Tuesday practice on Sunday night

The Alabama football team returned from Thanksgiving break and to the practice field Sunday evening. The Tide was out for about two hours in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts and Crimson Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione said it was "very good. We had life in our legs and a good step. I was impressed with the way they grasped the game plan."

Alabama hosts Southern Miss Thursday, a game that will kick off from Legion Field in Birmingham shortly after 6 p.m. CST. ESPN2 will telecast the game, which was originally scheduled for September 15 but was postponed due to the terrorist attack of September 11. Southern Miss is coming off a Friday victory over East Carolina.

At stake for Alabama is a winning season. The Tide, 5-5, could qualify for a bowl game with a victory over the Golden Eagles. "The biggest thing is to have the opportunity to have a winning record, to go to post-season play, and to double the number of wins we had last year," Franchione said.

Franchione said he wasn't too concerned about giving his team five days off. "Sometimes you're a little ragged around the edges when you've been off a few days, but we had talked to the guys before they left and they came back with a good attitude," he said.

Franchione said that Alabama "will be able to do more things" than the Tide would have been able to do on September 15. "We would have been far more limited," he said. "We're much more multiple. We have more formations and more motion and our players are better able to adjust. We have a few more runs, a few more play packages, and a bigger pass offense."

Franchione said Alabama's players, many of whom were on the team that lost 21-0 to Southern Miss last year, have great respect for the Golden Eagles. Franchione said he watched the Southern Miss win over East Carolina and was a "talented team. They are hard to run on. They have a senior quarterback (Jeff Kelly) who doesn't get rattled. You're not going to fool him. You have to execute and make plays. They have depth. And their kicking game is better than it was earlier in the year."

Franchione said the Thursday game would not have an effect on Alabama preparation. The Sunday practice was the equivalent of a normal Tuesday practice. He said it might have a little more effect on the Golden Eagles since they had a Friday game last week and also have to travel. But, he said, "By this time in the season you've seen just about everything. They might have to do a little more work on the option."

Which brings up all that Franchione has to say about the quarterback situation. "We'll play both of them," he said. Franchione is allowing reporters to attend practice, but not to comment on what they see insofar as quarterback preparation is concerned. Tyler Watts started the first nine games of the year but missed the last game. Andrew Zow took over in that contest and led Alabama to a 31-7 win over Auburn. He'll keep the identity of the starter secret until gametime.

A reporter said his research indicated that Alabama, with 12 turnovers in 10 games, was second in the nation in that statistic and that the Tide was plus four on the year with 16 takeaways (five interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries) to 12 turnovers (four interceptions, eight lost fumbles). Franchione said that in his experience, most teams have to be plus in that statistic in order to have a winning record and that it is a point of emphasis with his teams. Alabama has had three games this year in which the Tide did not commit a turnover. "Our quarterbacks and running backs have done a good job in protecting the football," Franchione said

Franchione urged fans who have tickets to the game but who might not be able to attend because of the Thursday game to get those tickets into the hands of those who would be able to attend.

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