Tough day on defense

When he first arrived in Tuscaloosa last winter, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione explained that he knew the job would be difficult. But after saturday's game in which his defense gave up 611 yards of total offense (528 through the air)--both school records--it's easy to wonder if he knew exactly how arduous the task would be. <br><br> "We had a tough day on defense," Franchione said Sunday. "And we're not an offense that can get into a scoring contest with anybody."

"That made (Saturday) difficult. Offensively we did OK. We had almost 400 yards of offense. We did have one turnover, some penalties and a couple of dropped (passes)."

Alabama's specific numbers were 383 yards of total offense, including 174 net on the ground and 209 via the pass. Good numbers--but hardly good enough when matched against LSU's embarrassingly productive offensive attack.

Moving to defensive end in Kindal Moorehead's absence, Saturday Kenny King had four tackles, two pass deflections, one interception and a fumble recovery.

"We probably played a little soft at times," Franchione said. "When we went straight man and blitzed, they answered it well. When we zone blitzed, they answered it well. They had good calls at the right time, and their execution was good. We've just got to continue to try to search for ways to not put our players in bad situations."

Bama's DBs had an awful day--evidenced by the fact that the Tide staff choose not to name a Defensive Back of the Week. But blame doesn't lie exclusively with the overmatched secondary. Franchione explained. "We needed more pressure on the quarterback. That would have helped. The poor production on defense was a combination of a lot of different things. We've got to get pressure on the quarterback. We've got to keep searching on that side of the ball."

Individually, several LSU players had record-setting days. Quarterback Rohan Davey's 473 passing yards were the most ever allowed by an Alabama defense. And receiver Josh Reed had 19 catches for 293 total yards--both SEC records.

Particularly frustrating to Franchione was that all-too-often Reed racked up his yardage after catching the ball. "The biggest (stat) we formulated was ‘too many,'" Franchione commented wryly. "Too many yards after catch."

Though Alabama punted poorly, averaging only 34 yards per effort, Franchione was generally pleased with the rest of the kicking game. "We can still be more productive in punt return and kickoff return, but we had a couple of bursts during kickoff returns and our coverage was fairly solid," he said. "We won some hidden yards there and covered fairly well."

No. 1 at the beginning of the season, Dante Ellington's play Saturday has him contending for the starting job again.

Bama did make a change on kickoff returns, as Triandos Luke and Jason McAddley replaced Freddie Milons and Antonio Carter in the role--though Carter did take over for McAddley later in the game. "Luke had a nice return," Franchione said. "It was difficult to evaluate Jason. He was very sick before the game. He took several IVs. He tried to play. It was tough on him. He was weak. We did not play him very long after the first quarter, because he was struggling."

Despite obviously struggling on pass coverage, Alabama's two senior safeties continue to sit on the bench. Shontua Ray contributed on special teams Saturday, but Reggie Myles got a ‘DNP' (did not play) for the game. "I think it's just that our coaches felt the best about Charlie (Jones, starting free safety) and Waine (Bacon, strong safety) and the way they played consistently over the last eight games," Franchione said. "Everybody (in the secondary) had a tough day Saturday, but over the long haul (Jones' and Bacon's) consistency has been the reason that we stayed with them."

Franchione listed the individual player awards:

  • Offensive Lineman of the Week: Dante Ellington
  • Offensive Back of the Week: Freddie Milons and Tyler Watts
  • Special Teams Player of the Week: Shontua Ray and Waine Bacon
  • Defensive Lineman of the Week: Kenny King
  • Offensive Scout Team: Joel Babb, Tarry Givens and Brodie Croyle
  • Defensive Scout Team: Charles Hosea, Anthony Madison and Gerard Clark

Offensively there were a few bright spots. Once again Tyler Watts turned a gritty performance at quarterback. "Tyler played a pretty solid football game," Franchione agreed. "He had a couple of scrambles out of the pocket that were good, and he threw the ball fairly well. He gave us a chance with his running ability and athletic ability when things broke down."

Anthony Madison named a Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week

And with 91 yards on five receptions, senior Freddie Milons was the Tide's most productive wideout. "Freddie's number did come up more yesterday as it worked out," Franchione said. "It was one of his better days."

Tarry Givens was recognized for his work on the offensive scout team.

Coming off the bench, Dante Ellington actually played more snaps at strong tackle (35) than the starter, Evan Mathis (31). Which obviously brings up the question of who will start next week? "We'll put that into this week's competition," Franchione replied. "He and Evan both did some good things, but Dante has put the question to where we'll watch this week and see how he does."

In fact Atlas Herrion (quick tackle) and Dennis Alexander (strong guard) also saw their snaps go up Saturday as reserves on the offensive line. "Dante, Atlas and Dennis all played more this week," Franchione related. "Dennis played solid. Atlas probably didn't play quite as good as Dennis. But both got in there and did some good things."

The coaching mantra holds that no matter what the overall record, ‘we're just going to take them one game at a time.' But there is no denying that a 3-5 record was not what the players had expected at this point in the season. "They're frustrated," Franchione acknowledged. "But they're still pulling together and pushing and believing they can get some things accomplished. We just feel for our kids. We want to keep trying to put them in the best positions to make plays that we can.

"We share their frustration."

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