Lester Could Have Good Memories
But it would be understandable if Alabama safety Robert Lester has fond memories of last year's Crimson Tide game at Arkansas. Lester was a first year starter at safety and going up against one of the nation's premier college passers in Ryan Mallett. Lester learned in a hurry that Mallett had ability as the Hogs took just two plays and 30 seconds to go 74 yards and take a 7-0 lead.
But Lester, who would lead the Southeastern Conference with eight interceptions in 2010, had two picks against Mallett, including one in the fourth quarter he ran back 33 yards to the Arkansas 12. Bama took advantage of that with a Mark Ingram touchdown for a 24-20 win. It was Lester's second interception of the game.
This week Lester and his Alabama teammates host Arkansas in a battle of unbeaten teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama, ranked second in the nation, and Arkansas, ranked 12th, will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CDT. CBS will televise the game.
Lester said this week that he remembered last year's Arkansas game in Fayetteville. "I remember them making a lot of good plays," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to stop those plays."
Lester, a 6-2, 210-pound junior from Foley, said that his interceptions in Fayetteville last year meant a lot. "Going against a great quarterback, Ryan Mallett, and playing against great receivers and making big plays like that boosts your confidence," he said. "We were a good DB (defensive back) corps, and if the ball is in the air that many times, we're likely to make plays on them." Mallett completed 25 of 38 with Dre Kirkpatrick getting one interception and Lester two.
Arkansas has a new quarterback this year in Tyler Wilson, and Wilson is also airing it out. He has completed 59 of 86 passes for 822 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions.
Lester thinks the Bama secondary this year – which returns the top five men from last year – is "a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident.
"Playing against great receivers, we know they are going to make plays. We've got to have short-term memory, put that behind us, and go make plays, too.
"We know Wilson is a great quarterback. We've got to buckle down and get ready for him. Their receivers have different routes, a lot more routes, and their guys are quick and can run those routes at great speed. (Going against Coach Petrino) is a challenge. We like competition. That's why we came to Alabama: to compete against the best. He is one of the best, and we're excited to play against him.
"We never want anybody to outdo us. We never want a receiver to put up a lot of yards against us. We always want to go out and make plays on whoever we play against."
But Lester is not ready to declare Alabama's secondary "great." He said, "It's only the fourth game."
Lester pointed out that it's not all about the secondary. "Pass rush is important in every game we play," he said. "Getting pressure on the quarterback results in bad throws and, hopefully, interceptions."
Lester had another big play last week, on special teams. In a 41-0 win over North Texas he blocked a field goal. Does he enjoy that more than an interception?
"Both are great," he said. "We get the ball right after either one. It's a great feeling."
Lester suffered back spasms in the game and was out of practice Monday, but is expected to be full speed for Arkansas. He knows what to expect. "Teams are going to play their hardst when they come to play us," he said. "We've got to be prepared to take that challenge."
He said that Arkansas is a great team, but that he doesn't consider the Razorbacks to be an Alabama rival in the mold of Tennessee or Auburn. "They are a team that is on the schedule," he said. "We're looking forward to playing them."
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