The scars are still so fresh for a fan base that isn’t used to such questions swirling around their team, especially not this early in the fall. This is uncharted territory for the Tide, and not the kind it wanted to ever venture into.

That tumultuous Saturday afternoon in Austin really did a number. Alabama fans, spoiled yet savvy, care that much. They really, really don’t like to lose — like, ever. They don’t even like to see the Tide almost lose, which is what happened at the Memorial Stadium madhouse.

And they don’t like to have doubt creeping in, as it is right now after a baffling performance with a litany of errors both forced and unforced.

Bama will return to Bryant-Denny Stadium this Saturday, amid all the fear and fury, to face a Sun Belt foe it has no chance to lose to. It’ll most definitely be an easy Week 3 win that will improve the Crimson Tide to 3-0 but likely won’t erase the negative noise. Beating Louisiana-Monroe isn’t going to stop Tommy from Tuscaloosa from calling Paul Finebaum’s show and letting loose on the color of Nick Saban’s shirt during Thursday’s practice.

So what exactly can the Crimson Tide do this Saturday against the Warhawks to somewhat quell the doubts and despair? What do fans and followers have to see from each unit to be confident that progress is being made and the near nightmare in the Lone Star State is being left behind?

Here are 5 benchmarks or numbers or general goals we think the Tide has to reach in different areas to restore some measure of order going into its SEC opener against Vanderbilt on Sept. 24:

1. Enough of those flags

Yeah, those penalties. Besides churning out victories as if in a made-for-football factory under Saban, Bama has prided itself during this golden age on doing it in mistake-free fashion. They show up, they inevitably win, and they do it in almost a robotic way that flusters the opposition. The Tide makes its foes make the mistakes, and the combination of its sheer talent and discipline makes those foes crumble by the second quarter.

Well, that didn’t happen last Saturday at Texas. The Crimson Tide were the ones crumbling. Saban’s crew were the ones getting flustered, with a flag on seemingly every play in the first half. There were 11 in the first 30 minutes and 15 overall. Both set dubious records under Saban for penalties in a half and penalties for a game. All of the madness made Alabama look unrecognizable.

It was eerie. And though it didn’t ultimately cost the Tide, it very easily could have. We’ll find out quickly this Saturday if that ridiculous lack of discipline was just a Texas thing, a bad day at the office against a talented team feeding off the deafening home crowd. For the Tide to prove it was a one-day breakdown, a fluky sort of thing, it has to get those penalties back to a normal number, a number normally associated with an organized Saban team.

If Bama finishes with 7 penalties or less, let’s say, then everyone can start forgetting about that eyesore stat of 15 penalties. Cut the 15 penalties against Texas in half, or by more, and then we can start to reason that it was indeed a product of that one time and place that the Tide came unraveled.

2. Is it turnover time again?

There’s actually a positive part of this turnover equation — the fact that Alabama didn’t have one against Texas. On a day it struggled so mightily in so many aspects, the Tide didn’t commit 1 turnover, one of the reasons it had just enough at the end to pull things out.

The bad part? Bama didn’t force any turnovers, either. And even though that’s not necessarily a ticket to a loss and not necessarily a sign that a team played poorly, it is a sign that the defense and special teams weren’t hunting the ball quite as viciously as usual.

In a game like last Saturday’s, where everything was like pulling teeth, forcing a turnover or 2 would’ve alleviated a lot of the overall stress. An interception here creates a short field and an easy score. A forced fumble and recovery there stops a drive and turns momentum in a brutal road environment.

But there was none of that. There were defensive stops, sure, but there was no signature moment when the Tide defense rose up and gave the ball back to the struggling offense in a good position to score. And because there were no forced turnovers, it made everything exponentially harder than it already was for Saban’s team.

Bama not forcing even 1 turnover in a game happens as often as a lunar eclipse, and this Saturday would be a perfect time, for itself and its fans, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Forcing some turnovers again, especially early, would set an aggressive tone and show the already overmatched Warhawks whose boss. It would be a return to a semblance of normalcy, frankly. Let’s set Saturday’s turnover bar at 2. Force 2 or more turnovers and you’ll know the snarl is back.

3. How about a 100-yard running back?

It’s Week 3 and Bama hasn’t had a running back reach 100 yards in a game. It would help if that changed Saturday.

Yes, Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for 93 yards against Utah State in his first game in crimson and white.

Yes, Bryce Young rushed for exactly 100 yards in the opener, but 63 of those came on 1 run and Young isn’t a running back, so it’s not quite the same.

And Jase McClellan recorded 97 yards in the Texas victory, but 81 of those were on 1 electrifying run in the first quarter. McClellan was barely heard from otherwise, managing 5 carries for 16 yards on the afternoon.

Junior Roydell Williams has a paltry 19 yards on 5 carries in the first 2 games.

Aside from a few bursts of brilliance, the Tide running game has been a major disappointment so far. Lots of time left to change that, and Saturday would be a good time for an edgy fan base.

4. Some wide receiver separation

This is what Bama’s wideouts produced against Texas: Traeshon Holden (4 catches, 39 yards); Ja’Corey Brooks (3 catches, 33 yards); Kobe Prentice (4 catches, 27 yards); Jermaine Burton (2 catches, 10 yards). That kind of production is simply unacceptable and makes winning an SEC title, let alone a national title, next to impossible.

Young was alone on an island for most of last Saturday because his receivers couldn’t get consistent separation. It shrank the field for Bama’s Heisman quarterback. Yes, regaining that separation this Saturday would only be coming against a Sun Belt team, so it wouldn’t be a total revelation. But it would be a start. A much-needed fresh start.

5. Less punts, more points

James Burnip never saw so much action, punting 6 times against Texas — on 6 straight possessions, no less. That has to change Saturday in a game where the Tide is favored by about 50 points. Bama punters are supposed to enjoy a lot of free time during games, and if Burnip punts any more than 2 times while the starters are in there then there’s something very wrong.

Allow the fanatics at Bryant-Denny to release some frustration and give those scars an afternoon to heal.