Upshaw Disrupts Gator Plans

Alabama Jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw said his injured ankle is "not quite back to 100 per cent," but you'd have a hard time convincing 101,821 people in Tuscaloosa Saturday and a few million others watching television.



If the performance the junior from Eufala put together in top-ranked Alabama's 31-6 win over Florida Saturday night was any indication, opposing offensive coordinators must be cringing to think just what that 100 per cent would look like.

Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 263) was a disruptive force all night against the Gators. He made seven total tackles (five solo), four for losses totaling seven yards, broke up two passes, recovered a fumble, and put a hit on Florida quarterback John Brantley that reminded onlookers of the one Marcell Dareus laid on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in last year's national title game win.

"My job is to go for the quarterback," Upshaw said. "It was an option, and I was trailing him. I was hoping he would keep the ball, so I could get a good hit on him. He did, and I did."

Brantley was a bit slow getting up after that blow.

"I think I played good. I had fun," Upshaw said. "I went out and executed the plays that the coaches called from the sideline. It‘s a team effort. I‘ve just got to do what I need to do to make plays. There are things I can do better.

"My goal tonight was to show that I can be a leader on this team, and that I can go out and make plays for this defense."

Mission accomplished.

While the stat sheet showed Florida out-gained Alabama 281 yards to 273, the scoreboard watchers across the land will see the only numbers that matter: 31-6.

"We made a big statement," Upshaw said, "that we can come out and dominate a good opponent. There's still room for improvement, though. We need to finish more plays. That's the theme of our Fourth Quarter conditioning program: to finish."

Upshaw had a first-hand view of fellow linebacker Nico Johnson's key interception in the end zone of Florida freshman Trey Burton's ill-fated fourth down pass on the Gators' opening drive.

"That was a BIG momentum swing," Upshaw said, echoing the words his head coach had used a few moments earlier. "We pride ourselves on getting turnovers."

"That's what happens when you play such a good team," Brantley said.

Meyer was more direct: "Sometimes, you kick yourself in the rear end when you do that."

Tide coach Nick Saban took note of the job he got from No. 41 (Upshaw) during the win.

"He did have a productive night. We put him on the edge. He's finally getting healthy," Saban said.

"(Upshaw) is one of those guys who knows what he has to do. Tonight, he did a great job making plays," sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "He practices the same way he plays: very hard."

Said Upshaw, "This is the first game I've felt close to 100 per cent. The ankle's not 100 per cent yet, though. I've got to keep working on my rehab. I was lucky it was just a high ankle sprain, but it‘s been real frustrating not being able to go full speed."

"We've grown up a lot, as a defense," Upshaw said, "but with (Nick) Saban as the coach, we're always going to have a good defense."

Surely Meyer and Co. would not argue with either of those statements.

If what Meyer and the Gators saw out of Upshaw on this night was "not 100 per cent," imagine how Steven Orr Spurriers senior and junior will feel as they break down film this week, preparing for the Tide's trip to Columbia, S.C. Saturday.

"We showed tonight that, whether you're coming into Bryant-Denny (Stadium), or we're coming to your place, we're going to try to come out and dominate our opponent," Upshaw said.

Spoken like a man whose been listening to Saban closely in meeting rooms the past three years.


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