Much to gain in Saturday's game

It is no secret that most will be expecting Oklahoma, ranked second in the nation, to defeat Alabama, unranked, when the Sooners host the Crimson Tide at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Norman. Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione, like every football coach in the nation, is not interested in talking about losing.

But he did concede that Alabama is in a position to gain from playing well. The question came in response to Franchione Tuesday saying that this game is one which can be a "measuring stick" for where the Alabama program is.

"It's hard to ever accept losing as being good, and we're not into moral victories," Franchione said. "Obviously, winning takes care of everything in this situation. When it's over, if we've won, then we've obviously made a gain. If we play well and stay with Oklahoma, then I would say we are on track. They are one of the top five teams in the nation, may be number one at the end of the year according to some. So you could say an upside is possible."

Franchione was pleased with Alabama's practice, about a two-hour workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts and which ended in rain. He said that Tuesday's work had been a typical Tuesday, a full gear, hard workout, "a grind." He said it is a challenge to get a team's game plan in for a second game because there is limited time. After the team gets into the routine of playing Saturday and having to have a new plan in for practice the next week it is less a problem.

Without mentioning names, the head coach indicated defensive tackle Kenny King would be ready to play against Oklahoma. King left last week's game with an apparent shoulder injury. Wednesday Franchione said he did not expect any changes in Alabama's starting line-ups on offense or defense Saturday, but said there would be some new faces on Crimson Tide special teams. Kickoff coverage was particularly poor in Bama's opening game, a 39-34 win over Middle Tennessee.

"Their kicking game concerns us," Franchione said of the Sooners, adding, "Our kicking game concerns us, for that matter." He said Oklahoma had scored four touchdowns by special teams in the Sooners' last 13 games. Oklahoma has a particularly fine return man in Antonio Perkins, who returned a punt for a touchdown last week. "It is critical to have hang time and coverage," Franchione said.

The Tide coach indicated his confidence in placekicker Michael Ziifle. Ziifle, who won the job just days before the opener last week, kicked four extra points and a clutch 28-yard field goal in that opening game. Franchione said he thinks Ziifle "has good demeanor to handle the pressure. Neal Thomas (Alabama's kicker the past two years) had that. Mike is not wide-eyed. I think he relishes it."

Alabama has one player­-A-Back Shaud Williams­-who has played against Oklahoma. Williams is a transfer from Texas Tech. His Red Raiders teams went 1-1 against the Sooners. Williams was not prominent in the offense against MTSU last week, and Franchione was coy as to how much Williams might figure into Alabama's offense against Oklahoma. "We are always aware of Shaud and what he can do," Franchione said. "We have a broad-based game plan and he is a part of it. But there are a lot of parts to it."

Alabama's tackle leader last week was rover Brooks Daniels, who was credited with 10 solo stops and six assists. Franchione said, "In our defense, he's going to be in position to make a lot of tackles. And he's a good player who is fast and has good instincts."


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