Passing Grade

When Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson was asked what grade he would give himself for his performance in the Crimson Tide's season opening 25-17 victory over Hawaii on Saturday night the sophomore first-time starter said, "We won, so I give it a winner."

The grading on college football is done on a pass/fail basis, and Wilson certainly passed his first test. The next exam comes at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Vanderbilt.

"We're in good shape," Wilson said. "We've got to convert field goals to touchdowns. I missed Keith a couple of times, which should have been touchdowns."

Hawaii Defensive Coordinator Jerry Glanville surprised Wilson and Bama Head Coach Mike Shula with more Cover 3 than the expected Cover 2. (Cover 2 has two safeties playing each half of the field, and leaves more plays open in the middle of the field, while Cover 3 puts a safety in the middle of the field.)

"Last night they played a lot more safety in the middle of the field," Shula said, "more than we had seen, and didn't blitz the safety as much (until later in the game)."

Wilson inspired confidence in the head coach. Shula said Sunday he "definitely" felt comfortable enough to open up the offense more based on his quarterback's performance.

"I think he had a decent day," Shula said, "and we're just a couple of feet, or even inches, away from having a real good day. We feel he's going to be an accurate quarterback. The ball was a little high a couple of times, but the good thing is that he was going to right guy. He has to get it down, get it there a little quicker."

On Sunday, Wilson, Brown and Shula all talked of the near misses. Brown's defender had bitten so hard on a pump fake he fell down, but Wilson's pass sailed out of bounds with Brown alone in the end zone. Wilson hit a covered Keith Brown on a fade route in the end zone, but Hawaii Coach June Jones challenged and the official ruled than Brown was out of bounds.

Brown even posited that there could have been four more touchdowns had all things gone right. But Wilson's 16-of-29 was a good start. Brown's six catches for 132 yards were phenomenal.

Wilson and Brown both said Sunday that Hawaii was better than they thought. Their plan was to shut down the Tide running game and force the new starter at quarterback to make plays. He made enough for the win, and almost certainly teams in the future will try the same approach.

"They had a bunch of guys up front, asking us to pass," Wilson said.

And if defenses to sell out to stop the run, daring Wilson's arm to win a game, "It wouldn't bother me one bit at all," he said, "because I think we have the offensive line and the receivers to do that."

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