TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — An Alabama team known for stingy defense and physical offense is getting more attention for turnovers and penalties this week.
The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) has been uncharacteristically mistake-prone, especially the past two games.
The blunders were easy to overlook when Alabama was rolling up yards against Florida. They’re more conspicuous after the Tide’s 23-17 loss to No. 3 Ole Miss, making coach Nick Saban’s message about ‘Bama needing to clean up its act come through loud and clear.
At least, he hopes so.
“The interesting thing to me is I’ve been talking about penalties all year long,” Saban told reporters Wednesday night. “I would talk about penalties and turnovers after the Florida game. Nine penalties on offense. Three turnovers that led to 21 points. And no one spoke a word of it.
“No one spoke a word of it. All you did is put in the paper how many yards we got. Then we do the same thing and lose a game and now it’s, ‘Why do we get so many penalties? How come we’ve got so many penalties? Penalties are killing us.’ They were killing us before.”
The Tide enters Saturday’s visit to Arkansas ranked 102nd nationally in both turnover margin (minus-4) and turnovers forced (5).
Penalties have been a problem, too. Alabama has been flagged an average of seven times per game, which ranks 80th nationally.
The Tide’s final drive for what could have been a go-ahead touchdown included a holding penalty on tight end O.J. Howard and ended with an interception in the end zone.
Alabama has committed six turnovers and 19 penalties in the past two games.
“One of the disappointing things to me about our team is we have made more emphasis on ball security and getting turnovers this year than I can ever remember in all the team I’ve been a coach, and we continue to not play the ball correctly and turn the ball over,” Saban said.
“And we have not been able to attack the football well enough when we play defense and on special teams to create turnovers. This is something that we’ll continue to emphasize. “
The turnovers have come from different players. Alabama has fumbled six times, losing all of them, and only Sims has coughed it up multiple times (twice). He has eight touchdowns against three interceptions in his first season as starter, and passed for 445 yards against Florida.
Mississippi State is the only SEC team that has lost more fumbles (seven).
Alabama has been penalized for false starts seven times in the last two games.
“I think it’s the lack of discipline, really just saying it like it is, especially with the number of what I call undisciplined penalties,” Saban said. “And we’ve had way too many of those and we’ve been emphasizing that, that’s something that we always emphasize as a goal of ours, not to have very many penalties, especially on offense where it puts you behind in the sticks relative to the down and distance.
“That’s a great point of emphasis for us, and not something that we don’t acknowledge as being something that’s going to be important for us to learn today if we’re going to be successful.”