"I think Arkansas is still a darn good team."
Tide fans are still crowing over the beating Bama put on the Razorbacks, but Franchione is already looking ahead. "All glory is fleeting, and we must prepare this week just as much as we did the previous weeks," was how he put it. "Perhaps after we get through (the Georgia) game and to the open week, I can spend more time thinking about how good this team is. But we've got a tough schedule ahead of us, starting this week with a highly ranked team."
To hear Razorback fans and media tell it, Alabama should have been lucky to escape from Fayetteville alive. But the Tide was dominant along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, leading to a almost-easy win. "Our offensive and defensive lines are certainly the starting point for what is carrying our football team," Franchione said. "Our offensive linemen are very prideful and very confident. That 550 yards of offense (against Arkansas) has certainly got to be a tribute to those guys. They're very prideful about what they're trying to accomplish. It's been a very remarkable job that (O-Line) Coach Helduser and our offensive coaches have done in putting our guys in a position to do well."
Both Santonio Beard and Shaud Williams rushed for more than 100 yards versus Arkansas. "Certainly the play of our tailbacks is partly the offensive line's credit," Franchione said. "Out of our three tailbacks, I think we got about 260 yards rushing. The backs are the ones that make five-yard gains into bigger gains. They've done a nice job."
Once again Bama's offensive numbers were remarkably close. The Tide gained 267 yards on the ground and 285 via the pass. "We had pretty good balance," Franchione acknowledged. "We had seven run explosives and six pass explosives. At one time Arkansas closed to 17-10, and we immediately answered and made it 20-10."
Franchione had special praise for the Tide defense, noting that their dominating play the last several games allows him to take more chances than he has in the past. He explained, "When you have that type defense, then you can be more aggressive offensively at certain times. You know that if there are consequences, then the defense still has a chance to bail you out.
"(Saturday) we had a short punt. Arkansas took over on about our 25-yard line, and then the first or second play we get an interception and run it back and put it on their 20-yard line. When a defense can and does make plays like that, you know that you can do some things in other aspects of the game and still keep the game plan tied together well."
Franchione has a policy against commenting on in-season injuries unless they are season-ending, and unfortunately that looks to be the case with senior punter Lane Bearden. Franchione said that they would know his status for certain, following an MRI. He then went on to praise Bearden's versatility and value to the team.
Franchione named the Players of the Week at the various positions:
- Offensive Line: Wesley Britt and Justin Smiley.
- Offensive backs: Santonio Beard, Brodie Croyle and Shaud Williams
- Special Teams: David Scott
- Defensive linemen: Jarret Johnson and Derrick Pope
- Defensive back: Gerald Dixon
- Offensive scout team: Josh Smith, Ramzee Robinson, Dennis DuBois, David Stakely
- Defensive scout team: Juwan Garth, David Simmons, Chris Harris, Rafael Tyrus, Corbin Pardue
Strong tackle Wesley Britt played Saturday, despite a death in his family. And the sophomore turned in an outstanding performance. "Wesley had 65 snaps and 61 plusses," Franchione noted. "And that doesn't happen very often."
For the third game in a row, redshirt freshman Charlie Peprah started at cornerback. But former starter Hirchel Bolden provided valuable minutes off the bench. "Hirchel Bolden came back and played very well for us," Franchione said. "Charlie Peprah had a little bit of a problem, and Hirchel came in and did a nice job. We were very pleased with that. We said before that we haven't lost faith in Hirchel. He played 31 snaps, and he got 31 plusses last night. That's pretty darned good.
"And Gerald Dixon is another senior cornerback that played very well. He graded in the 90s, which is very difficult at his position."
When asked if he worried over Bama's below-average completion percentage the last two games, Franchione scoffed at the idea. "I don't worry about statistics much," he stated. "Statistics are for analysis of what you're doing good and what you can do better. I understand stats much deeper than the paper that they're written on sometimes. The only stat that really matters to me is a W."
Starting center Alonzo Ephraim strained his knee in Saturday's game, but backup J.B. Closner came in to play very well. If Ephraim is unable to play this Saturday, it's possible that the Tide could juggle the lineup somewhat. But nothing has been decided yet. Franchione commented, "I'm not sure at this point. I know that J.B. went in (Saturday) and played 22 snaps and graded out pretty well. We were really proud of the way he responded. There are a number of guys that came in and responded for us."
Saturday's win pushed Bama's record to 4-1, and for the first time this season the Tide entered the Associated Press poll, currently ranked No. 22. "It is something to shoot for," Franchione acknowledged. "I don't know if polls take on more significance, but it certainly is something that the players can point to a little bit."
Next up for Alabama is sixth-ranked Georgia. The Bulldogs will bring a high-powered offense and a talented defense to Bryant-Denny. "Georgia's defense appears to be a very solid unit," Franchione said. "They've got great linebackers and a good front that's very active. They are a very solid defense."