- Editorial: Win Would Accentuate Positives
- LSU Too Much For Tide
- Depth Chart
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF Version)
Win Would Accentuate Positives
By Kirk McNair
This is a good time to accentuate the positive, in no small part because the negatives are too painful to consider. To understate it drastically, a victory over Auburn Saturday would be very, very good. Alabama is on a current two-game losing streak this season and a four-game losing streak to Auburn. A win falls into the "So THAT's what you've done for me lately" category.
It was unreasonable to expect Alabama to duplicate last year's 10-2 record, but no one expected a slide as deep as the one the Crimson Tide has taken in 2006. A victory in the final game of the year would soothe much of the pain of earlier failures. Bama Head Coach Mike Shula said a win over Auburn would be big enough to overcome all the losses leading up to it. That may be too much to expect. But a win would show that Alabama can win a toss-up game, unlike the loss at Arkansas in the first Southeastern Conference game of the season. And a victory would show that the staff and players can be prepared to play, unlike the humiliating loss to Mississippi State a couple of weeks ago.
A win over Auburn doesn't eliminate the losses, but the focus turns to the bright side. And in the state of Alabama, there tends to be focus on football, specifically Crimson Tide football, year-round.
In recent weeks both Athletics Director Mal Moore (who made his statement before the Mississippi State game) and University President Dr. Robert E. Witt have made note of the commitment made to Shula with a hefty contract last summer. A win over Auburn validates that stance.
A victory would give Alabama a 7-4 record, assuring a winning season. That's not much by Alabama standards, which are the very highest in college football. The rebuilding process is ongoing, and it's easier to build from a winning platform than from a losing record.
In early February NCAA sanctions are removed from the Alabama football program. The recruiting efforts of the staff have paid dividends in part because full complements of 25 have been signed the past few years and can be added again this February. Slowly the Crimson Tide that is now two-thirds freshmen and sophomores can become predominantly the redshirt juniors and seniors that make for championship teams.
Alabama has gone from athletics facilities that were not up to Crimson Tide tradition to facilities that are unsurpassed in the nation. And contrary to protests from those with limited tradition, Bama's national reputation is a major plus in all aspects of The University. Good things help in student recruitment and fund-raising.
A win over Auburn will put an explanation mark on this rebuilding process. While one game may not make much difference in recruiting, there is something to be said for being in position to attract the front-runners.
And it may be merely in the eye of the beholder, but an Alabama win also would seem to be a victory for doing things the right way. Bama football players are student-athletes with no academic shortcuts sought by the athletics staff or accepted by The University. Crimson Tide players are sportsmen on the field, motivated to do their best, not to play with a raging hate for the opponent.
Alabama goals cannot be reached this year. But a win over Auburn would be part of the means to the end, part of the foundation of the future.
LSU Too Much For Tide
By Kirk McNair
It was no surprise that Alabama melted when it got in the Red Zone in Baton Rouge Saturday night. It was surprising that the Crimson Tide defense suffered meltdown against LSU. The result was LSU taking a 28-14 win.
Alabama sometimes has a tough time getting started in early kickoff games. But on Saturday night in Baton Rouge the Bama defense was sleep-walking in the early going against LSU.
Alabama's offense moved the ball reasonably well against the LSU defense, which was ranked number one in the nation. But three times the Tide got into the dreaded Red Zone and came up empty.
That LSU scored just 28 points in the game would surprise anyone who watched the Bengal Tigers in the first half of the first quarter. LSU was on track to score some 28 points per quarter, or 112 for the game. LSU went 73 yards in five plays, taking only 1:26, to take a 7-0 lead.
After Bama drove down and missed a field goal, the Tigers drove 68 yards in five plays in just under two minutes to make it 14-0.
It was no surprise that the SEC's best player, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, keyed the Tigers' touchdowns. On the first drive he had a key 20-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe to move LSU into Tide territory. Freshman Keiland Williams then went over right tackle untouched on a 38-yard touchdown burst. On the second possession, Russell completed three passes, the last for 30 yards to a wide open Early Doucet in the end zone.
But against the nation's number one defense, the Alabama offense did pretty well. After driving into scoring territory on its first possession, the Crimson Tide responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive to score on its second chance. Quarterback John Parker Wilson made a perfect pass to Kenneth Darby on a 29-yard wheel route to close the gap to 14-7 before the first quarter had ended. It was Darby's first touchdown of the year.
Just like the first two LSU drives, the third possession of the Bengal Tigers resulted in a march to a touchdown. LSU went 81 yards in 10 plays, including running for six yards on a fourth-and-one on the first play of the second quarter. Russell finished the drive with a middle screen pass to Bowe for 19 yards and the score.
