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How efficient Alabama’s been converting turnovers to points

If you think of football like it was tennis, it’s a matter of holding and breaking serves. Everyone gets equal opportunity, or at least equal access to possessions in a traditional game.

Well, Alabama’s been efficient in that dynamic. It’s scoring on 57.8 percent of its possessions (72.2 percent when Tua Tagovailoa’s leading the offense) and has the nations’ best scoring defense.

The two are related when considering how the defense creates turnovers and what the offense does with those bonus opportunities.

Excluding the interception on the final play of the first half of the Louisiana-Lafayette win, Alabama’s scored following 15 of the 18 possessions following takeaways.

That includes four interceptions returned four touchdowns, so the offensive piece of the pie is 11 scores in 14 possessions that followed turnovers. The first-team offense scored on each of those opportunities except for a 12-play, 70-yard march against Louisiana-Lafayette that ended in a missed field goal.

Zoom out and those 97 points scored off turnovers represent 20 percent of the Tide’s No. 3 scoring offense. Over the past five years, that represents the second-highest chunk of Alabama’s scoring through 10 games.

Only the 2016 team had more when 22 percent of the scoring came following turnovers during that fall’s non-offensive scoring outburst. The offense accounted for just seven scores in the first 10 games compared to the 11 by this year’s team. The first eight takeaways of Alabama’s season ended in points — touchdowns on the first seven.

Through 10 games 2018 2017 2016 2015
Points off TO 97 70 92 66
Scoring after TO/opportunities 15/18 11/15 15/18 10/16
% total points off TO 20% 17.5% 22.3% 20%
Offensive scoring off TO 11/14 10/14 7/8 7/13
Offensive scoring % off TO 83% 73% 88% 54%

A deeper look at this years’ numbers show the collaborative effort in this created advantage. Of those 11 scoring drives after takeaways, seven started inside the opposition’s 30-yard line. It took an average of three plays to score after the turnovers including a pair of one-play drives. None required more than six snaps.

One of these scores at Arkansas broke the mold. A five-play, 99-yard possession followed a recovered fumble at the Tide’s 1-yard line.

Still, Nick Saban quickly changed the subject Wednesday when asked about his team’s ability to score off turnovers.

“I think we’ve capitalized on it pretty well,” he said. “I think we’ve got our share of interceptions, but we’ve been harping all year long on attacking the ball, creating more fumbles, getting the ball out, really ball-hawking trying to get the ball out. We haven’t probably been as successful at that as we’d like to be or hope to be. We’re going to continue to focus on it and work on it.

“Every day, right after flex, that’s what we do is five minutes of turnover drills. First of all it’s to help our offense. But we lost the turnover battle in the last game 2-1, which is not good. We need to get more and we need to take care of the ball better on offense.”

As a whole, Alabama has the nation’s No. 11 starting field position with an average starting point on its own 38-yard line.

The most recent example of a post-turnover score was the three-play, 27-yard scoring drive following a muffed punt that put the Tide up 21-0 over Mississippi State on Saturday.

Michael Casagrande is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.

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