Tide Practices On Extraordinary Day

On an extraordinarily tragic day for the United States, Alabama's football team went through its regularly scheduled Tuesday practice in anticipation that Saturday's game will be played. On the 88th anniversary of the birth of Paul Bryant, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans were killed as terrorists used hijacked airliners to destroy the World Trade Towers in New York and attack the Pentagon in Washington. Athletics events on Tuesday were cancelled.

It is believed that a final determination soon will be made regarding college football games this weekend.

Athletics Director Mal Moore met with reporters during practice Tuesday and said that most of the Southeastern Conference athletics directors and Commissioner Roy Kramer held a conference call to discuss the situation Tuesday. He said each school will be responsible for determining security issues. However, no decision on whether this weekend's games will be played until after national security information is available.

Moore said he had already been in contact with security in Birmingham as well as with experts at The University.

He said there would be another conference call Wednesday afternoon and hoped that a decision would be made to play the games.

Alabama has a non-conference game scheduled against Southern Miss at Birmingham's Legion Field. Kickoff Saturday is at 4:45 p.m. CDT with television coverage by ESPN2. Southern Miss was idle last weekend after having opened the season with a victory over Oklahoma State. Alabama, coming off a win over Vanderbilt in Nashville, is 1-1 on the season.

Because of the terrorism in America, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione did not have his regular Tuesday press briefing. However, following a two-hour Bama practice in full gear, Franchione did meet with reporters. He said the team had a moment of silence before practice. He said the players and coaches sympathize with those whose families were victimized. "We want to be courteous and respectful of the situation," Franchione said. "As competitors, we always want to play the game. But, like all Americans, we want to respond in the best way possible."

The two-hour, full gear practice was "pretty good," the coach said. He said that Tuesday is always a hard practice and characterized this week's as "better than last Tuesday–much improved. But I still want it to be better."

Franchione said that last week's win over Vanderbilt included much improvement over the Tide's performance in the opening game, a 20-17 loss to UCLA. "On Sunday I asked each of our coaches if the men at their positions had improved, and almost without exception every position had improved. It wasn't flawless; they made mistakes; it's not a finished product. But I feel we made improvement."

Still, he thinks that getting the offense to be more productive may be a long rebuilding process. "It's probably not going to happen as fast as I would like, but last week I asked them to cut down on the penalties and they did that."

Franchione said one positive of the Alabama offense is quarterback Tyler Watts. "He's made great decisions, he hasn't had turnovers, and he's turned bad plays into good ones. He is very smart in learning our game plan and has mobility that has helped us. He is our best at changing plays at the line. He is a gritty, blue-collar quarterback and his teammates respect him. Sometimes he's a little cautious, but that's not a fault since his first mission is not to do anything that might lose the game."

Franchione characterized Southern Miss as a team with an aggressive defense, a sound senior quarterback (Jeff Kelly), and a talented offense. He said, "At the end of the season they'll be ranked in the top 25. Our coaches and players have great respect for them."

Southern Miss has problems at the tailback position. Star tailback Derrick Nix is out for the season with an injury, and his back-up, Dwayne Woods, suffered a knee sprain during the Golden Eagles' practice Saturday.


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