In his regular Tuesday press briefing before the Crimson Tide returned to the practice field, Franchione was asked if the defense had been disappointing in not holding those leads. The coach said, "It's a little of both (defense and offense). It may be that if the offense had been able to make one more first down in the fourth quarter and the defense had not had to play as much, that would have done it."
Franchione said, "The offense has had the ability to do a little better this year than last year, but it's a team game. There are going to be times when you have to win a game 38-37 and times when you are going to have to win 14-10. I don't feel it's fair to imply the losses are the fault of the defense. The goal of the offense has to be to score one more point than the opponent and the goal of the defense has to be to hold them to one less point than we have. A win is a win and I'll take it 7-6 or 56-55."
Alabama, 3-4 overall and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games, returns to action Saturday in a Homecoming game against LSU. Kickoff will be shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by CBS. While Alabama had an open date last weekend, LSU lost to Mississippi, 35-24, and fell to 4-3 overall, and also 2-3 in SEC games.
Franchione said that he wasn't interested in speculating on bowl chances for his team. He said it has been his experience that a team has to play its way into those situations, "and we haven't done that. We need to win a game." He said his team has to continue to perform "one play at a time and one game at a time."
He was complimentary of LSU. He pointed out that the offense had a good line, capable runners, and great receivers. He particularly noted Michael Clayton as a great play-maker, even though Josh Reed is the primary receiver. But the key, he said, is LSU quarterback Rohan Davey. "If we hit him, I hope we get him on the ground, because he's big and strong and can throw after he's hit. He's the guy we have to do a job on somehow to slow them down." Franchione said that LSU's defense had given up some passing yardage, but much of it was in games the Tigers won handily. He said LSU has a physical front that has been good against the running game. And he said the kicking game is solid.
The Tide coach noted that in the Alabama-LSU series the visiting team has won 19 times since 1971. He added he hoped that wasn't a factor in this year's game.
Franchione said he thinks that the open week was good for his team after a very physical game against Tennessee. But, the coach said, it wouldn't be known until after Saturday's game whether the work in the open week had been profitable. Still, he said, "It was a good time for a break. We needed to rest up." He said that since this is the first year with his team, it's something of a "delicate balance between getting the team prepared and keeping the team fresh" without a break.
The coach said that practices last Tuesday and Wednesday were "as good as I could ask for, so good that we cut back and took the pads off last Thursday. And we had a good, crisp Sunday practice."
He did note that back-up linebacker Jason Rawls had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during practice last week and would be out for the rest of the season. Franchione was asked about personnel moves that might have been made in the open week and said, "We're looking at different combinations of personnel, none of which I wish to share with LSU right now."
Alabama has not performed well in its two-minute offense, or "Mayday" in Bama's terminology. Franchione confirmed that senior quarterback Andrew Zow, who has seen almost no playing time this year and who has a strong arm, got some practice time in "Mayday" situations. "Andrew is progressing," Franchione said. "We're going to play the best player for the situation. andrew does have some positives in certain situations." But, the coach said, he didn't want to insinuate that Alabama's failures were the fault of quarterback Tyler Watts. "Everyone shares responsibility," he said. He also pointed out that "Mayday" isn't a new offense, just the normal offense run at a much quicker pace." He said Alabama had put in more practice on "Mayday" than any team he has previously coached. It was part of practice every day last week.
Franchione spent a good bit of time answering questions about the wide receivers, notably that the offense seemed to be progressing without relying much on the wide receivers and that the workload among those receivers had been spread out more than might have been expected. The coach agreed that "The offense has evolved a little differently than might have been expected." He said that he thought the work had been spread out, which made it a little more difficult for opposing defenses than if they had been required to stop just one or two men. And, he said, "There's not an ounce of selfishness" among the receivers. He said it was comforting to know he could rely on any of the wideouts and that the game plan didn't have to change with personnel changes at the wide receiver positions. He said, "The kids have a sense that we have a good offense and all they have to do is execute."
The SEC announced Monday that the Alabama-Mississippi State game set for Saturday, November 10, will be televised by Jefferson Pilot Sports. Kickoff for the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs game from Bryant-Denny Stadium is set for 11:30 a.m. CST.
The Mississippi State game will be Alabama's eighth televised game of the 2001 season, including UCLA (ESPN), Vanderbilt (JP Sports), Arkansas (CBS), South Carolina (JP Sports), Ole Miss (JP Sports), Tennessee (CBS) and LSU (CBS). The Alabama-Southern Miss game is set for an ESPN2 telecast at 6 p.m. CST on Thursday, November 29 at Legion Field. Alabama's game at Auburn (November 17) is also likely to be televised.