In the next five minutes, Alabama gave every indication that the Crimson Tide could compete with the 12th ranked Tigers. Wilson got the drive started on a third-and-nine from the Bama 20 by connecting with D.J. Hall for a 41-yard gain to the LSU 38. The duo hooked up again for 20 yards to the LSU 18. In a departure from form, Alabama took advantage of its Red Zone presence to score a touchdown. Bama was helped by a pass interference call that gave the Tide a first down at the eight. The points came two plays later when Wilson connected with Nikita Stover. It was 21-14 after the eight-play, 80-yard drive.
Alabama's special teams are not always sound, but the Tide had the best of plays following the touchdown and Jamie Christensen extra point. Christensen made a coaching clinic-perfect onsides kick that was recovered by Jeffrey Dukes for the Tide at midfield. However, a chop block penalty killed any chance to capitalize on the opportunity.
Alabama's defense finally got the job done late in the second quarter, twice holding the Tigers to three-and-out. And it looked as if Bama might get the game tied by halftime. At least it was expected Bama would get a field goal.
But the curse of not having a good Red Zone offense would result in no score. In fact, for the second consecutive week a pass interference call in Bama's favor may have worked to keep the Tide from getting points just before halftime. A third down pass was incomplete, but LSU was guilty of pass interference inside the Tigers' 10. So instead of kicking a field goal, Bama tried another play. Wilson was sacked and fumbled and the half ended with Bama down a touchdown.
It looked like Alabama's offense was still hot when the second half started, but a holding call stopped the drive and forced a punt, giving the ball back to LSU. The Tigers hadn't had much success after their first rthree drives and wouldn't have any more success after the first possession of the second half. But on that opportunity, LSU made the play of the game to sew up the win.
Matt Collins broke through to turn a trick play into a 17-yard loss for the Tigers. But on third-and-19, LSU's Russell scrambled for a 25-yard gain to the Bama 32. Three plays later Russell connected with fullback Jacob Hester on a swing pass and Hester went 17 yards untouched to the fourth and final LSU touchdown.
Wilson kept the Tide rolling after a terrible kickoff return and penalty started Bama at its own nine-yard line. He connected with Will Oakley for 23 yards and D.J. Hall for 21 around a 10-yard Darby run and Bama was back down inside the LSU 25. But Wilson's arm was hit as he attempted to pass and an LSU interception killed the opportunity.
Alabama moved back inside the LSU 20 early in the fourth quarter, but Wilson was sacked on a third down play and Christensen missed a 38-yard field goal try.
Alabama would have the ball only one more time. On a fourth down play, Bama was willing to gamble. But an unusual non-reporting call offset a facemask penalty by LSU when punter D.J. Fitzgerald attempted a run on fourth down. Alabama then had to punt the ball away. LSU never gave it back, driving inside the Alabama 10-yard line as the game ended.
TIDE NOTES: Alabama has a 38-31-1 all-time lead in the Alabama-Auburn series, but Auburn has won four games in a row. Bama has never beaten Auburn in Tuscaloosa.
Despite the relatively poor season, Alabama could have a record-breaking day against Auburn. Receiver DJ Hall needs two yards receiving to become the second 1,000-yard receiver for Alabama in a season. He is nince catches shy of tying the Bama single season reception record. Hall caught eight passes for 142 yards against LSU. It was his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season and 10th of his career, both Tide records.
In his first season as starter, sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson is 212 yards away from an Alabama single season passing record. He is also two touchdown passes away from that mark.
Although Alabama has a substantial lead on LSU in the all-time series (43-22-5) and in games in Baton Rouge, that was the Bengal Tigers' fourth consecutive win over Bama.
Alabama usually wears its crimson jerseys at home and white on the road, but as is its wont, LSU chooses to wear white jerseys at home, putting Alabama in Crimson.
At the end of the third quarter Saturday, Alabama had 349 yards of total offense, eclipsing its game totals for 5 of its previous 10 games this season. Alabama finished with 369 yards of total offense, going over the 300-yard mark for the first time in four games. Alabama's last game of over 300 yards total offense was against Ole Miss, when it racked up 434 yards. Bama's season high is 444 yards of total offense against Louisiana-Monroe.
The 418 yards of total offense LSU gained against Bama's defense was the most given up by the Crimson Tide this year, and the first time the Tide has allowed over 400 yards of offense. Hawaii's 372 yards was the previous high.
