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November 24, 2012

Tide defense smothers Tigers

TUSCALOOSA | The only thing you need to remember about the 2012 Iron Bowl can be found in the number seven. The Auburn offense? Seven first downs. The Alabama offense? Seven touchdowns.

A smothering Crimson Tide defense choked the life out of a lost-in-the-woods Auburn offense and any drama in the 77th Iron Bowl. The Tigers never came close to scoring against the Tide's prideful defense, crossing midfield just twice. The most successful drive got the ball to the Alabama 41 on the Tigers' second possession. It ended in one of seven Tiger punts.

Five of the 12 drives ended in three-and-outs and only four went for more than 20 yards. Three drives ended in turnovers. The final tally had Auburn with a mere 163 yards of total offense.

It was a complete defensive throttling.

"We put emphasis on coming out and executing better and just having a better game than we had the past couple of weeks," senior free safety Robert Lester said. "I think we did a great job of coming out and doing it."

It was the Crimson Tide's fourth shutout of the season and second in a row.

After not meeting the unit's standards against LSU and Texas A&M, the defense took a measured approach and started simple.

"It comes down to just everybody being accountable to do their job and not trying to do too much," Lester said. "Not worrying about the outcome and going out and playing your best for 60 minutes. Now that everybody is focused on doing their job then we're OK."

It was an effort the seniors asked for.

"Those guys played great for me, and I asked those guys to play great for me and to come out of the locker room and play great for us guys that it's our last time playing in this stadium in front of these great fans for this great university," senior defensive end Damion Square said. "They did and I appreciate it. I hope when they are seniors the younger guys do it for them."

As the game's final seconds ticked away, senior linebacker Nico Johnson thought about what he'd miss most about playing in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"Hearing our fans cheer for us," Johnson said. "I think we have the best fans in America. Walking out of that tunnel realizing this is my last game I'm going to walk down this tunnel, it's breathtaking. I just tried to soak in the moments and enjoy it."

If there was a flaw in the unit's performance, it came in third-down-and-long defense, an area that haunted Alabama against LSU and Texas A&M. It will also be tested against the Southeastern Conference's third-rated offense next Saturday against Georgia.

"Early in the game I thought we gave up a couple third downs on some mis-executions, two in a row actually," Saban said. "That was a little bit disturbing because we had a good coverage called for the pattern that they ran and we didn't execute very well.

"I think we're going to have to do a better job on that because when you get to third down and 8 or 9, you gotta get off the field a high percentage of the time. A couple those one was third-and-8 one was third-and-9. They did a good job and made good throws and good catches, but at the same time we had a good coverage (called) to be able to take away what they did."

TideSports Recruiting: More than 50 Iron Bowl visitors

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229

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