John Parker Wilson was injured on a first and 10 play from the 28-yard line, a completed screen pass. He was hit after releasing the pass with 2:30 to play in the first half. He clutched his left leg and attempted to get up twice before hopping on one leg and going down to the turf with a twisted left ankle.
Helped to the sideline, Wilson's shoe was removed and the ankle cut off his tape before team doctor Les Fowler began examining the ankle. Wilson limped to the locker room with ice around his ankle just before the end of the half.
Earlier, Wilson injured the ankle against Arkansas, but it had not caused him to miss any playing time.
"I had just been getting normal treatment on it," he said. "I felt good, the best I have in a long time, going into the game and that play flared it up. We'll continue to do everything we've been doing but I think I'll be fine."
Jimmy Barnes got the first playing time of his career earlier this year against Louisiana-Monroe, but against Florida International on Saturday he recorded his first pass attempt, completion, touchdown and rushing attempt (kneel downs count as a team rush statistically.)
During the week of practice leading up to the game, Alabama offensive coordinator Dave Rader said Barnes got six repititions on Tuesday, four on Wednesday, and three on Thursday.
When Barnes went in, it was the first time he'd ever played in the first half – and with the game on the line. Bama was leading 10-3 when Barnes got the call.
"It was a close game and you don't know how that guy's going to come in and react," senior fullback Tim Castille said. "He said the plays loud and clear and he didn't seem nervous to me. I thought he did an excellent job to come in that situation."
On the first three plays, Barnes called the play in the huddle in and split out wide to the right at a flanker position. Running back Jimmy Johns lined up at quarterback, running twice and handing off once to Castille.
"It was real exciting going in with that situation," Barnes said. "I was a little nervous, but I was lined up at receiver anyway so it didn't matter."
Barnes attempted two passes on the next two plays, however, one in the flats that went incomplete and a short completion to Castille that went nowhere. Shula and Co. spent the halftime break preparing to use Barnes at quarterback in the second half.
"I didn't think (Wilson) was going to be able to come back out and play," Shula said. "We spent the whole halftime making sure we had our stuff set and ready for Jimmy."
Wilson underwent treatment throughout the half before Tide Head Coach Mike Shula asked how he was feeling.
"He asked how I was feeling I told him I felt like I could go back in and the doctors said that would be fine," Wilson said after the game. "I think it was restricted, but it's loosened up some. It's not too hurt at all."
When Wilson came out onto the field with the offense to start the third quarter he did not walk normally, and could hardly move well enough to hand the ball off. After the second down play he hopped on his right leg.
"We were going to try to find a way to move the ball and score points without him having to hurt his ankle any more," Shula said.
Alabama started the second half with four straight running plays. On the fifth play, Jimmy Johns lined up at quarterback and ran a sweep right with Wilson split out wide to the left. The play lost four yards.
Wilson showed better mobility in Bama's second offensive possession of the third quarter, escaping traffic and attempting his only pass of the second half when he threw the ball away out of the back of the end zone to avoid a sack. That was Wilson's last series at quarterback. He sat on a chair with a with his baseball cap for a minute, then went back to stand next to Shula.
Barnes finished the game after Javier Arenas' punt return gave Alabama a 17-3 lead, but Barnes task was more than to salt away the game.
"After the special teams play, we knew we were going to win," Rader said. "Now we had to decide are we going to let the air out of the ball, or are we going to get Jimmy (Barnes) some work. We decided we were going to have to let him throw the ball."
Barnes responded well. He finished the game completing 6 of 11 passing for 45 yards and one touchdown. His long was a 14 yarder to Matt Caddell on the first play of Bama's final offensive drive. During that drive, Barnes was 5 of 8 passing with 41 yards. He scrambled for three yards on a first and 10 play, too.
"I really liked the way he handled himself on that last drive," Shula said.
The only negative in that series was a sack when Bama had first and goal on the two-yard line.
"That sack was his sack," Shula said. "He called the play wrong. He's got good poise for himself, kinda looks you right in the eye and says ‘yes sir.' He came right back and threw the touchdown pass to Caddell."
"It was kind of good for us to see," Alabama center Antoine Caldwell said. "We put a lot of faith in John Parker, but we know if he goes down we've got a capable backup now in Jimmy. He proved a lot of people wrong today and he kind of stepped up for this football team. We've got some confidence in him now.