"I just saw a little of it," Alabama Coach Mike Shula said in his regular Sunday teleconference with sportswriters. He had been asked if he had seen Arkansas performing against number one ranked Southern Cal Saturday night.
"It wasn't so much Arkansas," Shula said. "I was just so impressed with USC."
He wasn't talking about the USC of the Southeastern Conference. Alabama went to Columbia Saturday and defeated South Carolina, 37-14. He was talking about Southern Cal, the nation's number one team and two-time defending national champion. That USC embarrassed Arkansas by 70-17 Saturday night.
He said, "USC looks like a pro team, and everyone else is just playing. But we know what Arkansas has.. They have size and speed and quickness. We know what this game means. We had close games with them the last couple of years. It is a big game for us."
Alabama, 3-0 and 1-0 in SEC play, will host Arkansas, 1-2 with a home loss to Vanderbilt in its only SEC game, at 11:30 .a.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be regionally telecast by Jefferson Pilot.
Shula down-played the Arkansas humiliation in Los Angeles. He said, "But we know about Arkansas from last year and the year before. We recruit the same players. They are going to have good speed and quickness. They have a new defensive coordinator from last year, so we have to worry about that too. Today we're looking at tapes and getting ready for Arkansas."
Shula could even find an advantage for Arkansas in the lopsided loss to the Trojans. "Their coaches will use all that as motivation, (telling the Arkansas players) that people won't give them credit for being able to bounce back."
Alabama will be facing a new defensive coordinator for the fourth consecutive game. Reggie Herring took over that job for Coach Houston Nutt at Arkansas this year. (Bama will also prepare for a new defensive coordinator at Florida the next week and at Ole Miss in the Tide's sixth game of the year.)
Sunday Shula was cautiously upbeat about the win over South Carolina. "I thought overall it was a pretty good win, just the way our team came together in all three phases," he said. "Anytime you go on the road in the SEC and win is good. Some guys played well and showed good leadership. It was good to see our young offensive line playing well."
Asked about the play of the offensive line, he said, "We definitely played better than we had all year. We made some strides. Sometimes when you go on the road, even with a veteran group, and you have some pre-snap penalties. We didn't have any offensive penalties."
Shula added, "Now we have to see if we can do it against this week against Arkansas' personnel."
The coach said, "We've got a little confidence, too. We get hit with so many things when we're not productive. We have to pat the offensive line on the back, but we also have to convince them they haven't played their best yet. And we're going to have to do that each week when we play an SEC team."
Shula had praise for wide receiver Keith Brown, who had two touchdown receptions against South Carolina. Shula said, "He has improved each and every week if ever a guy has. He has a ton of talent. He has real good hands. He runs well with the ball. He broke two tackles on that one touchdown run. You think about him as a guy who will make guys miss, but he broke tackles then had the speed to get in the end zone."
Shula said that Jamie Christensen, who made three field goals (41, 29 and 27 yards) and all four of his extra points, "did well. He did a lot to solidify that job."
Jeremy Schatz was the punter Saturday and Shula said, "I thought he punted well. I was glad he didn't get much work, because that means we were doing well on offense." Schatz, who Shula said had a good week of practice the week before, had three punts for a 39-yard average.
Shula mentioned a few young players who performed well, including halfback Glen Coffee, quarterback John Parker Wilson, safety Cory Reamer, offensive tackle Cody Davis, and defensive end Bobby Greenwood "even though he made one penalty; he played hard." The coach added, "All those young guys playing, it's only going to help them."
Although he did not have a complete injury report, Shula said, "I think we came out pretty healthy, but I don't know yet about Jimmy Johns, who sprained an ankle. We may have a few others miss work, but I think it's not bad."
With Alabama finally moving into the rankings this week, Shula said, "It's just one more thing we can't control. The only thing we can control is going out each week and playing as well as we can. I think our guys do a real good job of that."