Football Veterans Step Up For Tide

Marquis Maze has some words of wisdom for Alabama's opponents: Size doesn't matter. Veterans stepping up does matter.

After gaining 166 all-purpose yards in Alabama's 30-10 win over Mississippi State Saturday night, the 5-foot-9 speedster was asked by a reporter if his career night was a matter of speed or quickness.

"A lot of people underestimate me because I'm small," Marquis Maze said, "but it's the talent."

Though Maze was grinning when he said that, you'd get no argument from anyone on the Bulldogs' sideline, defense or special teams about that. Maze caught a game-high five passes for 89 yards (including a 45-yard touchdown), returned two kick-offs for 41 yards, and brought back three punts for 36 yards officially. He had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified on a block in the back by teammate Alex Watkins.

"It's a hard feeling, but I know those guys are out there giving their all," Maze said of the temporarily lost six points. Temporary, as in, Mark Ingram took a screen pass 78 yards for the six points Maze would have had on the ensuing snap.

"I was happy for (Ingram) and the team," Maze said. "It's a team sport. We executed, and everybody did what they're supposed to do."

Maze and fellow receiver Darius Hanks both had key blocks to spring Ingram on the play.

"We work hard (on blocking ) during the week. We work hard on catching the ball. I've been trying to tell people we have the best receiving corps in the nation. All three of us -- Julio, Darius Hanks, and myself -- have been here three years. We know what it takes. Tonight we just went out and executed."

The three Tide veteran receivers combined for 11 catches and 185 of the Tides' 277 passing yards.

Said Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, "Alabama has a lot of great playmakers, and an experienced group that is used to winning. They made the plays they needed to make to win the football game."

Maze said a few things the visitors from Starkville said during the week may have back-fired. Such is the world of locker room bulletin board material.

"They were talking all week about how, if they hit us in the mouth, we'd just quit," Maze said. "There was a lot of talk about pride this week. A lot of guys were hungry tonight, and it showed. We went out and dominated."

Dominating your opponent is one of Alabama Coach Nick Saban's main mantras. Maze has been listening. Saban also preaches about not being satisfied. Maze heard him.

"We still have a lot to play for," he said, referring to home games against Georgia State Thursday at 6:30 and the Iron Bowl against Auburn Nov. 26.

Ingram agreed. "We just have to take a step back, and look at ourselves in the mirror," he said, after putting up 149 all-purpose yards himself. "We need to give ourselves the opportunity to be the best team we can be."

Another man who's been in Tuscaloosa three years continued his stellar junior year. First-year starter Robert Lester picked off two more passes, one against each Bulldog quarterback that played. He was credited with four total tackles.

"The first one, (Chris Relf) threw it in the middle of the field, and that's my area," Lester said. "The second one, I think was just a bad throw (by Tyler Russell), and I was able to make a play."

Echoing Ingram's military theme that was a focus on a night Alabama honored the nation's veterans, Lester said, " We want to be the best we can be. Losing two games is not what we want to be known for. We've got to work to keep getting better. We're still going to fight.

"Tonight, we just wanted to go out and execute, and play a great game."

Spoken like true soldiers in Nick Saban's crimson army.

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