Fighting Offense with Offense

All of the talk leading up to the Cotton Bowl showdown on Jan. 2 has been centered on the nation's No. 1 passing offense in Texas Tech against the No. 1 scoring defense boasted by Alabama, but the most critical part of the contest may be the execution of the Tide offense.

"[Texas Tech's] defense is pretty good," junior halfback Ken Darby said. "They got some nice sized linebackers that are fast, but we feel like we can do everything we want to do. We feel like we can run the ball. We feel like we can throw the ball, but the thing is, we're going to have to execute the way we know we can execute."

Darby became only the fourth player in Alabama history to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons with his performance this year. He will be the key to keeping the chains moving, and more importantly, keeping the Red Raiders‚ high octane offense off the field.

"The last two practices we've had, we've gone against our own defense," Darby said. "We know we've got a lot of speed on our defense, so if we do well against our defense, then we know we can do well against anybody's defense."

The emphasis on getting ones-on-ones work is something head coach Mike Shula is doing to simulate the team speed of the opposing defense, and according to Darby, the offense picked up the pace a little bit from last Saturday.

"We didn't do quite as good last Saturday, but we performed well today," Darby said. "We were up to the challenge, because we knew they were going to give us their all, and we did great today."

"Our defensive line is good and they have been working our offensive line good. For [Brodie Croyle] to be going against our defense, we know it is just getting him ready for whatever Texas Tech has to offer."

The Red Raiders happen to have two of the nation's best to offer at the Tide offense, and they were recently honored for their play.

Senior free safety Dwayne Slay was named an All-American by Sports Illustrated and has been tabbed the Big XII Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Also, defensive end McKinner Dixon was named to a Freshman All-American team.

"The offense as a whole has taken a lot of heat lately," Darby said. "And what we think about is just coming out and finish off the season with a win and doing a whole lot better than we did against Auburn. We want to get that spark back that we had against Florida."

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