Brodie Croyle, Alabama's fifth-year quarterback, doesn't have much of a history against Southern Miss. "I didn't play against them the last couple of years (because of injuries), and the one time I did play against them I wasn't too good," Croyle said Tuesday before the Crimson Tide returned to the practice field. "We had a pretty good running game against them the last few years."
Alabama has beaten the Golden Eagles in Croyle's three previous years, but he hasn't had much to do with it. As a freshman in 2002 Bama won 20-7 as Croyle completed only four of 15 passes for only 15 yards and suffered two interceptions. He was injured the next two years as the Tide won 17-3 in 2003 and 27-3 last year.
Even though he has not played a lot against Southern Miss, Croyle knows what to expect. "We know they are going to bring the house four or five times," Croyle said of USM's well-documented blitz-heavy defense. "They may get a few negative plays from the blitz. But if we hit a short pass to a receiver covered by only a corner, he only has to break one tackle and it may be an 80-yard touchdown."
Croyle expects a difficult game. "They have good athletes and always play their best against us," Croyle said. "We've got to play four quarters, not just a half like we did last week (in a 26-7 win over Middle Tennessee). We expect them to have a few new wrinkles like MTSU did. We have to make our adjustments quicker. We can't wait until halftime."
He added, "Everyone who has ever played against Southern Miss knows how physical it is going to be. We have to approach it like a league game.
Croyle knows a lot about football, and he also knows a lot about human nature. For instance, when receivers report back after a play that they can be open, he said, "You have to be careful about listening to receivers telling you they are open. They might have triple coverage."
But Croyle said the receivers have an unselfish side, too. "Really, they don't care if they have 100 yards or if they don't have a catch. They just want us to win. And I'm confident in throwing to all of them."
Last week the tight ends did not have a pass thrown to them. Did that bother them? Croyle said he hasn't heard a peep out of any of them. "They are freshmen," Croyle noted of redshirt freshman Nick Walker and his two true freshmen back-ups, Travis McCall and Charles Hoke.
Croyle said Alabama's offensive line "probably played the best of any unit" in the win over MTSU. "They'll be tested more and more, starting this week," he added.
Croyle was playing last week for the first time since the third game of 2004. He said in the first half "after I got my pick out of the way, I knew they weren't going to let us go long." Croyle threw an interception in the first half, a long pass in which he said he made a bad decision. Most of his 16 completions (in 24 attempts) for 210 yards were thrown underneath the deep coverage.
"It felt like football again," Croyle said, although he admitted he had the "jitters" in the first half. In the second half, he said, "things slowed down and I made some crisp passes."