Tide two-deep again at quarterback

In the general excitement last week of a 38-0 shutout over an SEC foe, one of the best pieces of good news may have been overlooked. Spencer Pennington returned with a solid performance in mop-up duty, doubling Bama's depth at quarterback.

After separating his right throwing shoulder last month versus Georgia, virtually everyone expected that Pennington would be out for the season. But there he was last Saturday, back out there on the field directing traffic.

"I wasn't supposed to be back this soon from the injury," Pennington said. "The shoulder healed fast."

The final game stats aren't necessarily that impressive. Thirteen snaps, two passes, one completed for 28 yards, and one touchdown drive. But for Pennington it was heaven.

Pictured earlier versus Georgia, the return of Spencer Pennington to action last week was key for the Tide. (AP photo)

"It was fun to get back out there," he said with a big smile. "I did get a full quarter in last week, and it was exciting. When you're watching on the sideline, you kind of feel helpless. It was good to get back out there and do something about it."

Tide Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader was especially pleased. "Getting Spencer back really helped us," he said.

Holding onto a 31-point lead, most of Pennington's work was simply handing off to the running back time after time to run out the fourth-quarter clock. Bama did call for one pass to Brandon Brooks, just to get Pennington a feel for live-game action again as much as anything else.

Pressured by the State line, that attempt was hurried and Pennington was knocked to the ground. "On one of his passes Spencer got hit," Rader said. "But that was good, too, because he saw he could take a blow."

"I know I can take hits on (my shoulder), and I'm looking forward to this week," Pennington said.

With just 3:22 to go in the game, Alabama faced a fourth and four at the Mississippi State 37 yardline. It's probable that the Tide would have let the clock continue to run, taken a delay of game penalty and then punted the ball away. But a State timeout stopped the clock, changing the equation.

"We wanted to get the game over quickly," Rader explained.

But with the clock stopped and Bama facing no particular gain by punting that close to the Mississippi State red zone, the decision was made to go for it on fourth down. Pennington rolled out and found a wide-open Greg McLain. The sophomore tight end caught the pass and rumbled 28 yards down to the MSU nine yardline. Four runs into the line later, Alabama had its fifth touchdown of the game.

Pennington commented, "I'm not sure that Mississippi State fans will understand why we did that, but I've been out for four weeks. I needed to get some work. We got two passes in during a game, and that should help me this week against LSU."

Croyle (left) and Pennington (right) look on at practice. Bama will again field two quarterbacks this week against LSU.

"We wanted to get Spencer in a groove passing," Rader said. "Just two passes in a game situation."

Of course sophomore Brodie Croyle is nursing a shoulder injury of his own (in his case the left side). Alabama continues to be just one hit away from trouble at quarterback.

Will Pennington be ready to go this week?

"The shoulder is better," he replied. "I would call it 100 percent. You never know what's going to happen, but I'm preparing to play."

Facing one of the toughest defenses in the nation, Alabama will need all the help it can get. "We're back to two quarterbacks full-time for the rest of the season," Pennington said.

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