Nothing But Ball

Nothing but ball. That's the way Alabama Interim Head Football Coach Joe Kines described this week of practice, which he also termed "the most critical six days of the deal." "The deal" is preparing the Crimson Tide for the Independence Bowl ten days hence, and the six days are those practices in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama will play Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport on December 28. The game will be telecast by ESPN with a 3:30 p.m. CST kickoff. Both Alabama and Oklahoma State were 6-6 in regular season play. It will be the first football meeting between the two teams.

Alabama completed final examinations last Friday and had its first full bowl practice Saturday. Bama will continue to work in Tuscaloosa through this Friday.

"We had to juggle around the exams (for three workouts)," Kines said. "Now that's done and it's nothing but ball. We meet in the morning, we practice, and we watch tape."

The Crimson Tide went through a two-hour practice in full gear Monday. "I was real proud of them," Kines said. "They hit hard. We finished with another crisp scrimmage. My hats off to them. They have hung in there. Thank goodness for the seniors. This will be the third straight bowl game they have been to. That helps you learn how to prepare for a bowl."

He said the players and coaches would watch tapes of the practice later Monday. Then on Tuesday, he said, "We'll go out and try to do it again."

Kines said the team being fresh has helped. "Time heals all," he said. "Linemen, particularly get beat up and sore. Getting fresh helps a lot and we're going to try to keep them that way. That crisp hitting like we had today comes from being fresh."

Bowl preparation means additional time to prepare for an opponent. But, Kines said, "You can look at it too much. On a regular week you have about three days to get it together. We have a lot of time now to look at it, but we don't want to try to do too much. We don't want to reinvent the wheel in the last 15 days of the season.

"It still comes down to blocking and tackling that wins."

Kines said that Alabama will have its game plan completed before the team finishes work this week. "That's always the case," he said. When Alabama arrives in Shreveport, the Tide will have three practices, the equivalent of Wednesday and Thursday practices and a Friday walk-through (even though the actual days will be Monday-Wednesday).

"Even when we were in Dallas for a week last year (for the Cotton Bowl) we had it all in before we left because there are so many events when you get to the bowl site," Kines said.

Alabama's practices have been in near-perfect conditions with temperatures in the 70s and the outlook is for continued mild weather through this week. "This time last year we were trying to decide if we didn't need to go into the barn," Kines said, pointing to the Tide's indoor practice facility. "I was voting for inside. Now we're over-dressed. it doesn't get much better than this."

While final examinations are over, the results of those exams are not yet fully known. "I don't think we have any surprises," Kines said, "but grades won't be posted until Tuesday. We had a couple of guys who were borderline and they made it. For their sakes, we're hoping and praying that all of them made it."

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