Maze Prepares For LSU Defenders

Marquis Maze has reason to be concerned about the amazing turnover margin LSU has amassed through eight games this year. Maze handles the ball on kickoff returns, punt returns, as a receiver, as a runner, and -- historically -- even as a passer. LSU takes the ball away from all of those.

Alabama will host LSU in the marquee football game of 2011, perhaps one of the best of all time, Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS. Both teams are 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. The visiting Fighting Tigers are ranked first in the nation, while the Crimson Tide is ranked second.

Marquis Maze, a 5-10, 180-pound senior from Birmingham, leads the Crimson Tide in punt returns, kickoff returns, and receiving. He has also run the ball on end-arounds and from wildcat (though he calls it bobcat "because a bobcat is quicker than a wildcat"), and last year threw a touchdown pass from "bobcat" to tight end Michael Williams.

Maze has good numbers. He has caught 39 passes for 482 yards and a touchdown. He has returned 26 punts for 338 yards, including a marvelous 83-yard touchdown runback against Arkansas. He has eight kickoffs for 238 yards.

But among the most impressive numbers in Saturday's game are the ones put up by LSU in turnover margin. The Tigers have intercepted 11 passes and forced 18 fumbles, recovering seven of them. On the other side, LSU has lost only one interception and only two fumbles. The advantage for the Bayou Bengals is an incredible plus 15.

How do they do it?

"They have a lot of playmakers on that side of the ball," Maze said. "They've got number seven (Tyrann Mathieu, a 5-9, 180-pound sophomore cornerback who is considered an All-America candidate). He blitzes a lot and forces a lot of turnovers. I think we have to game plan around it to be successful."

Maze pointed out that Alabama has been protecting the ball. But, he said, "This is a week where we have to work on protecting the ball more."

He said in practice that Alabama's defense "is always swatting at the ball."

Maze doesn't have a particular technique for avoiding fumbles. "I just know I can't fumble, so I hold it as tight as I can."

Both Alabama and LSU had open dates last week. Maze said the break was good for the body after eight consecutive games, but that he is glad game week is here. "We get back to football," he said. "Get back to business."

He said he wasn't anxious about the game last week. "I just took it as a bye week, and now it's time to focus and prepare for this game."

As good as the LSU secondary is, Maze said, "I feel like I go against the best secondary every week." Still, he said, the Tigers present "a challenge for me, the other receivers, and the quarterback."

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