Pennington Builds

Almost all who follow Alabama football have the same mental picture of junior quarterback Spencer Pennington. In the final game of the regular season, facing almost certain defeat at the hands of Auburn, Pennington didn't give up. He directed a two-minute drill (actually 2:16) as he drove the Crimson Tide 84 yards in 11 plays, finishing with an 18-yard touchdown pass to freshman D.J. Hall.

"It was too little, too late," Spencer Pennington said after Alabama's practice Tuesday. Bama is preparing for the Music City Bowl game against Minnesota on December 31 in Nashville.

But, Pennington said, the drive against Auburn was a confidence builder. "For us to take the ball down the field against an undefeated team in that two-minute drill was good for us," he said. "It gave us confidence in our receivers to make the plays they made. It gave us confidence in our offensive line to block like they did. And it gave my teammates confidence in me to get the ball into the hands of what Coach Shula calls ‘the real athletes.' So it's something to build on."

Pennington said it is important that Alabama build on the positive every day in practice. Tuesday's work didn't start out good. And when Coach Mike Shula stopped the workout and said, in effect, "Take it from the top," that got the attention of the players.

"We started slow, and so we got to start over," Pennington said. "But after that I thought we got a lot done, and that's important. We started working on Minnesota."

Quarterbacks Coach David Rader said, "We started slow and so we started over, and Spencer was the reason we got a lot stronger as practice went on. The most encouraging thing about Spencer is that he is doing more things well more of the time. Combine that with his knowledge of our personnel and our tentative game plan–it's more than just knowledge of our offense–and you see that all the things are coming together."

Pennington said it's important that Alabama build on what it has done well and also learn from its past mistakes "in every practice."

He said Minnesota reminds him of Tennessee defensively. "They do a good job of disguising their blitzes and they have big, fast guys," Pennington said. "We've got to get our plan together."

While some might think of the Music City Bowl as not very exciting, don't put Pennington in that group. "It's very exciting," he said. "Man, yes! I've only been to one bowl game since we haven't been the past two years. And the year I went I was being redshirted, so I didn't play. I got a big ring, but I didn't do anything to help. We're excited to be going. Anytime you can keep playing you want to play, because it's a fun game."

This will be Bama's NCAA record 52nd bowl game, but the first since the 14-13 win over Iowa State in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport at the end of the 2001 season.

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