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Defense Carries Alabama Through Offensive Struggles

For nearly three quarters, it was an ugly night for the Alabama offense against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Crimson Tide drove their way into the red zone on the team’s first two drives of the game, but were only able to come up with three points in those two red zone trips as Adam Griffith split a pair of field goal attempts.

Despite the lack of points, Alabama still seemed to be moving the ball well at the start, but that quickly changed. For the rest of first half, Alabama couldn’t gain any rhythm on offense. The problems started on the offensive line. The Crimson Tide couldn’t get enough push in the run game to give Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake many holes to run through, and the pressure on Jake Coker resulted in two interceptions, one of which gave the Razorbacks the ball on  Alabama’s 12-yard line.

But despite an abysmal first half offensively Alabama was kept in the game by the Crimson Tide’s championship-caliber defense, which followed up last week’s thrashing of the Georgia Bulldogs with another dominant effort against Arkansas.

Everyone knew Arkansas would try to stick to their identity, running the football, but just like every other Crimson Tide opponent this season the Razorbacks didn’t pose much of a threat to best defensive line in the country. Arkansas finished the game with only 44 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

Although the defensive line is typically the most talked about group of Alabama’s defensive unit, the secondary deserves just as much credit for shutting down the Arkansas offense. With the running game failing to produce, Arkansas looked to the air but couldn’t find any openings there either.

As Alabama’s offense continued to struggle to find its footing, the defense came up with stop after stop after stop to give the offense another chance. Eventually, late in the third quarter, the Crimson Tide finally began to capitalize on those chances.

With less than two minutes left in the third, Coker found freshman sensation Calvin Ridley for an 81-yard touchdown off of play action to put Alabama ahead for the rest of the night. The Crimson Tide preceded to score on four of their final five possessions of the game to rack up the more scores, two of which started inside the red zone thanks to the defense.

The win over Arkansas might not have been the duplicate performance of the Georgia game that Alabama fans hoped to see. But even if the Tide couldn’t prove the consistency they’ll need to make it through the rest of the year without another loss, they certainly proved they have the resiliency.

Alabama’s offense has issues that need to be figured out. The lack of “offensive identity” has been a phrase used everywhere from fan message boards to Nick Saban press conferences, but all the talk of identity hasn’t led to the establishment of one.

But as Lane Kiffin, Jake Coker and the rest of the offensive squad work to find continuity on that side of the ball, they have one luxury that few other teams in the country have, if any. No matter how badly the offense struggles, Alabama’s defense will always keep the team in the game.

Alabama fans have been spoiled by some historically great defenses in the Nick Saban era. After the performance against Arkansas, this year’s squad looks like another one.

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