Bearden does it all

With 39 points and more than 400 yards of offense, Alabama turned in numerous big plays during Saturday's opening-game win. But none were bigger--or zanier--than Lane Bearden's underhanded flip for a two-point conversion. <br><br>"I know it didn't look great," Bearden admitted, "but it worked."

Following the Tide's second touchdown, Bearden was holding for the extra-point attempt, when something distracted him and he fumbled the snap. "I just picked the ball up and started running to my left," Bearden related. "Dre (Fulgham) really helped me out by getting into the endzone. He made himself visible. If he hadn't been where I could see him, then I'd have never scored on my own. I looked up and he was all I could see, so he made it real easy for me."

Punting, kicking off, holding for placekicks and playing safety on coverage teams, Lane Bearden pretty much does it all.

The play itself looked like something you'd see in a backyard pick-up game, but actually Bearden's roll out to the left and Fulgham drifting into the endzone is something the Tide practices every week. "We've gone over that play a few times in practice, and it was there," Bearden said. "I was looking to pass while I was running.

"But it seems like we have more time during practice."

A sore shoulder may have contributed to Bearden bobbling the snap. Earlier in the series the Tide had been forced to punt, but a roughing the kicker penalty kept the scoring drive alive. Bearden explained, "I landed on my shoulder weird. It didn't hurt me when he hit me, but when I came down it felt like I had popped my shoulder out of place. He got me in the air and twisted my leg up. I came down on my elbow and hit my shoulder.

"It was hurting pretty bad, but I knew on that one I was definitely going back in the game."

For the game Bearden averaged 46.3 yards per punt, including one downed inside the 20-yard line. "I did all right," Bearden said. "I wish I had hit that one (following a down-field penalty that forced Bearden to kick over) a little bit better. That was my only bad punt of the day. I did better than last year, but I need to quit having that one bad one every game."

Bearden played offense and defense in high school, and he's not afraid to mix it up when necessary.

In addition to his holding and punting duties, Bearden also handles kickoffs for the Tide. He's the first one to admit that he needs to improve his consistency on kickoffs, but one booming effort in the third quarter bailed his team out of trouble. Following a third-quarter touchdown that put Bama up 29-14, a personal foul on the ensuing extra point try had Bearden kicking off from his own 20-yard line.

Bearden responded by kicking the ball 70 yards in the air to the MTSU 10-yard line, and after Shaud Williams knifed between two blockers to make the tackle, the Tide had dodged a bullet. "We got backed up, and I had to help the team out on that one," Bearden said. "I knew we were going to have a hard time covering it. I basically just kicked it as hard as I could and didn't worry about where it was going.

"The coverage team was ready to go, and Shaud made a great play. He came around the end and hit the man around the 25 (yard line). He got downfield fast."

Bearden's all-around good performance was duly noted by Bama's head coach. "Lane played well today," Dennis Franchione said following the game. "Punting the football, making a crazy two-point conversion, making a tackle or two--whatever it was, Lane did well."

In the fourth quarter, Bearden had to call on his tackling skills to help the team. A former safety in high school, Bearden is more than capable of delivering a hit. Bearden explained the play. "The return man got up the sideline. He got outside our coverage a little bit. Usually, I just try and slow them down and let our guys catch him from behind. I try not to do what I did (Saturday)."

Bearden averaged 46.3 yards per punt Saturday.

Bearden made the play, pushing MTSU's ReShard Lee out of bounds and possibly saving a touchdown. But he also got his bell rung in the process. "He's a lot bigger than I was, so he won that collision," Bearden related with a laugh. "(On the sideline, the trainers) took my helmet and wouldn't let me go back."

Despite his post-game headache, Bearden actually enjoys his work covering kicks. "I played safety in high school and I also played cornerback some," he explained. "For me it wasn't real hard to learn how to play safety on kickoffs. The coaches work with us a lot during practice on taking the right angle."

"My job is to play safety--be the last line of defense," he continued. "If he's on the sidelines, then push him out of bounds. If he's in the middle of the field, then slow him up for everybody else. We actually have a real good kickoff coverage team, and I haven't had to do too much."

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