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October 4, 2011Video: Tuesday practice report
TUSCALOOSA | Picture a car with four slashed tires. Now imagine a tank rolling over it, crushing the frame.
That's about what the fourth quarter has been like for the second-ranked University of Alabama football team this year.
The Crimson Tide has outscored its opponents 45-8 in five final quarters so far this season, but that statistic only begins to tell the story of how Alabama has beaten down and demoralized its opposition. Consider that UA has only thrown six passes in the fourth quarter, that it is averaging more than 10 yards per carry, that opponents have completed just 38 percent of their pass attempts, turned the ball over four times and average less than 2.5 yards on the ground.
Factor in the fact that Florida, trailing by three touchdowns the first time it took possession in the final period, attempted just one pass; and that Arkansas waved the white flag by lifting its starting quarterback with more than 10 minutes to go.
Oh, and don't forget that Alabama has exerted this fourth-quarter dominance with head coach Nick Saban more interested in running out the clock than adding any more points - and that much of it has been accomplished with backups on the field after the starters have left the games.
Quarterback AJ McCarron has watched teams deflate and fans at Florida and Penn State head for the exits with their heads down long before the final whistle. He called it "the best feeling in the world."
To Saban, it's all part of the plan.
"It's a part of the philosophy of the program since we've been here for five years," he said.
For Alabama, final-period dominion is a mission.
"Fourth quarter is something we pride ourselves on around here," defensive lineman Josh Chapman said. "We've got a fourth-quarter (conditioning) program during the spring and it's a hard program. It's about don't quit mentally. When you quit mentally that means you quit physically.
"We try to dominate our opponent for four quarters, and the fourth quarter is what we pride ourselves on.""
In short, that's what UA has been able to do: make every opponent quit before the game was over.
"We're trying to, I mean every time," Chapman said. "It is what it is."
Alabama's offensive players have seen defenses wilt. The Crimson Tide has had a run of 30 yards or longer in the final period of every game except the Arkansas contest.
"I think that's something that we want our identity to be around here, is to be able to run the ball like that in the fourth quarter when teams know we're running the ball, and to still be able to do it effectively," offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. "That's probably the best feeling as an offensive lineman, going out there and really at the end of the games being able to kind of grind on them."
With Alabama's physical style of play of offense and suffocating defense combining to pound the opposition into submission, the grind may well continue.