TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Shaun Dion Hamilton, one of the Alabama linebackers who’s actually healthy, thinks it is time for a players-only “come-to-Jesus meeting.”

The top-ranked Crimson Tide struggled to get off the field on third downs and gave up 23 points and nearly 400 yards Saturday night against Colorado State. It was still a 41-23 win , but Hamilton and defensive back Hootie Jones said the players would meet on Monday to discuss defensive issues ahead of a visit to Vanderbilt.

Alabama (3-0) was missing five key linebackers because of injuries , four of whom were sidelined for a second straight game. Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller were lost for the season in the opener against Florida State, when starters Rashaan Evans and Anfernee Jennings also went down.

Freshman Dylan Moses also missed the win over Colorado State with an undisclosed injury.

“We’ve got five linebackers that aren’t playing,” Tide coach Nick Saban said afterward. “I don’t care who you are, what team you are, that creates some issues and some problems. It hurts us in nickel because you’re not as big. It hurts us playing the run. It forces us to play guys at different positions.

“But we’ve got to get the guys that we have better and we’re going to work hard to do that, and we’re going to take the things that they did well and build on it and try to make corrections on things that they didn’t do.”

Colorado State racked up 391 yards and converted on 10 of 17 third-down attempts. The game started promisingly for Alabama’s defense, which allowed only 11 yards in the first quarter.

Hamilton said it comes down to all 11 players executing for a defense that typically has been among the nation’s best in recent years.

“It’s definitely frustrating because I feel like the defense is the weak link right now,” he said. “The offense, that’s all you can ask from them is to score points, and we were just on the field time after time. We’re disappointed, but we’re going to come back Monday ready to work.”

Colorado State scored 10 straight points after falling behind 17-0 early. The Rams added a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, prompting Saban to put his offensive starters back in the game for the final drive to make sure they could run the clock out.

The defense did come up with key interceptions from Ronnie Harrison and Jones. Jones returned his pick 65 yards to set up a touchdown.

He said Monday’s meeting would be “defensive players, no coaches.”

Jones was particularly bothered by the lack of third-down stops.

“We definitely don’t like that,” he said. “Third downs, that’s one of the strong suits we’re supposed to have.”


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