Next man up: defense slows Fresno StateBy Cody Estremera | 09/09/2017 7:15pm
After Alabama’s season opener win over Florida State, the defense's health was a question mark. Four linebackers went down with injuries, including two, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis for the rest of the year.
The injuries caused three players, Keith Holcombe, Jamey Mosley and Raekwon Davis to start for the first time in their careers in Alabama’s 41-10 win over Fresno State. Levi Wallace also started his first game after winning the job against Florida State.
“It felt really good,” Mosley said on his first start. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity to play. I hate that three guys to go down at one position, but they (coaches) preach next man up... If you stay ready, you don’t need to get ready.”
Fresno State marched 70 yards down the field on the second drive of the game and scored a field goal, causing defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to light a fire under his team.
“We have a standard here,” Anthony Averett said. “Certain things we shouldn’t let up on. We kind of let up a little bit, and he got onto us. That’s just how it is, that’s Alabama football.”
The injuries hurt though as Fresno State’s quarterback Chason Virgil threw for 180 yards and a touchdown. Alabama had a hard time getting in the back field all game. The Crimson Tide managed just three tackles for loss and managed a lone sack by Johnny Dwight, which came with just over eight and a half minutes left in the game.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do at that position (outside linebacker),” Saban said. “I think some things the fan doesn’t notice is a guy doesn’t retrace on screens, which is how you stop screens… They (Fresno State) got the ball out really quick on almost all the passes, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get pressure on the guy (Virgil).”
Fresno State’s screen passes were extremely effective against Alabam. The Bulldogs completed four screen passes for 55 yards, with a long of 30 yards.
“That’s one thing that we’ll work on next week,” Holcombe said. “We need to keep flying around to the ball, and just keep retracing, that way it will eliminate those big plays.”
The Crimson Tide held the Bulldogs to just 2.6 yards per rush finishing with 58 yards on 22 attempts. Ronnie Rivers rushed for a team high 29 yards.
Davis and Ronnie Harrison both led the team in tackles with eight a piece. Harrison finished with one of Alabama’s three tackles for a loss of two yards.
Averett finished with the only interception of the game on both ends. The pick was the first of his career.
“It was just a simple cover two,” Averett said. “I rerouted my guy and saw the ball in the air. I just went to attack. It felt good. It was a blessing to get one. I needed one bad.”
He returned the ball 30 yards and was stopped at Fresno State’s four-yard line.
Alabama remains at home next week as Colorado State visits Bryant Denny Stadium on Sept. 16.