The Real Hurt For Darren Mustin

Darren Mustin spent the second half of Alabama's 41-38 win over Arkansas in agony. Part of it was because he had suffered a neck injury late in the second quarter. But what really hurt was not being able to get back in the game.

Senior Alabama linebacker Darren Mustin said that his neck hurt after he was hit by a teammate while making a tackle on Arkansas star tailback Darren McFadden. "Not going back in hurt more," he said.

"They took me to the dressing room to check everything out, and then they stole my helmet and shoulder pads so I couldn't go back in," he said.

Nevertheless, on Monday at his press briefing, Alabama Coach Nick Saban announced that Mustin had been chosen by the coaching staff as one of the weekly award winners, co-defensive player of the week.

"Uh uh," Mustin said when sportswriters told him about the award. "That had to go to Keith Saunders."

Mustin was obviously paying attention to Saturday night's game. Saunders, too, was cited by Saban as a defensive player of the week.

"I saw Keith go down," Mustin said of Saunders' being injured late in the game. "I said, ‘Uh uh, brother, don't come out of the game. They won't let you go back in.' "

In his brief time against Arkansas, Mustin had five tackles, including one for a loss, and also had an interception that set up the Tide's first score in the opening quarter. He is tied for second on the team in tackles after racking up 18 in the first three games of the season.

Mustin said he had been cleared to practice and would be ready to go Saturday when the Tide hosts Georgia.

Mustin is a senior and first-year starter playing at weakside linebacker, or Will, one of two inside linebacker positions.

The other inside linebacker spot, Mike or middle linebacker, has true freshman Rolando McClain starting. Saban has given credit to Mustin for helping McClain. Mustin said they help one another.

"I tell ‘Ro' to keep me calmed down because I tend to get a little crazy," Mustin said. "And I try to tip him off on what to expect.

"I am proud of ‘Ro.' He is a true freshman and just turned 18 and is handling all of the things that go with being a middle linebacker. I've got a little brother who just turned 18 and I wouldn't trust him with that responsibility. You can put it down. ‘Ro' is going to be one of those great players. He's got a big job. I'm proud of that young man."

Mustin said he wasn't sure how he was injured, but he has an idea. "Our goal was to hit McFadden as much as we could, because he's so great," Mustin said. "He's 6-3 and 222 pounds and he is a solid boy. It was an experience to hit him. I was tackling him and someone else was coming in to hit him and finish it off and I guess they missed him and hit me.

"It feels good to beat a team that has Darren McFadden."

Mustin said, "I didn't win it. After I hurt my neck I was a cheerleader. But I'm proud of the guys who did win it.

"I was proud of the offense and the defense and the special teams. I was really happy for (placekicker) Leigh Tiffin. He got redemption."

Mustin said that Alabama gave up a lot of points and a lot of yards. "I guess it wasn't pretty," he said, "but everyone will take an ugly win over a pretty loss."

Mustin said that games are won in the work that is done in preparation. "We've got to keep working," he said. "Coach Saban says you can't coast; when you coast you're going downhill. We've got to get better."

Mustin said that Georgia brings excellent running backs to Saturday's game. "Everyone has good backs and their backs are excellent," he said. "They hit the hole fast."

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