"The loss was obviously disappointing and frustrating," Shula said. "After looking at the tapes Sunday we just couldn't establish anything consistently." ">
"The loss was obviously disappointing and frustrating," Shula said. "After looking at the tapes Sunday we just couldn't establish anything consistently." ">

Shula on Saturday's loss

Mindful of his own "24-hour rule," Tide Head Coach Mike Shula allowed himself one more day to talk about Saturday's game. <br><br>"The loss was obviously disappointing and frustrating," Shula said. "After looking at the tapes Sunday we just couldn't establish anything consistently."

Shula talked about the game during his regular Sunday teleconference. "We made a couple of mental mistakes and other physical ones technique-wise, against a very good football team. We had a lot of respect for (Northern Illinois) coming into the game, because of how they played this year and last. They've got some maturity. They're a very aggressive team in all three phases of the game.

"The bottom line is they got the job done when they had a chance and we didn't. We're going to have to get those things corrected quickly."

After a disappointing performance by his team, Shula found plenty of things to correct in the game film. But he's taking a positive approach. "We want to build on the good, and make sure we correct the things that went wrong. We need to do it in a positive way. Everyone is feeling down now, but we can't let this drag on. We've got to get it out of our system. Our message has been to move forward after every game. Our kids have done a nice job of that so far. We're going to continue sticking with our plan and try to get better each week.

"We stumbled (Saturday) night, but we don't want to let it set us back."

Northern Illinois' Michael Turner was as good as advertised. (photo courtesy of TurnerTheBurner.com)

Whenever a national program like Alabama falls to a relatively unknown, fans assume a lack of focus. But Shula thinks his team took the Huskies seriously. "We looked hard at it during the week. I talked (about that) Saturday night with some of our coaches. Our preparation and focus has been good. Our execution was what failed. That's not just on the players, that's everybody. It's on coaches and players.

"We win together and we lose together."

With the loss Alabama dropped out of this week's AP poll, while the Huskies are now ranked. "Northern Illinois is pretty good," Shula said. "They don't make a lot of mistakes, and they can do some things that help make you make mistakes. I'll be anxious to see how they do the rest of the year. They've got a real good back (Michael Turner) that's 230 pounds and does a nice job carrying the ball. He breaks tackles and has good speed."

With another sub-par performance, fans point the finger at Bama's offense. But Shula talked about field position, or rather a lack thereof, as being key. In the second half in order the Tide started at its own 8, 11, 14, 7, 11, 20 and 20 yardlines.

"It's tough," Shula said. "You want to create your own field position, and we didn't. For whatever reason, whether it was a penalty on special teams or the offense not making a couple of first downs. We had been doing that in games earlier. Their punter did a nice job."

Alabama actually out-gained the Huskies 394 yards to 267, but the Tide had little to show for it on the scoreboard. "When your average drive start is on the 19, then you've got to make a few more yards to get into the endzone," Shula said. "That was part of it. We had a couple of 37-yard gains that only put us out to our own 48-yardline. If you get better field position, then you'd like to think a 37-yard gain would get you down inside (your opponent's) territory."

For Northern Illinois Anthony Gallagher averaged a whopping 46.4 yards punting. Shula commented. "That makes it tougher. But you've got to make plays and stay on the field. Defensively we did a nice job keeping them out when they had good field position. You've got to do something to create field position for yourself. It's a credit to them for the way they played special teams."

It's easy to point to Bama's awful first extra point try as the key play in the game. Rushing right up the middle, NIU blocked the kick. One Huskie scooped the ball up and when tackled lateraled to teammate Kevin Woods who returned it the distance for two points. It equaled a three-point swing, which proved the margin of victory.

But in truth Northern Illinois dominated in all phases of special teams play. "We took turns hurting ourselves," Shula said. "We had penalties that hurt us and kept us backed up. We had the blocked extra point that was a two-point conversion for them, which was three-point swing. They did a great job punting. They kicked a 51-yard field goal. They blocked one of our punts. It wasn't just one guy, it was one guy here and another guy there.

"You've got to take turns making plays, not making mistakes."

Due mainly to one 54-yard run, Tide tailback Shaud Williams finished with solid numbers. But for most of the game Northern Illinois held the Bama running game in check with an effective combination of line stunts and run blitzes.

"It was a combination of things," Shula said. "They had some good defenses for the plays we called, but at times we had some good plays where we caught them in a blitz. We made mistakes, mental and technique-wise or somebody just got beat. The lack of production was a combination (of things). They do a nice job with their quickness. Up front they're not going to just line up and let you tee off. They move and slant, which is what we've seen recently. We just didn't handle it well (Saturday) night."

Afterwards Mike Shula accepted responsibility for the loss. (Barry Fikes photo)

The NIU coaches took full advantage of their off week to scout Alabama's offensive schemes. "That wasn't the first time we had seen run blitzing," Shula said. "We had seen it earlier and did a nice job against it. Maybe there was one guy on one play, or a technique problem or maybe a guy blocked the wrong linebacker or once we tripped over each other. Little things here and there...

"That's offensive football. Everyone has got to be doing their job. Maybe you play 50 other plays fine, but on that one play you didn't."

Taking out yardage lost to sacks, Northern Illinois gained 156 yards on the ground. But too often in the second half their star tailback ran by and through would-be Bama tacklers. "We missed a couple of tackles," Shula acknowledged. "(Their offensive line) did a nice job of coming off the ball. (Michael) Turner was disciplined. He got the ball going (up the field) instead of trying to outrun our defense (to the sideline). We've got to be more stout and make sure we're covering the right gaps--not try to do too much. It all fits together."

The NIU secondary played hard, but Alabama contributed by dropping several passes. Shula commented, "Again, those are the things that if we do too much we're not going to win football games. But I'm not putting any of it on the players. It all starts with the coaches. As a whole team, we've got to be more detailed and play with more urgency to get things done right."

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