On Alabama's final offensive series Saturday, Tim Castille was hit in the knee by Tennessee's Jonathan Hefney after catching a pass in the backfield. Castille walked without assistance to the Alabama locker room after the game, but left the locker room on crutches.
Several sources said that Castille's injury is season-ending. Alabama Media Relations Director Larry White said he did not expect an update on Castille's status to be released Sunday.
If Castille is lost for the season, he would be the third offensive starter to suffer a season-ending knee injury (quarterback Brodie Croyle and halfback Ray Hudson are the other two). Castille has 247 rushing yards on 62 attempts for the season and he is the team's second-leading receiver, with 14 receptions for 104 yards through eight games. He also scored the only touchdown against Tennessee and has six touchdowns on the season.
Castille has been Alabama's starting fullback and since the injury to Hudson the number two halfback behind Ken Darby. Coach Mike Shula did say that if Castille is lost, it is fortunate that back-up fullback LéRon McClain has been playing well. And, the coach added, "It will mean an increased role for (fullback) Josh Smith and an increased role for (halfback) Aaron Johns."
Shula also pointed out that the injury was on a "clean" play. "They called a good defense and our timing was just a little off. He tackled Tim low because Tim is a big back," Shula said. "It's just a part of football."
Shula called the setback at Tennessee "a tough loss. I thought our players gave great effort. And I think as the game went on, they played harder. It was disappointing to come up short, not making some plays when we needed to, and, of course, turning the ball over and giving them a touchdown."
The loss dropped Alabama's record to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference play. Bama is off Saturday, then resumes play hosting Mississippi State November 6. The Bulldogs of Coach Sylvester Croom had a big 38-31 upset of Florida Saturday.
Shula said the score was "surprising. But it just shows you that in the SEC it doesn't matter what a team's record is."
Shula said that "Everyone is down" about the loss.. But he said there were good things in teh game, including the performance of the defense in holding Tennessee to 195 total yards. And he said that Ken Darby, who rushed for 99 yards (the second time this year he has come up a yard short of 100) had done well.
"We've got to fibgure out how to be a better team because of that game," Shula said.
Shula said, "The biggest thing you measure is the scoreboard, and we didn't measure up there, which is the biggest disappointment. But there are a lot of good things, and we've got to show those to our players. We are all disappointed, but we're doing some good things. I think there is a feeling of goood movement, things you may not see on the statistics chart, such as team leadership. Things like that are pointing upwards."
The coach said, "It wasn't good enough, and that's the bottom line. But the kids have done everything we've asked them to do. If we had played poorly or hadn't been physical, that would be one thing. That wasn't the case. We played aggressively. We just made some mistakes."
Although Bama was to work Sunday and then have practices Tuesday through Thursday during the off week, Shula said those who have been playing would get some rest this week. The practices will be primarily for back-up players and those who are expected to be redshirted. And he said some preparation would begin for the Mississippi State game.
Shula said, "We're tired. We need to get some rest. And we're beat up a little bit. We've got to be able to come back from this. It was an emotional loss, but when the team watches the tapes they'll see there were a lot of good things, particularly on defense but in all three phases. And we've to to take advantage of building on the things we do well."
Shula was impressed with his team's defense against Tennessee. "We ran to the football and we played aggressively," he said. "We had a couple of pass interference calls that hurt us. But the guys are running to the football and getting off blocks, and when you do that, good things can happen."
He cited as an example the interception by DeMeco Ryans that led to Alabama's touchdown. And he said that an interception by Cornelius Wortham, that snuffed out a potential Tennessee score, was the result of Wortham "playing the quarterback's eyes and being in the right place at the right time."
Linebacker play has impressed Shula. "They are very aggressive. Freddie (Roach), DeMeco (Ryans) and Corn (Cornelius Wortham) all played well. A key was the defensive line playing well against Tennessee's big offensive line to free up the linebacker. Our linebackers see and get to the ball pretty quick. And Juwan (Garth, who has missed several weeks with a shoulder injury) is getting back into it."
Shula said the offense "played hard. I don't think we played as well as we have the past few weeks. Some of it was execution where we had some mistakes. We weren't as productive as we have been. Our run average was low on first downs, which gave us a lot of second- and third-and-longs."
He added, "We didn't protect as well as we have and we didn't throw and catch as well as we have."
Shula said that quarterback Spencer Pennington "stood in the pocket strong and did some gutsy things. He got hit pretty hard a couple of times because our protection wasn't as good as it has been, but he didn't get rattled."
He said that it appeared "the ball got away from him" on the final Alabama play of the game, an interception when the Tide was trying to get in for a game-winning touchdown in the final minute. "He had some guys open underneath. But he was trying to make a play and the ball sailed on him a little."