Alabama dropped to 6-5 overall and 2-5 in Southeastern Conference games with the loss to LSU. The final regular season game is this week in Bryant-Denny Stadium, when Bama hosts Auburn. The 2:30 p.m. CST game will be telecast by CBS.
The Crimson Tide moved the ball reasonably well against the nation's number one defense, which made the setback "a tough one to swallow," Shula said Sunday in his weekly telephone conference with sportswriters. Bama was not out of the game until deep into the fourth quarter.
As is often the case in a close game, Shula said, "Three, four, five plays can make a difference. They made some big plays, like the converting the third and long to keep the ball and get a touchdown in the third quarter. We had it down there close and they blitzed and we turned it over."
The Tide had three trips deep into LSU territory in which Alabama gave up the ball on a fumble, an interception, and a missed field goal.
"There are always good things to take out of a game and I thought that was the case last night," Shula said. "Now we have to put it behind us and get ready for Auburn."
The Tide coach said, "Offensively, we moved the ball against a very good defensive team. We didn't play well defensively early and got down 14 oiubts, but we responded. John Parker Wilson was throwing the ball accurately and he scrambled effectively. We had some good runs against a good defense. After about the first three series on offense we had a chance to get back in it."
Even Alabama's often-maligned pass protection package "was really good at times. We got sacked four times, two of them late. We had good protection at times and at other times there was too much pressure (on the quarterback)."
One other thing that Alabama took out of the game was some injuries. Offensive tackle Chris Capps and wide receiver Keith Brown both suffered strained ligaments. Shula said that Capps thought he could have returned to the game and that Brown was "probably a little bit worse." Their conditions will be updated during the week.
Alabama was more imaginative than usual in its play-calling against LSU. Shula said "There were some plays we thought we could get, plays that would help us win. Each week we look at the defense we're going to face and see what we think we can get (against it). We may see something that someone else has used to attack it that fits with what we've run before."
As an example, Shula said that Tennessee ran a reverse against LSU. "We've run (and end-around) and we saw that LSU had everyone coming up." He said that Bama had a play in for a pass off the end-around.
"We've been waiting for Keith (Brown) to get well," Shula said. "He's the only one (wide receiver) we've got who can throw worth a lick."
Bama also had a successful onsides kick. Shula said, "We had worked on it early in the year and it wasn't any good. Jamie (placekicker Jamie Christensen) has been practicing and gotten pretty good. The one last night was better than it's been in practice even."
Nikita Stover had a six-yard touchdown reception for Alabama against LSU. Shula said that the combination of Stover recovering from injuries and gaining experience has moved the sophomore up into playing consideration. "He's really got good hands," Shula said. "He's running routes better. Like a lot of our young guys, he makes mistakes on things like route adjustments, but I think he and Will Oakley (another soph receiver who had four catches for 51 yards against LSU) are getting more involved. And if Keith can't go they will really be more involved."
Alabama used the pass for most of its offense against LSU, the Tide picking up 291 yards passing and only 78 rushing. "We knew they were going to be difficult to run against," Shula said. "We didn't want to do what some teams have done against them, so we tried to pick and choose (running opportunities). We ended up moving the ball passing. The negative was that we had some (running) opportunities and didn't take advantage. But we're not the only team that's had a hard time running against LSU."
The Tide coach said quarterback John Parker Wilson is "fun to watch. He's energetic. He made a bunch of plays. He plays with confidence. He makes some mistakes, but that's not just him; we've got to get him coached up. He took some hits when he didn't get the ball out quickly enough on some blitzes. He's easy to coach and fun to coach."
Although losses all count the same, Shula said he was encouraged by what he saw in the faces of his players following the LSU game. "I haven't seen that look in a while," he said. "It made you feel good about them, particularly with all the things we had gone through in the week (after a loss to Mississippi State). And we talked about what we have to get done as coaches and players to get ready for this week."
Because of the late kickoff against LSU, Shula said he was able to watch part of the Auburn-Georgia game Saturday, a 37-15 Georgia win. "Georgia did a nice job of attacking them," Shula said. "They got the turnovers and capitalized on them. Georgia was playing real aggressively. It wasn't Auburn's best game. They'll come back more motivated to show that wasn't them."
As for his own team, he said the loss was tough. "Our guys were down, but I think they are focused more on Auburn than we were at this time last week to get ready for LSU."
Shula said he had not spent time worrying about the bowl situation. "We have to spend so much time on game preparation that we don't really come up for air ujntil it's all over," he said. "We just try to win and see how it works out. Our players know that a win would help our bowl situation."
And, obviously, the game is much bigger than the bowl ramifications. "My first day on campus (as a freshman player), my roommate, Curt Jarvis, was talking about the Auburn game, and we hadn't even gotten into (pre-season) training camp," Shula said. "Preparation is different. The atmosphere is different. The guys who haven't been through it will know by the way the upperclassmen talk and prepare that it's a big game, but you really don't completely understand it until sometime after the game."