Alabama football went into a slump in the 1969 and 1970 seasons, winning only six games in each of those years. In his Sunday afternoon television show, Alabama Coach Paul Bryant said he had heard talk that some alumni thought it was time for him to retire.
Bryant was steely-eyed as he looked into the camera and said there were only two alumni who had anything to say about his retirement, “Me and Mary Harmon.” Both he and his wife were Alabama graduates.
On Tuesday as Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker was interviewed by sportswriters, he was told that slot receiver Richard Mullaney had heard talk of criticism of the passing game insofar as consistency.
“I haven’t heard too much about the inconsistency,” Coker said. “You tell me about it, but I tend not to read or hear any of that stuff. He’s [Mullaney] got Twitter and all that crap, so he probably listens to it more.
“I don’t know.
“They call a play, I try to complete the pass. That’s about how it goes.
“If there’s a problem, I’ll hear it from Coach.”
Coker, a senior who transferred to Alabama and took over the starting job this year, ranks sixth in the Southeastern Conference in passing yardage with 187 completions in 286 attempts for 2,106 yards and 14 touchdowns with eight interceptions. In SEC games only he ranks fifth in passing yards and fourth in passing efficiency.
He’ll be at quarterback Saturday when second-ranked Alabama (10-1 overall, 6-1 in the SEC) takes on Auburn (6-5, 2-5) in Auburn. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CST with CBS televising the game.
Coker doesn’t think Alabama’s passing game is perfect. He said it needs to improve on timing. “I think the deep balls, like the one I missed last week, that’s my fault. Calvin (freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley) ran a great route. I’ve just got to hit him. I’ve got to take advantage of the situations we have. It’s really on my end to get it done.”
He said there has been improvement this year as Alabama broke in not only a new starting quarterback, but also a complete new receiving corps.
"I think we've kind of gotten a feel for the timing and how to run certain routes versus certain looks, and everybody's just gotten more comfortable,” he said. “I've gotten a feel for how they're going to run a route versus certain looks and just being able to put the ball where it needs to be has gotten a lot easier."
On Saturday, Coker said, he’ll be living a dream. “Growing up watching this game with my family pulling for Alabama, it’s always been a big dream of mine,” he said. “Playing in this game means a lot to me, but at the same time it’s kind of like LSU, Tennessee, those kind of games. I always try to prepare like it’s a normal game. Then after the game I can appreciate being able to play in that game.”
He expects a challenge. “Auburn, they’re always going to have athletes. They’ve got enough talent to match anybody. It’s like us, if we play well we can beat anybody. If we play bad, we can lose to anybody. Just the same with them. If they play well, they’re good enough to beat anybody and if they play bad they can lose to anybody. We’ve just got to make sure we’re playing our game on Saturday.
“You don't really know what to expect. We plan on knowing exactly what they're going do every time, but I'm sure there're going to be some surprises, some wrinkles in there that are going to surprise us.”
Last week Alabama defeated Charleston Southern 56-6. This week’s game is expected to be close. Would Coker rather win by 50 or turn in a game-winning drive?
"If I could win every game by 50 points, I'd like to win every game by 50 points. That'd be nice, but I know this game's going to be tough. We’ve just got to go and play hard. It's going to be a physical game."
Speaking of physical, Coker has been banged around a bit in recent games. He said, “I feel really good. Those trainers in there take real good care of me. I couldn’t ask for a better staff.”
By the way, after the 1970 alumni meeting consisting of Paul and Mary Harmon Bryant, the coach stayed on 12 more years, added to his record with 124 wins against 19 losses and 1 tie with 3 national championships and 9 SEC titles in the last half of his career.