"Earlier in my career, I wanted to make the big play," Zow continued. "Patience was something that I had to learn, and I learned that on the sidelines."
After starting for most of his first three seasons in Crimson, Zow lost the job last August to junior Tyler Watts. But besides cheering on his teammates, Zow was also watching and learning. "Tyler would go out there and he would control the clock," Zow said. "I'd watch that and listen to the coaches say ‘the big plays are coming.' If you use the system, then things will work for you."
As Alabama Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning points out, the quarterback inevitably gets too much credit--and blame--for whatever happens on the football field. And the quarterback competition between Zow and Watts has definitely received ‘its share' of attention in recent years.
But one overlooked truth is that both athletes have improved by ‘stealing' aspects of the other's game. Before he was injured versus Mississippi State, Watts was clearly improved throwing the football. And Zow--always the ultimate pocket passer--scrambled for several key first downs versus USM. "Coach Koenning is always telling me, ‘No matter what, just move the chains. Do what you have to do,'" Zow related. "If it's third and one and you've got a big guy there, just get the first down. That's what I'm trying to do is move this team. Get them to rally behind me and get some things accomplished.
"My running was more just playing football and helping your team and moving the chains."
Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione is known as an offensive guru, specializing in designing schemes to fit his players' talents. Since Zow has taken over, he and his staff have tweaked the Bama offense to better suit their new signal caller, but they also know that the threat of a run can stretch an opposing defense to the breaking point.
"Andrew Zow played a good game for us," Franchione said in the post-game press conference. "He did make some good runs for us. He's learned to run. Everybody says Andrew can't run the option, but our last touchdown was an option."
Despite terrible weather, Alabama attempted 13 passes in the first half. But wind and rain contributed to several drops, as Zow completed only three attempts for 73 yards. "I think we started off struggling with (the weather)," Zow acknowledged. "We couldn't throw the ball well, and when we did throw the ball it was a little wet and the guys dropped some. But the running game was something we really wanted to do. I don't think (the weather) took too much from us, because we did throw the ball."
One of those completions was a 14-yard touchdown pass to Sam Collins, allowing the Tide to take a meager one-point lead into the locker room. Koenning related the coaches' instructions; "At halftime we told the offense, don't worry. Stay consistent. You're either a playmaker or a pretender. Which is it? Go out and prove it!"
Having been out-gained 218 yards to 73 in the first half, Alabama's first series of the third quarter was crucial. However, things looked bleak when Zow was leveled by a Golden Eagles lineman for no gain on third down, sending the Tide QB to the sideline favoring his left shoulder. "I really got stung," Zow related, shaking his head. "It was stupid of me to try and take on a defensive lineman. When I got hit I was worried at first, but then I saw it was my left shoulder. I didn't care if it was broken or whatever, I was going back out there."
Luckily for the Tide, a roughing the punter penalty gave the offense new life. Seven plays and 67 yards later, Alabama scored on a 40-yard run by Ahmaad Galloway. On the series Zow shook off his injury, converting two key third downs to keep the drive alive. "The opening drive of the third quarter was very big," Franchione said. "It says a lot about our coaches and kids as a group."
For the rest of the game, Alabama mixed it up on offense, but 196 yards on the ground helped salt the victory away. Zow explained; "Whenever you can run the ball and you can run the ball at will to pick up big chunks of yardage, it hurts their defense and their team. We were able to do that in the second half. Once you're doing something and it works--stay with it."
Adding to the several career passing marks he already holds, Zow's two touchdown passes Thursday tied him with Mike Shula for the top spot in that category. But interestingly, Zow had the best rushing game of his career against Southern Miss. Not counting one sack, the strong-armed QB gained 58 yards on seven attempts.
Alabama ran the ball only five times in the first half but finished with 40 attempts for the game. "It was just the way the game dictated," Zow said. "Our receivers made a conscious effort to start catching the ball if it came to them, and we changed things around in the second half."
Heading into the game the story that most fans were talking about was the suspension of tailback Santonio Beard. After putting together a string of outstanding games in a row to earn the starting job, Beard missed Thursday's contest as part of discipline related to a DUI arrest over Thanksgiving.
But behind tailback Ahmaad Galloway's two-touchdown, 126-yard effort, the Tide rushing offense hardly missed a beat. "We're family," Zow explained. "What we've done is rally ourselves around to not let it be a distraction. The guys came together. We really played our hearts out. We didn't let the Santonio issue give us any problems."
Speculation is that with Thursday's victory Alabama has played itself into the Music City Bowl, matching up against Boston College of the Big East conference. But after the game Zow preferred to savor the moment. "Going 6-5 is really not that good for Alabama, but coming from where we were it's something special," he explained. "Playing at The University of Alabama has been an up-and-down career for me, so this means a lot. As I've said before, my faith has been something I needed to lean on, and my family has been a real support.
"This was a great win for our team and our program. We're headed in the right direction."