TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — All Hale Hentges wants to do is catch a rhythm.
Given how explosive and quick strike Alabama’s offense has become, the senior tight end hasn’t been able to get into a groove. Making matters worse, Alabama’s defense doesn’t get much of a break.
“Trust me, as an offensive player, sometimes it’s even frustrating how fast we can score,” Hentges said, tongue-in-cheek. “It’s like, ‘Okay, let’s get in a rhythm, let’s get in a groove.’ You throw a block and you’re like, ‘Okay, that was one play.’ The second play, I’m getting my feet wet and all of a sudden we score and it’s like, ‘Well, off to the sideline again.’”
Hentges was certainly joking, but the point remains that Alabama’s offense has reached a level unseen during the Nick Saban era.
With three first-half scoring drives of 21, 50 and 12 seconds against Arkansas, 15 of the Crimson Tide’s scoring drives this season have lasted less than a minute, with seven lasting less than 30 seconds. Alabama leads the nation in scoring drives under a minute with 12 in its first five games.
“I mean, we’re very lucky and blessed and fortunate to be able to have those big-play guys that we do, guys like (Jerry) Jeudy, (Henry) Ruggs, Smitty (DeVonta Smith) and the great running backs that we have,” Hentges said. “It’s never a problem trying to get those guys the ball in space and let them do what they do. We’re just lucky to have those guys. And hopefully, we can just keep doing that. I’m not going to say that we don’t need to score fast even though our defense might need a little extra break. But as an offense, we’re just pedal to the metal.”
Make no mistake about it, Saban said the team isn’t going to change its offensive philosophy to limit explosive plays even if that means quicker turnarounds for the defense. Alabama running back Damien Harris agrees.
“Our goal on offense is to score one more point than the defense,” Harris said. “That’s our mind-set every drive. We want to put up as many points as we can. We’re not really concerned about how much we need to hold on to the ball. If we could score on the first play of every drive, we would because that’s our job as an offense, to put points on the board. I don’t think we’re going to change our offense to hold on to the ball longer.”
Saban acknowledged that time of possession is key but added that Alabama’s offense needs explosive plays.
“I don’t think anybody wants to apologize for scoring, so we’re not going to do that,” Saban said. “But you know time of possession is probably important in a game, especially when you’re playing against a team like Missouri (which) is a fastball team. They’re up in the 90s in a lot of their games in terms of the number of plays. So when you don’t get some balance in sort of controlling the ball for some period of time, it can wear on the defense a little bit. I don’t think that happened in the last game (against Arkansas).”
Saban said Alabama’s defensive mistakes were “self-inflicted in a lot of ways in terms of execution” and didn’t have much to do with how fast Alabama’s offense scored.
Either way, Alabama’s defense better make sure they’re getting their cardio in each week and staying hydrated, because there’ll continue to be quick turnarounds.
Alabama safety Deionte Thompson loves how fast Alabama’s offense is able to produce points.
“We don’t want our offense to stop scoring,” Thompson said. “We don’t want them to stop scoring, we want them to light up the scoreboard. We just have to be ready. Like sudden change, they score fast, it’s a sudden change situation and we have to be prepared for. We don’t want them to stop scoring. We want them to light it up every week.”