Third downs are a key for Alabama against Clemson

Third downs are a key for Alabama against Clemson

Third downs are key for Alabama against Clemson.

NEW ORLEANS— In its five games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama has struggled on third downs. The Crimson Tide is just 22 of 66 on third downs (33 percent) compared to converting about 48 percent at home. 

The struggle, according to running back Damien Harris, is a lack of execution by the offense, compared to what their opponents have done on defense.

“It’s just all based off of fundamental execution,” Harris said. “We don't necessarily think it’s what other teams have done, we think it’s more of a lack of fundamental execution on third downs, epically playing in tough environments. It’s a tough thing to do, but it’s something that we know we have to improve on, and something we've been working on.”

The Crimson Tide’s worst game came against Florida State in its first game of the season. The offense converted just 18 percent of its third downs (three of 16). It ended its season with a 27 percent performance against Auburn. The simple solution: execute on first and second downs.

“Anytime you struggle on third down, its juts about getting yourself out of that situation in the first place,” tight end Hale Hentges said. “We didn't play as well as we needed to on first or second down, and it put us in really bad situations on third down. It can all be prevented by playing better on first and second down. A time you are in third and long you need to find a time to convert, but those can be prevented.”

Third downs haven’t just been an offensive problem. The defense in its last two games away from Bryant-Denny allowed a conversion rate of 51.5 percent (17 of 33). 

For Alabama to be effective on Monday, it needs to play third down well. Coming into its matchup with Alabama, Clemson has converted 93 of its 199 third down attempts (47 percent), while it has held its opponents to just 28 percent (57 of 205). 

“We just have to do our job, that’s it,” cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “Nobody really beats us besides ourselves, when we don’t do our job, or don’t look at the right things… We’ve just simplified our game plan and that’s it. When you do that it shouldn’t be a problem.”

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