Staying Focused

Crowd noise at Alabama practice for Mississippi State? Scott Field, home of the Bulldogs, seats only 55,000, and about half of those are expected to be Bama fans. But at Thursday's practice, as is usually the case for a road game, the Crimson Tide was working with piped in crowd noise.

Alabama will be in Starkville Satuday to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a game that will be nationally telecast by CBS beginning at 2:30 p.m. CST. Alabama is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Mississippi State is 2-6 and winless in five SEC games.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula said the crowd noise was used to allow the players to work on communications. But something else he said may have provided a real hint at not only the reason for the crowd noise, but also for Alabama's success this season, and–ultimately–for the duration of the Mike Shula Era.

He said, "Our focus has been the same each week from what I've seen. We're winning some games. You talk for 365 days about being in position to be in the race and you do the things to get there. You don't want to slip now. You want to block everything else out."

Although Bama is considered to be a heavy favorite to beat the Bulldogs, Shula said he had talked to his players throughout the week about "staying on top of your assignments. We don't want to take anything for granted. The team that does the little things will win, from avoiding penalties, to protecting the football, to maintaining good field position, to special teams play. You just don't know which play will make the difference in momentum or in field position or in the end of the game."

The Tide worked for a little over an hour in helmets and shorts. Shula said it was a good practice."

One good thing about it was that junior fullback-halfback Tim Castille, who suffered an ankle sprain last week and had not practiced this week, was back on the field working Thursday. "He did some things today," Shula said. "He's in better shape than we expected. I'm not sure what that means for Saturday, but I'd say at the worst he would be available in an emergency situation. It depends on how things go tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday."

Alabama will work in Tuscaloosa Friday, then bus to Columbus, Mississippi, to spend the night before going on to Starkville Saturday.

Captains for the game will be Freddie Roach (defense), Kenneth Darby (offense) and Terrence Jones (special teams).

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