Good and bad things tended to happen in threes for Alabama and Florida on Saturday.
First, Alabama scored three consecutive touchdowns. Then, after giving up a field goal, the Crimson Tide's defense got three consecutive stops: an interception, a turnover on downs and a punt.
Then the fortune of three flipped. Alabama's offense went three-and-out three consecutive times, and in the second half, Florida scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives.
The Crimson Tide offense recovered some, but the defense never really did, outside of stopping the two-point conversion attempt for the tie. Florida scored a touchdown on four of its last five possessions, not including the one play at the end of the game.
And those last three quarters of a struggling defense made the first quarter all but forgotten.
"We didn’t execute," Alabama football coach Nick Saban said. "I think maybe there was one time when we had a pressure on that they ran a speed option or something and we didn’t have enough guys there. But it really came down to executing."
Saban added that Alabama didn't adapt as well as needed and wasn't very aggressive at times.
Execution was something linebacker Will Anderson also stressed while speaking to reporters Monday. He said it's on all 11 guys to execute what the coaches put in the game plan.
"This was a real eye-opener that we need to get our stuff together for real, for real," Anderson said. "We need to live up to the Alabama standard."
Tackling was an issue. The Gators offensive line often created sizable holes for backs to run through, and when they made it to the second level, too often Alabama defenders missed. Look no further than the rushing touchdown from Malik Davis where he made one defender tackle air before dragging another with him into the end zone.
In total, Florida ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns. Florida's option game was a big part of that.
"We just got to sit and fit — play the quarterback or read off the quarterback, play the option if you have the option to pitch — and I think it just all comes back to doing your job and all 11 being on the same page," Anderson said.
Execution, of which sound tackling is a primary ingredient, might be the main source of issues, but it's not the only issue. Saban also placed some of the onus on the coaches in Alabama's struggles to defend the option.
"We focused a lot on quarterback runs," Saban said. "We focused some on the option. There were times in the game where we didn't play the option correctly, so therefore as coaches we're responsible for that."
No matter who is responsible, as a whole, the coaches and players will need to step up their efforts in preparing for future offenses, especially once Alabama enters fully into SEC play week after week.
After Southern Miss, Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa with an offense that can and likely will exploit the Alabama defense if the Crimson Tide doesn't improve its tackling and execution. The Rebels are averaging 7.7 yards per play and 635.3 yards per game.
And beyond that game, an improved defense will be needed in the ultra-competitive SEC West.
"We need to lessen those mental errors," Anderson said. "And I think the biggest thing is just for all of us to be on the same page again and executing what our coaches tell us to do.”