Shula On Sunday

A lot of people who have a "9-to-5" job feel that the one thing wrong with that is the "9." When Alabama Coach Mike Shula looked back at the Crimson Tide's 25-17 win over Hawaii he had to like the "17." Still, he said, it was not the kind of performance he expects from Bama.

In his regular Sunday telephone conference call with sportswriters, Alabama Coach Mike Shula said that if he had known before the game that Hawaii would get only 17 points he would have been satisfied.

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan completed 30 of 44 passes for 350 yards, which is not good. But, Shula said, "They are pretty good. They understand the man concepts and zone concepts. They hit a couple in underneath stuff. They do a good job of making it look deep and throw behind. Their quarterback does good job on timing. And they hurt us on those shovel passes. We've got to take a good look at it. We had a couple of missed assignments, but not many; and we need to tackle better."

Much of Shula's commentary Sunday focused on the nice work by first-time starter John Parker Wilson at quarterback, and particularly Wilson's ability to make adjustments in the game plan after Hawaii played an unexpected defensive scheme.

Shula also amended his post-game statement regarding the status of wide receiver D.J. Hall. Hall, Bama's leading receiver last season, did not participate in the Cotton Bowl at the end of last year. When he missed summer work in Tuscaloosa there were questions about last year's leading Alabama receiver. When Hall did not play against Hawaii, Shula said it was because Hall had turned an ankle on Thursday.

On Sunday, Shula was asked if Hall had missed the game because of injury or for disciplinary reasons. "Both," said the head coach. Asked if Hall would return this week, Shula said, "I hope so." He emphasized that he was talking about Hall's health and that he would not discuss any disciplinary sanctions, which is his policy. He also said he didn't think Hall could have played in the Hawaii game because of his ankle.

The biggest injury question following the game was on Bama's other starting wide receiver from 2005. Keith Brown, who had an excellent game with six receptions for 132 yards and one touchdown, "jammed his finger into the ground," Shula said. Brown had fingers taped following the game, but Shula said on Sunday morning he did not have the fingers taped.

What Brown did have Sunday morning as he showed up to participate in Shula's television program was "a smile on his face." The coach said, "If we can get this from him, our chances of winning go way up. It goes back to the Cotton Bowl when he had a good game, then through training camp. He got a little dinged in his head and missed a little bit of practice, but then came back well. He's going up stronger to get the ball. He's got that look in his eye and a smile on his face."

Shula didn't think there were serious injuries, although he said, "We've got some guys beat up." He noted that tackle Jeremy Clark and linebacker Terrence Jones were among those injured against Hawaii who came back to play later in the game.

When the talk wasn't on the passing game – either Hawaii's or Alabama's – following the contest, it was often on Crimson Tide halfback Kenneth Darby having only 25 yards on 16 carries, a most disappointing senior debut for the man chasing all-time Bama rushing records.

Shula said, "He had some misfortune. He had a couple of nice runs that were wiped out by holding penalties. A couple of times he got a little antsy. A couple of times we had a missed assignment in the offensive line. And Hawaii did a really good job."

There was also mention of a hip pointer, but Shula said, "He's going to be fine. He's a senior and he wants to have 100 or 150 yards each time."

Shula said that the offensive line had a "pretty good game." He noted that at least nine offensive linemen saw action. "We have confidence in a lot of them," the coach said, mentioning back-ups Marlon Davis, Cody Davis, and Michael Johnson. "We wanted to give them a series, even when we were backed up. I'm not sure how they graded out, but we expect them to be better this week."

While Darby wasn't getting much done in the running game, Jimmy Johns had a good game with eight carries for 58 yards. But only one of those runs came in the second half. Shula said it was only because Darby was given more opportunities in the second half. "And we were throwing it more," the coach said.

Shula thought a high point of the offense was the work of tight ends Nick Walker and Travis McCall as receivers.

Shula thought Hawaii provided a real test for the defensive line. He said it was tough duty for the defensive linemen because Bama frequently rushed just three men to take on five or six blockers. "We talked to them about being relentless and working to get the quarterback out of his comfort zone," Shula said. "But he (Brennan) is poised. Still, I think it helped us a little at the end. (Defensive end) Wallace Gilberry did a good job putting pressure on late."

In answer to a question about defensive end Ezekial Knight, Shula said, "Zeke Knight looked good early. He forced a fumble. Maybe it wasn't the production he wanted, but he was one of many I thought played okay and he is just going to get better."

Placekicker Jamie Christensen was held out of Saturday's game with a groin pull. Shula said that he hoped more rest would hasten the return of the junior. He said, "The worst thing we could do is try to get him back before he's ready."

Leigh Tiffin handled most of the kicking duties in Christensen's absence, hitting both his extra point kicks and three of four field goal tries. Tiffin also kicked off to start the game, but because the hang time wasn't good enough, allowing Hawaii a long return, there was a switch to Andrew Friedman as kickoff man. Shula said, "I thought Andrew did a nice job on kickoffs. He's done a nice job for the past couple of weeks. We have good competition there."

Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play with its second game of the season Saturday. Bama will host Vanderbilt in Bryant-Denny Stadium with the regionally televised game kicking off at 2:30 p.m. CDT. The Commodores were defeated by Michigan, 27-7, in a game Saturday afternoon. Shula said he got to see "just a couple of plays, mostly on defense. It looked like they were doing a decent job of keeping Michigan contained. I know they will be well coached. They won't have guys out of place."


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