Alabama Depth Chart Vs. LSU
By Kirk McNair
Alabama returned to its nickel package with five defensive backs and only three defensive linemen (along with three linebackers) at LSU Saturday. There were two new starters on defense with Eric Gray getting his first start at right cornerback (and Simeon Castille the nickel back) and Bobby Greenwood moving ahead of Keith Saunders at right defensive end. Also on defense, Jeremy Clark (who had suffered an ankle injury in practice) did not start at tackle. Dominic Lee, a starter when Bama is in a four-man front, got the start on the defensive line with Greenwood and end Wallace Gilberry. Rashad Johnson, who had taken over as starting safety, missed the game with a knee injury and Marcus Carter returned to the starting lineup. Although he suffered new injuries during the game, wide receiver Keith Brown got his first start in a couple of weeks after having missed playing time with a knee injury. Marlon Davis started at right guard and B.J. Stabler, who has been the starter at right guard most of the past two seasons, did not play against LSU. Stabler has been nursing a knee injury. Chris Capps started at right tackle, but left the game after only seven plays with a knee injury. Kyle Tatum, the 2004 and 2005 starter at right tackle, replaced Capps and went the rest of the way. The Southeastern Conference limits were in effect for last week's game. Visiting Alabama had only 70 men dressed, while LSU was allowed to dress 95, of which 80 were eligible for competition. This week it will be the Auburn with the 70 limit at Bryant-Denny Stadium, while Bama will be on the 95-80 plan. Alabama played 54 men against LSU. The Tide used 19 on offense, 20 on defense, and 15 just on special teams. Center Antoine Caldwell (who played three snaps at left guard), halfback Kenneth Darby, and defensive end Wallace Gilberry extended their starting streaks to 22 games, longest of any current Tide players. Defensive end Chris Harris played in his 40th game, the most by any Alabama player without a career start. Here are those who played against LSU with starters listed first and the number of plays in parenthesis. If there are two numbers, the second is the number of plays on special teams.
Split End—D. J. Hall (48-1), Nikita Stover (24)
Left Tackle—Andre Smith (64-4)
Left Guard—Justin Britt (61)
Center—Antoine Caldwell (62), Evan Cardwell (5-4)
Right Guard—Marlon Davis (64)
Right Tackle—Chris Capps (7), Kyle Tatum (57-4)
Tight End—Travis McCall (47-13), Nick Walker (5-4)
Quarterback—John Parker Wilson (64)
Halfback—Kenneth Darby (36), Jimmy Johns (13-5)
Fullback—LéRon McClain (39-13), Tim Castille (27-9)
Flanker—Keith Brown (32), Will Oakley (40), Matt Caddell (9-4)
Left End—Wallace Gilberry (32), Chris Harris (26)
Left Tackle—Jeremy Clark (29), Brandon Deaderick (13)
Right Tackle—Dominic Lee (28), J.P. Adams (22)
Right End—Bobby Greenwood (33), Keith Saunders (25)
Strongside Linebacker—Terrence Jones (56-4), Demarcus Waldrop (2-9)
Middle Linebacker— Prince Hall (48-1), Matt Collins (15)
Weakside Linebacker—Juwan Simpson (56-4), Zach Schreiber (4-4)
Left Cornerback—Ramzee Robinson (58)
Right Cornerback—Simeon Castille (58-4), Eric Gray (10-16), Lionel Mitchell (14)
Strong Safety—Jeffrey Dukes (58-6)
Safety—Marcus Carter (58-8)
Punter and Holder—P.J. Fitzgerald (4 punts, 2 field goals, 2 extra points) Snapper—Luke Spaulding (4 punts, 2 field goals, 2 extra points)
Placekicker—Jamie Christensen (3 kickoffs, 2 field goals, 2 extra points)
Coverage and Returns—Chris Rogers (7), Marquis Johnson (13), Ali Sharrief (10), Justin Woodall (3), Javier Arenas (9), Bryan Kilpatrick (8), Forress Rayford (6), Eryk Anders (2), Darren Mustin (6), Michael Johnson (4), Charles Hoke (9), Lorenzo Washington (4)
Scouting Report: Bama Must Stop Cox and Irons
By Mitch Dobbs
Auburn junior quarterback Brandon Cox (6-2, 209 pounds) enters the Alabama game on the heels of the poorest game in his career last week against Georgia, where he threw four interceptions (fear the thumb?) and had fewer passing yards (35) than Georgia had points (37). Reports from the drubbing have it that bothersome injuries – to his left ankle and right knee – affected his performance, and might do so again this week. But what would worry Auburn even more would be losing Cox. The backup at quarterback, sophomore Blake Field, has started one game and played in 10.
