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September 19, 2011

Red-zone Blues

TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama had long, quick-strike touchdown runs of 43, 58, 71 and 67 yards against North Texas last weekend. When it came to punching in touchdowns from closer range, however, the Crimson Tide was lacking. Alabama got two field goals, a touchdown and two missed field goals in five trips into the red zone.

UA goes into Saturday's showdown with No. 14 Arkansas ranked 44th nationally in red-zone offense, with eight touchdowns and six field goals in 16 trips inside its opponents' 25-yard line. Against the Razorbacks, who average 47 points per game and are tied for first nationally in red-zone offense, points will be at a premium for Alabama.

"We stopped ourselves in the red zone by not executing what we were supposed to do, so it's not a systematic problem," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It was a lack-of-execution problem in terms of what we did, and we have to correct that so we execute better.

"I know that's hard for everybody to kind of understand, it's just too simple. It is what it is. I can't make it something that it isn't. Block the right guys, it works out right."

Breakdowns that resulted in lost yardage loomed large in UA's red-zone failures against North Texas. One of Alabama's trips to the red zone that resulted in a field goal bogged down after a first-down sack. A tackle in the backfield on a third-and-1 running play led to one missed field goal, and Alabama was sacked twice on another deep penetration that resulted in a missed field goal.

"We did have a few mental errors in the red area," lineman Barrett Jones said. "That's something we definitely want to get cleaned up. It's unfortunate that it happened in the red zone. We felt like we moved the ball pretty well all day, and a few times, unfortunately, we got stopped down there."

While Alabama has had to settle for field-goal tries on half its trips into the red zone, Arkansas has scored touchdowns on 10 of 13 red zone appearances, making field goals on the other three.

UA offensive players are aware that they need to put points on the scoreboard this week to help the defense out.

"It's going to be pretty tough in the red zone to get touchdowns against Arkansas," running back Trent Richardson said. "Teams like North Texas, we're supposed to get stuff like that. That's something we work on, so we've got to get better.

"Offensive-wise, one of the big things is the red zone. If we're getting all the way down the field and getting in the red zone and not scoring touchdowns, there's something wrong. I'm sure coach and them are going to go fix it this week. We're going to work hard to get into the end zone when we get to the red zone."

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy.deas@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0224.




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