Along with attention to scoring in the red zone, the Bama squad has drilled on short-yardage situations. Franchione explained; "We worked hard on that last week. Arkansas just did a good job of getting off the blocks and making plays. We've got to convert more of those than we did. I think it's been a concern."
With John Thompson as Defensive Coordinator, the Razorbacks fielded a quick, if not overpowering unit. "Because of their speed, we felt like we were better off running at Arkansas than trying to run laterally," Franchione related. "Their secondary was so fast, we felt like our best chance for success was straight at them. They proved tough to run at, too."
Franchione had said before the game, that it was possible the Bama offense would improve--but that because Arkansas was so good on defense it might not show. Following the game he explained that Bama's O-Line had only mixed success. "We ended up with only 48 knockdowns as a team. With only 50 snaps it's pretty difficult to get higher than 75. Justin Smiley had 10. Marico Portis and Wesley Britt had seven. Probably the best performances came by Marico, Wesley and Evan Mathis. They graded the highest."
Once again junior Ahmaad Galloway led the Tide in rushing, this time with 63 yards on 20 carries. But Ray Hudson, Marvin Brown, Donnie Lowe and Ray Hudson also carried the ball for Alabama. "Ahmaad is probably the most complete back that we have in regard to the total package, (including) protection in the passing game, routes, running aggressively and taking care of the ball," Franchione explained. "Ray is our speediest. He's learning and growing weekly.
"(Santonio) didn't get a lot of snaps yesterday, but we didn't get a lot of snaps (on offense). As you get into a game and into the fourth quarter having had a couple of turnovers, then we went with Ahmaad because he was the oldest and most experienced. But we're gaining confidence with Ray and Santonio. And we certainly have confidence that Ahmaad is solid in all the areas."
Though the Tide coaches have not yet finished their game plan, Franchione already knows that his upcoming opponent will be tough. He explained; "South Carolina is a good defensive ball club. Certainly they got Mississippi State out of their game (South Caroline defeated State 16-14 in Starkville)."
Having defeated the Georgia Bulldogs earlier, the victory marked South Carolina's second straight conference on the road. In their previous contest, the Gamecocks got ahead of Mississippi State, forcing them to alter their offensive plan. "You don't expect State to throw the ball 40 times in a game," Franchione said. "(South Carolina) is not giving anybody points. Georgia had to work very hard to score. They moved the ball between the 20s, but they didn't get the ball in the endzone."
Under the direction of veteran Coach Lou Holtz, South Carolina has developed into one of the smartest-playing teams in the nation. "We're going to face a nationally ranked ball club," Franchione said. "We're going to have to find a way to overcome. They play the game, and you look up and you're getting beat. They're very efficient. They don't beat themselves. They just don't do those type things very much."
In addition to being the host team, South Carolina played the MSU game last Thursday night, giving them an edge in preparation. Franchione said; "That's just the advantage that those extra days will give you. When you play a Thursday game and get it behind you, then you have a day or two to self-evaluate. We have to do the best we can with it."
Against a struggling Razorback offense, Alabama turned in seven sacks. And sophomore end Nautyn McKay-Loescher had a good day. "He's doing pretty well," was Franchione's assessment. "The good thing about Nautyn is that he plays with a fast motor. He plays hard and is very aggressive. If he makes any mistakes, it'll be going hard. He gave a good performance yesterday. I think he's starting to get into a more consistent rhythm."
And on the offensive side of the ball, redshirt freshman center/tackle Evan Mathis is gaining ground on starter Dante Ellington. Franchione explained; "Evan is gaining the coaches' confidence more every day. He had a good grade in playing 24 snaps. He had one bust, but he wasn't the only one that had one. As a redshirt freshman, every game and snap he gets under his belt he's getting better. He is pushing very hard to be a starter.
"The great thing about Evan is he is smart and can play center or tackle. If something happened to Alonzo, he would be our backup center. He works during the week at both positions."
Late in the contest, No. 2 tight end Theo Sanders left the game with an ankle sprain. No one likes to see injuries, but in Sanders' absence newcomer Donald Clarke make his Crimson Tide debut. "Donald seems to be learning his assignments," Franchione said. "He got to play a few snaps, which is good. How well he does will be in direct relationship to how many two-tight-end formations that we use. We could move a tackle out there. And I think Theo will play Saturday."
Arkansas gained tons of yardage Saturday, throwing the ball in front of the Tide cornerbacks. "We feel like Bert (Roberto McBride), Gerald (Dixon) and Hirchel (Bolden) are all starters," Franchione related. "We interchange them. And as soon as we go to a nickel, they're all in the game. We look at them in the same category."
Following the contest, the Tide staff named the top athletes at each position.
- Offensive back: AC Carter.
- Offensive Line: Marico Portis.
- Special Teams: Nautyn McKay-Loescher.
- Defensive line: Kindal Moorehead. Defensive back: Roberto McBride.
- Offensive scout team: Josh Smith, Spencer Pennington and Stephen Moore.
- Defensive scout team: Marc Miller, Patrick Tate and Mark Anderson.