Senior running back Kenny Irons (5-11, 203 pounds) hasn't been what he once was either. Like Bama's Kenneth Darby, Irons' numbers have backslid from a year ago. Irons ranks third in the Southeastern Conference averaging 81.8 yards rushing per game. He has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark 11 times in his career, but in his past 10 games he has not come close to equaling the season-opening 183-yard performance against Washington State. Against Georgia, Irons rushed 10 times for 49 yards, and has also been playing with a bummed up ankle.
There's been more running back-by-committee with Irons being on the shelf at least part-time, and sophomore Brad Lester (5-11, 191 pounds) and freshman Ben Tate (5-11, 215 pounds) have taken up some of the slack in the running game, combining for a 94.2 yard per game average. Tre Smith, the 5-11, 195 pound senior who ran wild on Alabama in 2004 is also still in the backfield for the Tigers. He has 22 rushing attempts for 107 yards this season.
Senior receiver Courtney Taylor (6-2, 206 pounds) is Auburn's main receiving threat and Alabama's biggest challenge to shut down. Taylor ranks 11th in the SEC in catches per game (4.5). Taylor is the SEC's active leader in career receptions with 147 and ranks third with 2,028 career receiving yards. Taylor accounts for nearly 32 percent of Auburn's receiving yards. Sophomore Rodgeriqus (6-2, 184) is the second leading receiver, with 23 catches for 397 yards this year.
Auburn's offensive line is one of the league's most experience, with four seniors and one junior starting across the front. Center Joe Cope (6-1, 272 pounds) and left guard Ben Grubbs (6-3, 314 pounds) are all-star candidates. The line averages 307 pounds. Auburn's five offensive linemen have combined for 178 games played and 100 starts. Senior guard Ben Grubbs has played in 48 games, starting the last 36, while his counterpart at guard, senior Tim Duckworth, has played in 30 games on the offensive side, making 20 starts. Senior center Joe Cope has started 18 of his 21 career games played, while senior tackle Jonathan Palmer (44 games, 14 starts) and junior tackle King Dunlap (35 games played, 12 starts) are new to the starting lineup this year but have seen extensive action.
Auburn's defense is 11th in the NCAA in scoring defense at 13.8 points per game, has allowed 20 or more points in a game just twice this season, against Georgia (37 points) and Arkansas (27). After racking up 11 sacks against Alabama last year, Auburn replaced three starters on the defensive line this season. Ends Quentin Groves (6-4, 254 pounds, junior), Marquies Gunn (6-4, 268 pounds, senior) and Christopher Browder (6-4, 270, senior) and interior linemen Pat Sims (6-4, 304, soph.), Sen'Derrick Marks (6-2, 287, freshman) and Josh Thompson (6-0, 295, junior) have combined for 158 tackles, 37 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. Groves has team highs of 10.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, while Thompson leads all defensive linemen with 37 tackles.
Senior cornerback David Irons, who was granted a sixth-year of eligibility, is tied for fifth on the team with 37 tackles (22 solo, 15 assists) this season, including a team high 10 stops during Auburn's 24-17 victory at South Carolina Sept. 28. Irons is tied for ninth in the SEC with 10 passes defended this season (one interception, nine pass break-ups).
Will Herring, a three-year starter at free safety, moved to linebacker. Herring leads the team with 57 tackles this season, including 6.5 for losses, and shares the team lead with two interceptions plus a fumble recovery. Senior Karibi Dede, the only returning starting linebacker for Auburn this season, ranks second on the team with 48 tackles, including 29 solo stops. He also has recovered two fumbles, giving him seven for his career. Dede has started 29 games for Auburn during his career. Redshirt freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon, who made his debut vs. Florida Oct. 14, has three fumble recoveries this season and 2.5 tackles for losses.
Auburn has allowed the fewest kickoff return yards in the SEC this season and the second fewest in the nation. The Tigers have surrendered just 179 kickoff return yards in 11 games, while the next lowest total in the SEC is Mississippi State with 508 return yards – and the Bulldogs have kicked off 22 fewer times than Auburn. Kickoff man Matt Clark leads the SEC with 46 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs this season (79.3 percent).
John Vaughn is tied for second nationally with 19 field goals made (in 22 attempts) and has a field goal percentage of .864, which leads the nation among kickers with at least 20 attempts. He has two field goals this year of over 50 yards.
Tristan Davis leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 27.2 yards per return. Davis has had a return of at least 40 yards in each of his last four games played, including two returns of more than 50 yards.