2-week lull is Alabama defense's worst in 5 years

ERIC OLSON AP Sports Writer Published:

Alabama's defense has had a two-week aberration.

The Tide has given up more than 400 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in five years.

Johnny Manziel and a Texas A&M offense that's fifth-best in the country piled up 418 yards Saturday in the 29-24 upset that ended the defending champions' 13-game win streak and knocked the Tide out of the No. 1 spot in the polls.

A week earlier, Alabama survived to beat LSU, but not before the Tigers' 71st-ranked offense amassed 435 yards.

Not since Houston generated 404 yards and Mississippi 420 on consecutive weeks in October 2007 had Alabama given up so many yards in consecutive games. That was Nick Saban's first year in Tuscaloosa, and he had a defense that ranked 31st in the country. The Tide hasn't ended a season lower than fifth since.

The Tide's defensive average has gone from 203 yards before the LSU game to 247 this week. That still ranks second nationally behind Florida State.

Alabama is tied with Notre Dame in allowing 11.1 points per game.

Last season Alabama's defense led the nation at 183.6 yards a game, and it allowed 12 touchdowns in 13 games. This season, the opposition has scored 14 TDs through 10 games.

No doubt, the Tide will be better this week. The opponent is Western Carolina, a Football Championship Subdivision team that has lost nine in a row since winning its opener over Division II Mars Hill College.

FABULOUS FRESHMEN: They're known as "Gurshall" to the folks at Georgia.

The Bulldogs' Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall showed again Saturday why they're the nation's best 1-2 freshman running back tandem.

Each ran for more than 100 yards in the same game for the third time in a 38-0 win over Auburn.

Gurley ran 11 times for 116 yards and Marshall eight times for 105.

The two have combined for 1,598 yards, the most production by a freshman duo in program history.

MR. DEPENDABLE: Though the depth chart says Imani Cross is a third- or fourth-string running back, he's established himself as Nebraska's go-to guy in short-yardage situations.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound freshman has carried nine times on third downs when the Cornhuskers have needed 1 to 3 yards. He's made first downs on seven of them.

Inside the opponent's 20-yard line, on any down, Cross has scored on four of eight attempts. Two of those TDs came in a span of 2 1/2 minutes in the third quarter as the Huskers came back from a 14-point deficit to beat Penn State 32-23.

NICE, LONG KICK: Baylor's Aaron Jones made a 58-yard field goal in the first quarter against Oklahoma, the longest for the Bears since Jeff Ireland kicked one the same distance in 1991.

Jones' field goal was the third-longest in the country this season, behind a 61-yarder by Clemson's Spencer Benton and 60-yarder by Washington' Andrew Furney.

REMEMBER THIS NAME: Matt Soltes of Division II East Stroudsburg has finished one of the great seasons for a freshman quarterback.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder threw for five touchdowns and 394 yards in a 52-45 loss to Mercyhurst on Saturday, two weeks after setting an all-division freshman record with 666 yards of total offense in a 45-37 win over LIU Post.

Soltes averaged 315.8 yards in total offense to lead D-II freshmen. He didn't become the starter until the fourth game, and he played on a team where 67 of the 85 players were either freshmen or sophomores.

CLOCK WATCHING: If you want to spend a long afternoon at the stadium, go see Baylor. The Bears' average game stretches 3 hours, 43 minutes. That figure is skewed, but only a little, because of a 45-minute weather delay against Kansas.

This is a team that took 3:51 to beat Sam Houston State, and only one of its games has taken less than 3 1/2 hours.

Why? Maybe because Baylor and its opponents combine to average 81 points.

Middle Tennessee is in and out of games in 3:03, quickest in the Bowl Subdivision. The Blue Raiders played North Texas in 2:44 and Florida Atlantic in 2:45.

The national average is 3:17, three minutes longer than in 2011.