GAMEDAY: Rush defense faces ultimate test

GAMEDAY: Rush defense faces ultimate test

The Crimson Tide's defense is ranked the No. 1 rushing defense in the SEC. CW | Layton Dudley

So far this season, Alabama’s defense has done well creating such a wall. It’s ranked as the No. 1 rushing defense in the SEC, as its opponents have averaged 56.8 yards rushing.

Defensive back Cyrus Jones said he has the utmost confidence in his defensive line.

“Our front seven, it goes without saying how good they are,” he said. “I think we just have to be ready to go out there and play.”

Alabama’s defense did its best during its last game when it only allowed the University of Louisiana at Monroe nine yards rushing.

Now, facing Georgia on Saturday, Alabama’s front seven will be truly tested as Georgia is ranked No. 2 in SEC rushing offense, averaging 257.8 yards per game.

Coach Nick Saban said Alabama played against one team that played a little bit of an offense similar Georgia’s: Wisconsin. During that game, Alabama allowed 40 yards rushing.

That was back in the first game of the season though. This is now its fifth game.

“For the last three weeks, we haven’t played against that kind of team,” Saban said. “So we’re looking forward to the challenge of trying to get back to being able to play that kind of football.”

It’s going to be a physical game.

Saban expects Georgia to have direct runs, he said, along with a well-conceived scheme of play action passes and modern day run-passes, option passes, presenting challenges in defense.

“I think it’s going to take 11 guys really doing their job well to be able to play well against a team that has as many weapons and as much balance as Georgia does,” Saban said.

Georgia’s offense plays with a consistent pace. With that, Saban said the fact Alabama rotates its players in and out will be helpful.

Georgia scored 14 of its touchdowns this season from rushing.

“You know against this type [of] team, it is going to come down to being physical and stopping their running game and trying to make them be one dimensional,” Jones said.

Then, there’s Georgia’s not-so-secret weapon: in running back Nick Chubb. He’s going to be the best running back Alabama has faced this season, Saban said.

Chubb leads his team in rushing with a 599 net yardage, only nine yards lost. He averages 149.8 yards per game and has scored six touchdowns. Forward progress is his specialty.

“I don’t try to compare myself to other running backs,” Alabama’s Derrick Henry said. “He’s a great running back, does a great job for the team and has had a heck of a season.”

While Henry leads Alabama in rushing, he also comes in at No. 5 for SEC rankings with an average of 127 yards per game. Chubb is at No. 2, however, behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette.

“We’ll see what he does on Saturday,” Henry said.

Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson also said Chubb is a great running back. He’s prepared for how to take him down, though.

“He’s physical; he’s not afraid to run into a defensive player,” Tomlinson said. “You just have to wrap him up. You can’t arm-tackle. He’s not that kind of running back.”

Georgia’s other running back, Sony Michel, is the same way. Wrapping him up is how defense needs to tackle him. Tomlinson said Georgia has a great set of running backs, just as Alabama does here.

“Defense as a whole is going to need to be aggressive and on its A game. Georgia has an explosive offense, and each position is talented across the board, Tomlinson said, not just the running backs.

“The offensive line is pretty aggressive, comes off the ball aggressively and try [to] know the defensive line’s head off, pretty much,” he said.

He prefers it that way, even said he likes it.

“It’s just old-school football that people love to play,” Tomlinson said. “As I grew up playing it, that’s how I like to play it.”

With the inconsistency that has been Alabama’s offense, defense needs to make sure Georgia does not score, or at least scores less than Alabama, in order to win.

The defense has been a consistent rock for Alabama for some time now.

Since 2005, Alabama leads the nation with only giving up 15 individual 100-yard rushing games. As for games under Saban, Alabama’s defense has allowed only 10 players more than 100 rushing yards. Georgia’s Todd Gurley was on back in 2012 with 122 yards.

It hopes to continue that trend and do its job well.

“We’re just looking to play whatever defense coach [Kirby] Smart signals in and play it perfectly—no mental errors, no busts, everybody running to the ball and doing the best they can,” linebacker Dillon Lee said.

In the end, it’s just another game on the schedule. There are things Alabama can work on specifically for Georgia in order to be successful, but execution and consistency will be key.

“We can’t make this more than what it is,” Jones said. “It’s a football game, and we have to be ready to execute.”

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