Late in the second half of No. 15 LSU’s 38-21 win against Ole Miss on Oct. 22, Rebels defensive end Marquis Haynes blew past Tigers right tackle Maea Teuhema and crushed quarterback Danny Etling.
The sack produced a fumble, which was recovered by Ole Miss cornerback Jaylon Jones. A few plays later, the Rebels tied the game at 21 on a rushing touchdown.
Fortunately for the Tigers (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference), Ole Miss turned only one of LSU’s three turnovers into points. But the Tigers offense can’t hope to be that lucky against No. 1 Alabama at 7 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
In fact, the Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0) doesn’t need its offense to do the scoring after turnovers.
Alabama has scored 12 non-offensive touchdowns this season, which leads the nation and is the same amount of touchdowns the Crimson Tide defense has allowed. Of the 12 non-offensive scores, nine have come from defense.
“Alabama is an extremely talented team at not only creating turnovers but getting touchdowns off of those turnovers,” Etling said. “So you can’t really give them easy touchdowns like that. That’s stuff that you can control as far an offense. If you can hold on to the ball, you’re going to stand a chance to win more games than if you turn it over three times.”
Out of the corner of LSU center Ethan Pocic’s eye, as he hunkered over the ball, he could se…
Non-offensive touchdowns aren’t unique to this year’s team under Nick Saban. Alabama had 10 last season, and the current streak of 10 straight games with a non-offensive touchdown started during the semifinal of last year’s College Football Playoff.
However, the defensive scoring has been impressive aspect of the non-offensive scores this year. The Crimson Tide’s four interceptions returned for touchdowns ties the amount it had all last season.
The Crimson Tide defense didn’t have a fumble returned for a touchdown last season. It has five this year, including two by defensive end Jonathan Allen.
“Those guys are going to make plays,” interim coach Ed Orgeron. “If we do make a mistake, we have to wipe it out and go on to the next play. On special teams we have to take care of the ball, go get it, make some plays on special teams and also continue to create turnovers on defense. We have to match them.”
Of the non-offensive players with touchdowns, three have come from Crimson Tide senior safety Eddie Jackson – two via punt return and one via an interception. Jackson’s season and collegiate career, however, ended when he broke his leg in a 33-14 win against Texas A&M on Oct. 22.
Though Saban hasn’t specified who Jackson’s replacement will be at safety, the job could go to fellow starting defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick plays the “Star” position, which is Alabama’s version of the nickelback, and he recorded a 100-yard interception return against Arkansas on Oct. 8.
“(Jackson) doesn’t blow many assignments, very smart,” said wide receiver D.J. Chark. “I’m pretty sure he’s a big leader for their defense. But I’m also aware that they have talented guys coming up behind him. Coach Saban coached those guys up very well. They all play interchangeably, so I feel like the next guy that steps up is going to do his job well too.”
As stout as Alabama’s front seven is, Etling commended the Crimson Tide secondary’s athleticism and its ability to confuse quarterbacks as the pocket collapses.
The disguised coverages, combined with resilient pass rush, can naturally lead to turnovers. But that won’t discourage Etling from standing in the pocket and taking shots down the field, he said.
“You want to play your game still,” Etling said. “Just because you want to take shots and be aggressive doesn’t mean you have to be reckless with the football. So there’s a fine line between those two.”
Danny Etling told his parents to pull off the interstate.