Tide Excited About Oklahoma Game

Looking back is pleasant. Looking ahead is exciting. Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula can look back on last week's 40-17 victory over South Florida in the Crimson Tide's season opener and "feel good because we won. We feel good about coming from behind and we feel good about playing well late in the second quarter and in the third and fourth quarters."

But this week the opponent is Oklahoma, the nation's number one team. And Shula said, "No one on this team thinks we can play like we did last week. We have to be on top of our game."

Alabama, which is unranked, hosts the top-ranked Sooners Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff is at 6:45 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by ESPN. Oklahoma is coming off a 37-3 rout of North Texas. Last year Oklahoma defeated Bama 37-27 in Norman. This is only the fourth meeting between the teams. Each side has a victory and there has been one tie.

Shula said that Bama's practice was better Wednesday than it had been Tuesday. And, he said, "Tuesday was good, too. The guys are excited."

The Tide head coach said he doesn't know enough about his players to be sure how they will react in such a big game, but said "indications are they will be ready. We need to have leaders. We need to have good preparation."

Alabama is on its first week of normal preparation. For the season-opener against South Florida, Bama was able to devote about six days to game preparation. "Now we're into the season and we have only three days to prepare," Shula said. "There is more of a sense of urgency."

Alabama's coach emphasizes that preparation has to be good. "Each man just has to worry about being prepared and then doing his job," Shula said.

Discussion of Oklahoma begins with the Sooners' defense, considered by many to be the nation's best. Shula said that Alabama will have to "mix it up" on offense. "We've got to do what we do best and get the ball to guys who can make plays for us," he said. "And we include Brodie (quarterback Brodie Croyle) in that group. We'll try to keep the defense off balance and not hurt ourselves. We need to make things happen on first and second downs and not get ourselves into third and long."

Shula said that Oklahoma's blitz package is "very good, and hopefully we'll be prepared. They do a good job because of their speed. And they know how and where to blitz. And they are a good coverage team."

One positive for Alabama in its opening game was the team being in good physical condition. While South Florida had problems with the heat and humidity, no Bama players fell victim to the conditions. "Ben Pollard (Bama's strength and conditioning coach) has done a great job," Shula said. "It started in the off-season and in the summer. And part of it is the attitude of the guys. And I thought the coaches did a great job of substitution."

The Tide coach said Alabama would play "a lot of players" again this week. He said he thinks one reason Alabama has avoided injury is keeping fresh players in the game. And while he said Alabama is in good shape physically for Saturday's game, neither linebacker Cornelius Wortham, who is recovering from a dislocated elbow, nor wide receiver Antonio Carter, who missed last season after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his leg, were dressed for practice.

Shula said that he had a good feeling when he went out onto the field at Legion Field in Birmingham last Saturday. "There are a lot of memories," he said. "But it doesn't last long because you have to focus on the game."

He has said he is looking forward to being on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. It will be his first game since he quarterbacked Bama to a win over Temple in November, 1986. "I was always coaching," he said. "I had intentions to come back for a game during a bye week, but I was never able to work it out."

He told a visiting reporter from Oklahoma that "Tuscaloosa feels pretty good when we win. I know it's that way in every town, but I think a little more here. And that's what we're here to do: win."

Shula said three men who played particularly well in last week's victory were offensive lineman Dennis Alexander, cornerback Charlie Peprah, and nickel back and special teams player Ramzee Robinson.

Alabama will finish up preparation with situational work on Thursday, then have a brief walk-through on Friday.


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