What’s luck got to do with it?

Laura Owens

Being lucky has nothing to do with it. The defense is just…good.

The past two games, Alabama’s defense has managed to force turnovers in the most critical times. In Arkansas, two timely picks off Ryan Mallett sealed the game in the fourth quarter, and against Florida, two goal line turnovers, not to mention a pick six, saved the Tide more points.

By the numbers, Alabama’s opponents have scored touchdowns 20 percent of the times they have been in the red zone this year. Overall scoring percentage against the Tide’s red zone defense is 70, meaning 50 percent of the time, the other team is forced to kick a field goal, and 30 percent, the other team just doesn’t get anything.

If a team makes it into the red zone and their best chance of scoring against the Tide is by kicking a field goal, that’s saying a lot about the defense’s ability.

With this touchdown percentage, Alabama is second in the nation, only behind head coach Nick Saban’s alma mater, Kent State.

These numbers don’t include the Florida game, but if they did, it’s possible Alabama could jump to the No. 1 spot.

Speaking of the Florida game, the first turnover came when Nico Johnson intercepted Trey Burton’s pass in the end zone. I use the term “pass” flexibly, because I really don’t consider that Tim Tebow jump shot a real pass. But regardless, Johnson did intercept it.

That ball didn’t happen to fall into his hands at the right moment. He was ready for it. The defense was ready for the jump pass, and they stopped it, along with the drive, in the most effective way.

Saban said after the game that the interception was a huge momentum swing, and of course it was. It set the tone early in the game, letting Florida’s offense know early who was in control.

Before the game Saturday, Florida was averaging 37.8 points per game, and Alabama held the Gators to only six. That’s definitely controlling the game.

Now let’s look at Arkansas.

Sure, Ryan Mallett threw the pass Robert Lester intercepted off his back foot. That was more his mistake than our skill in getting the ball. However, the difference maker in that situation was the fact that it was late in the fourth quarter when that happened.

Mallett was tired from a long game, most likely. He was tired enough to make those mental errors a quarterback can make to lose the game. Lester wasn’t tired enough to capitalize on those opportunities, though.

And then when Mallett tried to throw it away, was he too tired to see Dre Kirkpatrick there, close enough to make another pick? Perhaps. But Kirkpatrick saw the opportunity and also capitalized.

This isn’t just pure luck. This is making your own luck, and that’s really attributing the defense’s skill and condition. Late in the fourth quarter, they can wear down the other team enough to force those plays. The defense was the biggest question coming into this season, but hopefully, after dominating the No. 7 Gators, the question has an answer. No more wondering if this defense can keep up with last year’s amazing group.

Yes, they’re different players, and perhaps they aren’t exactly like the 2009 defense. But the 2010 defense holds its own place, and the rest of the opponents this year should be worried.