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September 12, 2012

Tide succeeding in red zone

TUSCALOOSA | After the University of Alabama settled for three or fewer points on 26 red zone possessions last season, better red zone production was a point of emphasis in fall camp for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama in the Red Zone
2011
Chances Touchdowns Field Goals
58 32 19
2012
Chances Touchdowns Field Goals
6 5 1
A look at UA's red-zone touchdowns this season
Opponent Time left The play
Michigan 6:56/1st Q M. Williams 2-yard catch
Michigan 1:24/1st Q E. Lacy 9-yard run
Michigan 5:32/4th Q T.J. Yeldon 1-yard run
WKU 13:07/1st Q C. Jones 14-yard catch
WKU 13:15/3rd Q K. Norwood 12-yard catch
Through the small sample of two games, that emphasis has paid off. A red zone possession is one which moves inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Alabama has scored five touchdowns and one field goal on six red zone possessions thus far in 2012, in games against Michigan and Western Kentucky.

"Offensively we've scored touchdowns. We'd like to score them 100 percent of the time. That's probably not realistic, but we have come away with points," said UA coach Nick Saban. "We've made some improvement, but that's going to be much more challenging as we get into our league play."

Indeed, the Crimson Tide's first Southeastern Conference game -- at Arkansas on Saturday -- matches two teams tied for first in the SEC rankings for red zone play, both on offense and on defense. The Razorbacks have scored on all eight of their offensive red zone possessions, including five touchdowns. On defense, Arkansas has held its opponents scoreless on six of 12 red zone possessions.

"The mindset in terms of that is just when you get in the red area, it's a different attitude," said Alabama left guard Chance Warmack. "Coach (Jeff Stoutland) says you have to set your hair on fire. You know, when we get in the red zone, we're all looking to score."

As an offense approaches the goal line, execution becomes more difficult because the defense has a much smaller area to cover. The back of the end zone becomes an advantage for the defense because the threat of a deep pass is removed, allowing defenses to be more aggressive.

"When you're down that low, it limits what you can do. Timing's got to be faster, everything has to be faster," said UA quarterback AJ McCarron. "So it definitely does limit some things you want to do. I think that's why you've got different plays from the 25 (-yard line) down to the 12, then down to the 7, then to the 3."

Defensively, Alabama has allowed only two red zone possessions by opponents, allowing a touchdown on one and forcing a turnover on the other.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.



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