Three-and-outs a welcome sight

Eight touchdowns en route to a 56-7 blowout victory had most fans talking offense, following the game. But though UTEP did manage one touchdown late, five forced punts, one forced fumble and a fourth-down hold by the Bama defense set the tempo early. <br><br> "One of the keys to the game were the three-and-outs that we had on defense," Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush said. "Of course the offense scored the first six times we had the ball, so we basically took them out of it in a hurry."

"We're not going to take anything away from UTEP," Torbush continued. "Because I think the way we played made them look (that bad). They're a better football team than the general public would think."

Heading into the game, the Tide coaches knew the better athletes would be wearing Crimson. But the Miners did sport a dangerous passing attack. Torbush explained; "We were concerned going into the game with No. 7 (receiver Lee Mays) and No. 30 (tight end Joey Knapp), and Mays caught two balls for 30 yards and Knapp caught none. That was unusual for them, so we did what we needed to do."

Continuing his solid play at middle linebacker, Saleem Rasheed led the Tide with six tackles (one for a loss) against the Miners.

UTEP Head Coach Gary Nord has a solid reputation as an offensive coach, and Torbush's 'D' held the Miners to only 232 yards total offense, with the lions' share of that coming on just two plays. "I thought (the players) flew around, and we tackled better," Torbush said. "Watching the film, the only two disappointments were the two plays at the end of the game. Their quarterback had a 74-yard gain, but that tells you what he did on the rest of those plays.

"They had two rushes for 114 yards and the other 27 for only 19 yards, and anytime we go out we've got to be pleased with that. That game gives us something to build on, understanding that we're still not where we need to be."

The UTEP game was easily the best defensive effort of the season, and some Tide fans seized on a procedural change as an explanation. For the first four games Torbush had sat in the Press Box, spotting from above and calling the defenses. But Saturday he was on the sideline with the players.

Torbush talked about the decision. "It has been overblown. What we're trying to do is fine-tune everything to get us in the best position to be successful. If that means me being on the field, then that's what we need to do. We've tried three different combinations the last three weeks. It obviously worked to some degree last week.

"With the youth we have on defense, I think right now as the coordinator I need to be down there to make sure everything is going well. I felt comfortable down there. But it was a decision made by our whole coaching staff, Coach Franchione and myself and the other defensive coaches. We'll continue to do that, and if we see that there is another change that needs to be made, we'll do that."

Charles Jones (#20) starting ahead of Reggie Myles at free safety was the latest change in the Bama starting lineup.

As the Bama coaches continue to juggle the depth chart, searching for the best combination of players, free safety Charles Jones got his first start for Alabama in Saturday's game. "There are always going to be one or two (changes)," Torbush said. "We've done that every week, and I feel that will continue. What we'll do is evaluate them all week and then post our depth chart. (The starting job) will go to the most technically sound guys that are most productive. It will be up to the other guys that if somebody is starting in front of them to get their job back. I think that's the only fair way to do it, and our players understand that.

"You've got to produce. Production means making the play when you've got a chance to make the play. You can grade out 100 on technique, but if you don't make the play when the ball is in the air, if you don't make the play when the ball is close to you…

"We've got to get our most productive people on the field at the most critical times in the ball game."

Torbush has a well-deserved reputation as an intense, demanding coach. And the process of teaching these athletes to play with proper intensity continues. "That's part of (the changes)," he agreed. "Finding those that play with the highest motor. They're going to give you everything they've got, every time they're out there. We want to reward those guys for doing that.

"You'll continue to see personnel adjustments week by week. Not because we got beat deep or we missed a tackle, but because we felt like the guy behind did a better job, graded out higher or was more productive that particular week. That's the only fair way to do it. If you don't do that, then the guys on the second team never feel like they've got a chance to be a starter."


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