Saban unhappy with defense after blowout win Express News

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Alabama coach Nick Saban was not pleased Saturday with the defensive performance of his top-ranked team in a 65-31 victory over an Arkansas squad that has not won since Week 1.

“I don’t think that you really beat the other team when you give up 31 points, like we did today,” Saban said, “at least on the defensive perspective.”

The Razorbacks’ point total was the most scored against Alabama in 20 games, dating to a 35-31 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game to close the 2016 season, and the most scored by an SEC opponent against a Saban-coached team since a 48-43 win over Ole Miss in September 2016.

“We need to coach them better,” Saban said after the Crimson Tide’s 78th consecutive victory over an unranked opponent. “We need to prepare them better. They need to be able to make adjustments in the game better.

“I just felt like we didn’t do a good job of that. That’s my fault. That’s my responsibility. That’s us as coaches. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching those guys, so that they do a better job when the game comes and make those adjustments they need to make.”

Saban praised the effort of the Razorbacks, who have lost five straight games under first-year coach Chad Morris since a Sept. 1 defeat of Eastern Illinois. Arkansas gained 405 yards Saturday, the most allowed by Alabama this season, as running back Rakeem Boyd gained 102 yards on 15 carries.

Alabama again raced to a big lead, going up 21-0 less than 10 minutes into the game behind leading Heisman Trophy contender Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 10 of his first 11 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns.

But Arkansas drove 75 yards in 11 plays late in the first quarter for a touchdown, just the third score allowed by Alabama in the first quarter this season. And after Damien Harris was stuffed on fourth down near midfield, the Razorbacks moved in two plays to the shadow of the goal line before Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses stripped QB Ty Storey and free safety Deionte Thompson recovered the fumble at the 1-yard line.

“We did not play to Alabama’s standard today,” Thompson said. “We had a lot of miscues. But I’ll take the blame for it. I didn’t do a good job of communicating today.”

Arkansas marched 75 yards again in the second quarter for another score. Its 14 points in the first half were the most allowed this season by Alabama, which led by 27 points after 30 minutes — its second-smallest halftime margin of the season.

“We’re going to play a lot better offensive teams,” Saban said. “We’re going to play a lot better offensive team this week — one of the best offensive teams in the country in Missouri. We just need a lot of guys to have a little more focus, a little discipline, a little more confidence in believing that they can do their job the way we want them to do it.”

The Crimson Tide scored six minutes into the third quarter, and Arkansas did not get closer than 31 points after halftime. Still, the large lead in a game should not allow Alabama defenders to relax, their coach said.

“You’re not really competing against the other team,” Saban said. “You’re really competing against yourselves. Are you really playing as well as you’re capable of playing and are you doing it on a consistent basis. We’re obviously doing that better on offense than on defense.

“The good news is, everything that we’re talking about is correctable.”

Nose guard Quinnen Williams said he’s not worried. Alabama hosts Missouri in Week 7, followed by a trip to Tennessee before an open date and a Nov. 3 visit to LSU.

“We know what we need to do,” Williams said. “Everybody on defense knows what we need to do.”

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