Take Control

Alabama kept sneaking close to the goalline against Vanderbilt last Saturday, but too often didn't have much to show for it. Bama failed to get points when a fake field goal run came up short of a first down and when lost fumbles crushed excellent scoring opportunities. And the Bama football critics noticed.

"When you don't have the success that is expected, you are going to have criticism," Alabama Coach Mike Shula said. "You talk to your team about that. I probably remember answering a question similar to this last year and maybe a few other times in my career, too. You worry about the things you can control. There's going to be criticism and questions, but what you have to do is worry about are the things that you can control. That's what we talk to our team about, really all the time."

Shula knows Bama didn't play its best in the Crimson Tide's 13-10 win over Vanderbilt, but the operative word is "win." He said, "Being 2-0, and maybe not playing as well as whe should, I'm real excited about this football team. I think if each invididual keeps getting better and we take it one week at a time, we have a chance to be successful.

"We're looking forward to this week. Basically, it's like another one week season. You treat it that way. we've got two wins, but we've got to get better this week if we're going to find a way to get that third win."

Shula has reason to believe the Tide will improve this week. He said, "Last week we didn't practice as well as we had in the first week or in training camp. Ball security-wise we've been a team that has held onto the football. Everytime that happens (fumble), you want to understand why. In practice you continue to emphasize those points."

He said, "We've got to play better. To do that, we've got to have three good days of preparation."

The offensive challenge this week comes from a Louisiana-Monroe team that is similar to the first two opponents, Hawaii and Vanderbilt, which is to say unconventional. And Shula said ULM quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster "is more athletic and maybe with a better arm."

Shula expects defenses to continue stacking a lot of players close to the snap of the ball. "On paper, when that happens, you pass," Shula said. "We want to be a balanced offense. We want to be able to run the ball. We have to block"

He said Bama has faced more two deep coverage in run down situations than in the past, and said "We're seeing a lot of zone blitz, too, where they're still playing a lot of coverage behind it."

He added, "We've got to be better down there, but we're not going to over-stress it. We'll keep working on it, keep coaching it hard so everyone knows what to do."

The good news is that new quarterback John Parker Wilson has seemed to be able to handle the challenge. "It gives you confidence that the qurterback has been able to produce," Shula said. He added the pass protection has probably been its best in his four years.

One of the big questions among Bama followers is "What's wrong with Kenneth Darby?" It wasn't put exactly like that to Shula by sportswriters Tuesday, but the general question did come up.

Shula said, "I think he came out of the Vanderbilt game better than he came out of the Hawaii game. I thought he looked 100 per cent last Thursday and I thought he looked much better this Sunday than last Sunday. Only KD knows if he's 100 per cent, but he had some big runs in the fourth quarter. Hopefully, he's healthy now and will continue to improve. He has been productive and we're going to give him opportunities."

Back-up halfback Jimmy Johns had one of the lost fumbles inside the 10-yard line. Shula said, "Jimmy fumbled it going in, and Sparky (Running Backs Coach Sparky Woods) had him in on the next play. I think it's important to do those type of things so your guy knows you have confidence in him."

One highlight for Bama Saturday was the kicking of freshman Leigh Tiffin. Shula said, "We need to get touchdowns when we're down there, but the good news is that a freshman has been able to come in and get points for us. He's a freshman, but he thinks like a senior. And he has good work habits. It's good to have depth there."

One area of interest this year is the new clock rules. Shula was asked what he thought about them. He said, "I'm probably not the one to ask. You should probably ask those people who changed them to see what their thinking was. Personally, I knew it was going to be faster. I'm not sure I knew it was going to be this fast. The total game going two hours and 47 minutes–I didn't think it was going to be like that."


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