Penalties Are Not Forgotten Or Forgiven

The school record 15 penalties Alabama accumulated in the Crimson Tide's 20-17 loss to UCLA last Saturday night haven't been forgotten (or forgiven) by Head Coach Dennis Franchione, even though he thinks the number should have been no more than 14.

In his regular Tuesday press briefing, Franchione mentioned that the Southeastern Conference supervisor of officials had been in contact with Alabama and agreed that one of the calls by the SEC crew was a "bad" one. Nevertheless, Franchione has been careful to make it clear that he does not blame the officiating for Alabama's loss in his first game as head coach of the Crimson Tide. He does, though, ascribe much of the reason for the loss to those infractions.

As a result, Alabama's Tuesday practice included some reinforcement "to emphasize how important they are." In answer to a question, Franchione said there would probably be some time spent doing "push-ups or sit-ups, something like that." He said, "It's not what you do, but you do something to send a message."

Franchione noted that Alabama was in its first game with a new staff and a new offense and that some of the penalties were the result of excitement and anxiousness by some young players. But there were also penalties called on some experienced players, and Franchione called that "maybe a lack of discipline. We have to make it clear to them that disciplined players don't create those type penalties for their team."

Alabama returned to the practice field Sunday for a light workout for those who had played and extra work for those who did not play in the game. That is a tactic last employed at Alabama by Coach Paul Bryant, who gave the Saturday non-combatants a chance to improve and show that improvement in Monday night scrimmages. Alabama does not practice on Mondays, but was back on the practice field Tuesday for what is ordinarily the toughest practice of the week, a two-hour drills in full gear.

Franchione said he expected the team to have a positive response as it goes into its first conference game and first road game. He said the coaches and players were disappointed in the loss, but determined to build on the good things and correct the bad things.

Bama is preparing for Vanderbilt, which was upset by Middle Tennessee State, 37-28, last Thursday. Franchione said he thought Vandy was surprised by Middle Tennessee's no-huddle offense, which resulted in MTSU having 102 snaps, making 37 first downs, and rolling up 608 yards of offense. This week Vandy Coach Woody Widenhofer has said he will be more involved in the defense, and Franchione said he expects the Commodores to be a different team when Alabama arrives in Nashville for Saturday's game at 11:30 a.m. CDT (regional coverage by Jefferson Pilot). Franchione noted that it would be something of an advantage for Vandy to have played last Thursday and thus have a couple of extra days to prepare for Alabama.

Franchione said that Alabama's offense against UCLA was designed to utilize the strengths of the players and to help the offensive line and the quarterbacks. While he said he thought the offense, which produced 458 yards, "worked pretty well," he said it was possible it would not be the offense of every game. Franchione agreed that Bama used more shotgun, or spread, formation that his teams have used in the past. He did point out that Alabama called 30 passes in the game (five ended up as runs) and 41 runs. Although much has been made of Alabama's option plays, only 14 of those 41 runs were options.

He also said that while Tyler Watts is the number one quarterback, Watts and Andrew Zow get an equal number of snaps in preparation. Franchione took note of Watts having been credited with 18 carries (three of them sacks) against UCLA and said that he had told his quarterback that it's all right to run out of bounds or slide. But, he said, "Tyler doesn't play the game that way."

Overall he thought the offensive line played "about as expected," but said there were areas that were better than expected, including quarterback protection. He said effort was good and he expects the line to improve. And, he added, "We've got to get better if we expect to win." He noted that there is a goal of 75 knockdowns by the offensive line and that the unit turned in 57. Redshirt freshman guard Justin Smiley met his goal, though. He had 15.

Earlier this year Franchione mentioned Smiley for his effort and enthusiasm and said something like, "We know he'll hit someone. We just hope it's the right one." Smiley apparently is hitting the right ones. In the five practices prior to the UCLA game he did not have a missed assignment.

Franchione said that back-ups played well in the UCLA game, but added there had been no changes in starters. Among the second teamers drawing praise were strong safety Waine Bacon, offensive tackle Atlas Herrion, and tight end Theo Sanders.

The Tide head coach said that Alabama's defense did a good job statistically against UCLA, but added that giving up two big plays, a touchdown pass and a long run, proved costly. He said the Tide needs to be "more consistent" He said he wants to see "a little more surge" from the defensive line and noted that the secondary was "a little soft" at times.

As for special teams, he said kick coverage was adequate but that he expects improvement.

He said the team needs to "grade better across the board," adding that he saw some good and some mistakes. He also said, "You look for the biggest improvement between game number one and game number two."

One area Franchione will be watching is in takeaways vs. turnovers. Against UCLA Bama did not get a takeaway and suffered two turnovers, which was a disappointment to the coach. He said Tide defensive players had touched the football about six times and didn't get a takeway. "We tell our (defensive) players that it's statistically likely that we'll touch the ball50 or 60 times this year and how many we get will have a bearing on our season. We got zero in the first game."


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