Shula Says Hawaii Better

From a practical standpoint, Alabama's season-ending game at Hawaii this year may not be such a good idea. Crimson Tide Head Coach Mike Shula and his staff probably feel an urgency to be on the recruiting trail. Additionally, Shula said, "All the reasons I looked forward to going to Hawaii as a player are all the things that concern me now as a head coach." But the game is scheduled.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said, "I'm excited to have another game. It's a little tough," he said of the assignment. "But the guys have shown me they can get back up. We want all 11 guys playing their best together. We haven't had that game yet."

He said that Hawaii presents a great challenge, and that Alabama will be treating this as a regular season game, not like a bowl game. "It's business as usual," Shula said. "We're staying a few days after (the team leaves Honolulu Monday afternoon and is back in Tuscaloosa Tuesday morning), but that's after. Our attitude has to be that we play our best game and coach our best game, and then enjoy it after."

Shula said, "I think it's an important game. You want to win the last game for the seniors and you want to feel good about the last time you were on the field. And, as I told the team, we want to get used to winning games at this time of year because beginning next year winning games at this time of year is going to be more important. We'll be back in b owl games next year and our preparation will be similar."

At his usual Tuesday press briefing, Shula said, "This is a busy week because of the travel. We're trying to get a lot done." After giving the players Sunday off, he put the team through an unusual late Monday night practice (because of so many players having labs scheduled on Monday afternoons). Bama had a regular Tuesday practice, then was to leave Tuscaloosa at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday for Hawaii. That's a day earlier than the team left last year. The 2003 team had problems with its charter airplane and didn't arrive in Hawaii until Friday morning. This year the team was to arrive in Honolulu Wednesday afternoon and practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Aloha Stadium. The team will have a Thanksgiving meal following Thursday's practice.

Alabama is 4-8 on the season and 2-6 in Southeastern Conference gamesand will finish its season Saturday in Aloha Stadium in Honolulu against Hawaii. Kickoff will be at 6:45 p.m. CST (2:45 in Hawaii) with national television coverage by ESPN. Hawaii is 7-4, including a 5-2 WAC record, and will be playing in the Hawaii Bowl.

Shula said that this year's Hawaii team is better than the one Alabama held on to defeat at the end of last season. He said, "They do a lot of things well. They're on a roll. They've won four of their last five games."

Bama's coach noted that Hawaii's junior quarterback Timmy Chang "has done a great job. He finds ways to get it in the end zone. They score a lot of points and he's the one pulling the trigger. He's experienced in their offense, he's got a good feel for what they want to do, and he's got good players around him."

Shula said it would be important that the Tide secondary not give up the big play to Chang, but, he said, "You can't let him nickel and dime you to death, either. He gets the ball out fast, but we need to put pressure on him so he gets it out fast because he has to, not because he wants to."

Almost every week Shula has been asked about the effect a number of injuries to key players has had on the team. The coach said, "You think about it, but you can't dwell on it. You try to have your guys ready to take over when someone is injured. Of course, we all know how important experience is. So we had the newness of the offense and the injuries, but I don't want to sound like that is an excuse. But as coaches we have to keep it in mind and in perspective so we don't make wholesale changes."

The immediate task after the team returns from Hawaii is for the coaching staff to hit the recruiting trail. For Shula it marks another "first" as he will be going into the homes of prospects. "I'm looking forward to it," he said.

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