Alabama hasn’t turned the ball over in 550 plays

Published 11:28 am Tuesday, September 26, 2017

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — As if Alabama didn’t have enough of an advantage over most opponents, the Crimson Tide isn’t giving them any help.

The top-ranked Tide enters Saturday night’s game with Mississippi riding a 30-quarter streak without committing a turnover. It’s all part of coach Nick Saban’s “process,” supplying another mathematical edge for a team that typically already has more talent and depth.

“It’s just a mindset,” Alabama tailback Damien Harris said. “If you don’t turn the ball over, you automatically give yourself a better chance to win. And we look at the reports every week. Teams with plus-turnover margin usually have more success. So it’s just something we really focus on — offensively protecting the ball and defensively getting the ball out and getting turnovers. We like to play off each other.”

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Quarterback Jalen Hurts and Alabama (4-0) haven’t turned the ball over since he threw two interceptions in the second quarter against Auburn last season. It’s the longest turnover-free streak in school records that date back to 1940.

The streak has reached 550 plays, including Hurts’ stretch of 150 consecutive passes without an interception that ranks as the Tide’s fifth-longest.

Alabama’s last SEC loss was two years ago when, not coincidentally, they committed five turnovers against the Rebels.

The Tide did have three fumbles in the 59-0 romp over Vanderbilt, from Hurts, return man Trevon Diggs and wide receiver Robert Foster. Alabama recovered all three of them.

It all added up against Vandy. Boy, did it.

The Tide’s 677 offensive yards was the most ever against an SEC opponent and is behind only the 833 yards against Virginia Tech in a 77-6 win in 1973.

The Commodores only produced 78 yards to make it the biggest yardage differential for a ‘Bama game. The 38 first downs were third-most in SEC history and the 496 rushing yards was the most in a decade-plus under Saban.

He still wasn’t pleased about the fumbles. Alabama did record its sixth interception and recover a fumble in the game.

“The difference is that the ball wasn’t on the ground any in the other games and I think when you’re playing against an aggressive ball-hawking type team which Vanderbilt was and what Ole Miss will be, you have to have great attention to taking care of the ball,” Saban said. “The ball, the ball, the ball. We have to attack the ball. We finally got a fumble, caused a fumble in this last game but we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball because the ball was on the ground this last game.

“That’s really, really important. That ratio is one of the most important things statistically in winning and losing and that’s something we want to continue to emphasize.”

None of the Alabama tailbacks have fumbled this season, including Harris (38 carries), Bo Scarbrough (44) and Najee Harris (30).

Guard Ross Pierschbacher credits running backs coach Burton Burns with repeatedly drilling the point home to the ball carriers.

“They’ve emphasized that since spring ball,” Pierschbacher said. “Coach Burns has kind of been the leader of that, showing clips of guys with loose balls and switching hands to the wrong hand and whatnot.

“And we’ve done a really good job of that, just saying if we don’t turn the ball over, I think our winning percentage chance is like 85 percent of just winning the game if we just don’t do that.”