Will Rogers, a sophomore, is much-improved at quarterback. He’s completing 75.7 percent of his throws (215-for-284) for 1,862 passing yards with 14 touchdowns to two interceptions. Rogers is averaging 57 pass attempts per game, including 67 throws against Memphis.

Coach Leach wants to stress out linebackers and defensive secondaries. He did it at Kentucky (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach), Texas Tech (head coach), and Washington State (head coach). The Bulldogs have also developed reliable wide receivers.

Sophomores Makai Polk and Jaden Walley each have four touchdown receptions.

RELATED: Nick Saban says Alabama could challenge teams more with red-zone runs

Malik Heath, a senior, has two touchdowns, and running back Jo’quavious Mark has two scores. Mississippi State has one of the best passing offenses in the SEC. Alabama’s secondary needs to be prepared, but its pass rush must be effective too.

“Pass rush is going to play a factor because they (Mississippi State) pass the ball a lot,” DJ Dale said Tuesday. “We have to affect the quarterback. If we can’t do that, then it is going to be a long day for us as a defense.”

Dale, a junior, said the pass rusher was good for the first couple of games but has spiraled down.

“It’s not good enough,” he said. “It needs to improve.”

Alabama has forced three more sacks (12 to 9) than it did last year through six games. The Crimson Tide pitched a shutout of Mississippi State at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2020.

It can do again defensively, but the sack specialists must show up.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith. 

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