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September 22, 2012

Scoreless streak doesn't go without fight

TUSCALOOSA | All streaks come to an end, and the University of Alabama defense saw two streaks end in Saturday's 40-7 victory over Florida Atlantic at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

In a game that saw the Crimson Tide hold the Owls to just six first downs, 76 rushing yards and only 34 passing yards, Alabama gave up a touchdown to an opposing offense for the first time since the third quarter of the season opener against Michigan. Alabama also failed to create a turnover for the first time all season.

After two consecutive shutouts, Alabama kept Florida Atlantic off the scoreboard until Graham Wilbert connected with Alex Deleon on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 2:49 remaining in the game, leaving UA less than three minutes short of recording back-to-back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1966. The scoreless streak lasted 192 minutes and 25 seconds, covering 12 straight scoreless quarters.

"We never talk about it," coach Nick Saban said of the shutout streak. "As coaches we're just trying to get the guys to play as well as they can play and do what they're supposed to do.

"I know that probably to the players it probably meant something, it probably means a lot."

Even though UA's starters weren't on the field when the Owls finally scored, they were rooting to keep the streak alive.

"As a whole unit on defense, we try to shut out everybody we play against," cornerback Dee Milliner said. "(The reserves) got in there late in the game, but we still played a great game as a whole defense."

The streak lasted a little longer due to two plays in the first quarter that kept Florida Atlantic off the scoreboard. Jeoffrey Pagan and C.J. Mosley combined for a third-down sack that turned a relatively short field-goal try into a 48-yard attempt, and Jesse Williams blocked the kick.

"I just tried to jump over that little pile that we had there, and I was lucky enough to feel it on my hand," Williams said. "I was trying to scoop and score, but unfortunately that didn't happen."

Alabama came into the contest having forced 12 turnovers in three games, but Florida Atlantic was determined to play keep-away. The Owls went with a vanilla game plan with Wilbert throwing only 13 passes and the running backs going headfirst into the heart of Alabama's defense time after time. Florida Atlantic didn't get a first down until midway through the second quarter, and most of the Owls' production came late against UA's backups.

"They didn't really throw the ball or take a lot of shots at us," Milliner said. "We thought they would, but they didn't.

"That's better for our linebackers and our D-line that they didn't. It's more plays for them."

Alabama had five tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks, but couldn't jar the ball loose.

"Our goal always as an Alabama defense is to stop the run, and I feel like we did that pretty well," linebacker Trey DePriest said. "We've just got to get to the ball and gang-tackle and start ripping it off. When they don't really throw the ball and take shots downfield, that's when ripping the ball out helps."

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



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