Shula Wants Better Execution

A day after Alabama held onto a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter to beat Vanderbilt and move to 2-0 on the season (1-0 in the Southeastern Conference), better execution was foremost on the mind of Crimson Tide Head Coach Mike Shula.

"Run better, protect better, and do better in plus territory."

That was the short list of focal points for Shula in the coming week. The Crimson Tide hosts Louisiana-Monroe Saturday night at 6 p.m. in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"Our execution overall, with the backs and the offensive line in the running game, we have to improve," Shula said Sunday during his weekly teleconference. "It's the combination of a running back here, an offensive lineman there and holding on to the football."

Alabama has averaged 3.4 yards rushing per game, and tailback Kenneth Darby, the Tide's senior leader, has been held to 90 yards rushing in two games. Added to the running game woes against Vanderbilt were fumbles – one by senior Tim Castille and one by sophomore Jimmy Johns – which dashed two red zone scoring opportunities.

"You have your system and you correct it," Shula said. "You've been doing it for years and years on how to respond after wins and losses. I think we're a young football team and I don't say that as an excuse, I think we're going to get better with experience."

Alabama's offense moved the ball well through the air for the second week in a row, thanks in great part to the solid play of first-year starting quarterback John Parker Wilson and junior receiver Keith Brown.

"I would say (Wilson) and Keith Brown right now are playing as good as anybody," Shula said. He added center Antoine Caldwell, fullback Le'Ron McClain and left tackle Andre Smith to the list of offensive player who "have had two really good games."

Shula said, "There's a lot of good thing we're seeing from our passing game, from our pass protection, from out receivers. The two things we haven't done is run it as efficiently as we have in the past put the ball in the end zone."

Shula also revealed Sunday that backup right tackle Kyle Tatum did not play in the game because he was suspended for violating team rules. He did not elaborate on the nature of the violation. Shula said Tatum "should be" available for the game against Louisiana-Monroe.

One player available for the first time this season was receiver D.J. Hall, who was suspended for the season opener, and for the Cotton Bowl in January. Shula said, "DJ's responded very well since day one of training camp. He's practiced really hard. It was good to see him out there yesterday. He responded when his number was called and it looked like he was having fun out there."

Shula also talked about the son of one of his old teammates, freshman Leigh Tiffin. Tiffin kicked what turned out to be the game-winning field goal, a 47 yarder, in the fourth quarter. It looked like the attempt would come from closer range, but Wilson took a sack on third down of the series which backed the Tide up 10 yards.

"Leigh's got his mind set to go in and kick a field goal there, and it goes from a 37 yarder toa 47 yarder," Shula said. "That's got to be tough for a kicker."

But Shula didn't want to make too many comparisons to the current kicker and his father.

"He's his own guy," Shula said. "Maybe I'm a little biased that way when someone makes comparison to his dad."

Shula said the defense played extremely well "with the exception of that one drive before the half." Vanderbilt went 87 yards, scoring its only touchdown with a Chris Nickson pass to Earl Bennett. It was Simeon Castille's two interceptions in the second half which kept Vanderbilt's offense at bay.

"He has a real good feel for the game and he does a good job of preparing," Shula said of Castille. "He's just got a good feel for playing the position. He seems to be in the right spot all the time."

"He's got to be careful, too," Shula warned, "because he's aggressive and teams will try to take advantage of that, too, and try to get him on a big play."

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