Battered but unbowed

With his injured left shoulder immobilized by a heavy brace, every time Brodie Croyle drops back to pass thousands of Crimson Tide fans hold their breath. Unfortunately LSU's fast and talented defense got several big hits on him last Saturday. <br><br>"I did take a pretty good beating," Croyle acknowledged afterwards, "but my shoulder feels great."

"It's (always) sore on the morning afterwards," Croyle continued, "no doubt about that."

Officially LSU was only credited with two quarterback sacks, but numerous other times Croyle was battered about by the Bengal Tiger rushers. "LSU was a good team with a good defense," Croyle said. "You expect to get hit when you play them."

There was nothing dirty about it--just hard-nosed football. But LSU's well-coached defenders always made sure to hit Croyle when possible. And any time a rusher had the chance, he invariably fell on top of Croyle after knocking him to the ground.

Brodie Croyle says his shoulder came through the LSU game fine. (Barry Fikes photo)

"That's just part of football," Croyle said. "You expect that, especially against a defense as good as LSU's. They definitely brought some pressure on us, and hit us pretty good."

Alabama had practiced the previous week for LSU's numerous and varied blitz schemes, but it didn't necessarily look that way during the game. "We've got to protect the quarterback better as a team," Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said. "It's not just the offensive line. It can be the quarterback's problem (for not throwing the ball soon enough) or the running backs' problem (for not picking up the blitz)."

"Our receivers have got to understand what (the defense) is doing," Shula continued. "They've got to get open and come back (for the ball) when Brodie is scrambling."

Croyle talked about the LSU blitz. "They brought a couple of different blitzes that we hadn't seen on tape. When the defense does that, you know you're going to have some guys free. A lot of times they brought one more guy than we could block, but that's part of football. We've had some rough games this year, but hopefully it'll pay off for us in the long run."

Georgia also blitzed Croyle, and a hard hit promptly put him out of action for the rest of that game. Unnoticed by many during an otherwise forgettable game, Croyle's injured shoulder held up well to the hits it absorbed Saturday.

"It's just sore," Croyle said of the shoulder. "I'm just beat up a little bit. My shoulder held in there pretty good. Other than that, it's just bumps and bruises."

Both talented and disciplined, when the LSU linemen couldn't break through to Croyle they got their hands up to disrupt the pass, unceremoniously batting several attempts back in Croyle's face.

"It was just a frustrating night," Croyle admitted. "A couple of times I let go of the ball, thinking it was going to be a big play. Their defense did a great job of when they didn't get through, sitting there and reading my eyes and jumping to bat the ball down. I've got to find a way to get the ball to our receivers. I didn't do that Saturday."

As the game wore along, Croyle started to move more in the pocket, sometimes even tucking the ball down and running--something no one on the team is anxious for him to do.

"They were too fast to try and run outside," Croyle explained. "I did start trying to find ways to run. If I saw something, I flipped (the football) to the receiver. That's part of making adjustments in the game."

Croyle lets fly. Injured for essentially the entire season, he's still managed to throw for 1,876 yards and 13 touchdowns. (Barry Fikes photo)

Facing one of the top three defenses in the nation, Bama's injury-plagued offense was unable to get anything going on a consistent basis. Croyle commented, "We didn't run the ball well. We didn't throw the ball. I've got to play better. Everybody has got to play better."

With arch rival Auburn up next, Croyle hopes last week was an aberration. "We've faced a lot of good defenses this year," he said. "After the Mississippi State game I thought we were just starting to click. Then LSU essentially shut us out. We've done some good things, but we're still looking. Hopefully last Saturday was just an off day."

Two years ago Auburn was heavily favored, but the Tide went into Jordan-Hare Stadium to take a 31-7 dominating victory. Last season it was Auburn's turn to return the favor, 17-7 in Bryant Denny. Will history repeat itself and let the road team win?

"They came in here last year and put it on us pretty good," Croyle said. "We'll have the same attitude as before. It's Alabama/Auburn, what else can you say? We're going to prepare hard and play hard.

"Whoever shows up with their better game..."

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