Tide back faces tough challenge

Facing one of the best defenses in college football, Tide tailback Shaud Williams has a foolproof plan for success against Oklahoma. <br><br> "I'd say check with the referee and see if you can get about three extra guys out there, so we can see if we can get everybody blocked," he said Tuesday, joking with reporters.

Williams was laughing when he said it, but after watching film of the speedy, swarming Sooner D, he knows he's in for a battle. "As stingy a defense as they are, you've got to take what they give you," Williams said. "It might not be much, but if we want to have a chance we're going to have to take what they give us and not try to force anything. If you start trying to force things, that's when things start falling apart for you."

Alabama got a taste of Sooner speed last year, when the two historic programs faced off in Norman, Oklahoma. The Tide actually had pretty good success moving the football that day, especially in the second half. But Williams says this year Oklahoma is even better.

"Their defense is a little bit stiffer this year," he said. "It's going to be tough. They haven't been giving up too much so far. I'm sure (Tide Head Coach Mike) Shula and (Tide Offensive Coordinator Dave) Rader will come up with a game plan. We'll find a way to attack their defense."

Shown talking to reporters at SEC Media Days in July, Shaud Williams has become a team spokesman this year.

Alabama opened its season versus South Florida, winning 40-17. Coincidentally, Bulls Coach Jim Leavitt and Sooners Coach Bob Stoops both served as defensive assistants to Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

"Oklahoma is going to start out a lot in the same places," Williams pointed out. "The two coaches coached together, and they run similar defenses. Oklahoma's defense will be a little faster than South Florida's, but we're going to see a lot of the same looks. We know where they're going to line up at, but we're still going to have to come out and execute."

Down 23-3 at halftime last year, Alabama ran the football right at the fast Sooner defense in the second half, eventually taking a 27-23 lead. The Tide was driving late in the fourth quarter, looking to either either win or send the game into overtime, when a fluke fumble was scooped up and returned for a Sooner touchdown, salting the game away for the home team.

Oklahoma ended up winning that game by 10 points, but Bama's players know they could have easily won. "We're all confident," Williams said. "We feel like we have a good chance against these guys. We know they're No. 1. They're very deserving of that ranking, but we're going to come out and play. We'll give them everything we've got."

Saturday's game will be nationally televised in prime time. Adding to the hype, ESPN's popular GameDay crew will broadcast from The University Quad all day, leading up to the evening kickoff.

Williams commented, "It's easy to get caught up in all the hype, but we're still going to have to come out there and play. Despite everything that's going on around campus, we're still going to have to play football. Oklahoma being the team that they are, I know they're not going to get caught up in all that stuff. We're going to have to stay focused."

"It's a big game," Williams added. "I think it's a great opportunity for this football team and this whole university to make a statement. We're looking forward to it."

Last Saturday it took Alabama's offense most of the first half to get untracked. Williams is glad the team had a chance to get its first-game jitters out of the way before taking on the powerful Sooners. "It's key to get a game under our belts before we play Oklahoma," Williams said. "Playing against those guys, you can't make very many mistakes---if any. It was good to play a game before the Sooners. It let us gauge where we're at and get everything cleaned up."

Williams runs the football last week versus South Florida. The senior tailback gained 177 yards of total offense, earning SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. (Barry Fikes photo)

The Tide finished last week with 40 points on the scoreboard and close to 400 yards of offense, but there is still significant progress to be made. "We've got a lot of improvement to do," Williams said. "We studied the tape, and there are some things that we were real close on. If we get those things worked out, I think we'll have a real good chance."

The game will mark only the fourth time the two historic programs have met. The series now stands tied, 1-1-1. Before transferring to Alabama, Williams played two seasons for Texas Tech. Asked to compare the SEC and Big 12, he chose his words carefully.

"I think the (two conferences) are pretty similar," Williams replied. "In both conferences there aren't any cakewalks. There are no guaranteed victories. You have to play hard every Saturday. I really don't see that big of a difference between the two conferences."

Traditionally, Oklahoma has recruited heavily in the Lone Star State, and this year's Sooner squad is no different. A native of Andrews, Texas, himself, Saturday's game will be special for Williams. "It would be nice to beat them," he acknowledged. "A lot of their players are from Texas. All through high school you heard about them and read about them. It would be nice to come out with a win."

Given how close the Tide came to winning last year's game, does he feel like Alabama deserves some payback?

"A little bit," Williams admitted. "A lot of the guys on the team from last year feel like we owe them one. We thought we had a good chance to beat them. If we had a couple of plays here and there fall our way, we thought we could win.

"Maybe the game this year will be some redemption."


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