Tide's tough-guy QB

Asked if last Saturday's game was the hardest he had been hit playing quarterback, Brodie Croyle told the truth. <br><br>"Close to it," he replied. "But everybody on that field took a pounding. It was a physical game."

Croyle was sacked five times, but on countless other plays he was hit after releasing the football. "Sunday I was sore," he acknowledged. "Getting out of bed was painful.

"It would have hurt a lot less if we had won. That's what football is all about."

Quarterbacks Coach Dave Rader liked Croyle's effort, but he definitely didn't like the pounding his signal caller absorbed. "You worry when you see him taking that many hits," Rader said. "I'm biased, but some of those hits were borderline late."

Croyle talks with strength coach Ben Pollard in the Tide weight room.

No question the speedy Sooner defense delivered more than its share of pain, but in reality an SEC quarterback faces the same tough task every week. "As the week goes on, you feel better every day," Croyle related. "Early in the week you're still sore, but you work out the soreness. I'm ready by Saturday."

Known for his passing ability, on several occasions Croyle made the Oklahoma defense pay for its aggressiveness by scrambling for positive yardage. Tide Head Coach Mike Shula, a former Tide quarterback himself, commented. "I was impressed with Brodie's ability to make something happen on his own. He showed toughness and mobility. You don't get a chance to see that in practice."

He can do without the pounding, thank you, but Croyle would like one aspect of Saturday's game to repeat. "That was the loudest I've ever heard Bryant-Denny Stadium," Croyle said. "Playing the No. 1 team, that was understandable. I was impressed with the fans all day, and it was really something to finally get to the game."

All game long the Tide seemed to be one step away from catching Oklahoma. On three separate plays Croyle appeared to have completed long sideline passes to Zach Fletcher, which would have set Bama up in Sooner territory--only to have all three ruled out of bounds.

"That's why they call it a game of inches," Rader said. "We need to talk to the grounds people and get them to widen the field by six inches. We were just a step away from three big plays.

"We'll throw the ball deep again."

"We were close," Croyle agreed. "The calls just didn't go our way."

Alabama's offense only scored 13 points, but most of that can be attributed to excellence on the part of the Sooner D. "The speed of the game is slowing down for all of us," Croyle said. "Every week it gets better. We've just got to keep working to get our timing better.

Mike Shula and Brodie Croyle confer on the sidelines. (Barry Fikes photo)

"We didn't start out as slowly against Oklahoma, and we should be even better this week."

Saturday's game against the Kentucky Wildcats will be the Tide's conference opener. "It's always fun to play SEC games," Croyle said. "Game days are always fun, but conference games are just that much more."

The Wildcat defense will present a different challenge. Instead of the normal four down linemen and three linebackers, Kentucky's defensive coordinator Mike Archer uses a base set of three linemen and four ‘backers.

Croyle commented, "Playing against the 3-4 defense will be a little different from what we've faced so far. But you expect to face new things every week.

"We'll have some wrinkles of our own to throw at them."

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