Tide Knows About Third Saturday In October
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson knows his team is in for a war against the deeper, more talented Vols of Coach Phil Fulmer. "Tennessee's always got pretty good players," he said. "We know they're going to play us tough. It's going to be a tough game, and we know that. We've got all week to prepare for it. It's all about how we come to practice. It's a big game. I would be lying if I said it wasn't. It's a big game for us definitely. I think it's a big point in the season as well.
"We're not going to get too caught up in (pre-game hype)," Wilson added. "It's good for the fans. We're just going to come out, and take it like it's another game, really come to work this week, and try to come out on top. We're going to prepare the same way, and do what we've been doing. Work on the little things."
Regarding Alabama's offense in the Tide's 27-24 win over Ole Miss last week, Wilson said, "I think that we've gotten better every week. We are right on the edge of being great. We want to make the jump and really become a great offense. We have the talent and we have the scheme. We just have to make that commitment and get there. We knew we were moving the ball well. We were taking care of it. That's what we have to do. Move the ball. Stay in drives and just keep our defense on the field if we want to win. I think it was better execution. We weren't perfect. We had a couple slip-ups but we really need to work hard today and correct those. I think we have a good chance to play pretty well."
Alabama has had a number of close games this season. Wilson said, "We prepare the same–just like we've been doing. We just have to work on the little things to get better. We've had a couple close ones on offense and a couple big stances late on defense. The whole team is getting involved in it. Everyone knows what it takes and knows what we have to do to win those close games."
Two Tiders who won't need much motivation this week are Baron Huber and Darren Mustin, who both hail from Tennessee. "I think (Huber) is gong to be pumping us up this week more than anybody else," said Wilson. "I think he's ready to go. He's a good leader for our offense. He keeps everybody positive. He really helps out a lot."
Huber, a sophomore fullback, is a Knoxville native, but was not offered a scholarship by Fulmer and the Vols. He says most of his family wore the orange his entire life until he signed with Alabama. "My family is all Alabama fans now except for one uncle. We tried to get him to convert over. He'll wear a Tennessee shirt and an Alabama hat. He'll still cheer for orange every once in a while"
Huber knows all about the storied series between the Tide and Vols, having watched many a third Saturday clash. "Since I can remember I haven't missed one," he said. " I always went to the game in Knoxville. The first game I came to Tuscaloosa was in 2003 when it was the five-overtime game. It's always been a big game to me. I can remember the first time Tennessee beat Alabama, I was at my great grandmother's house. Peyton Manning came (to Birmingham) and they won 41-14. That was the first time I ever saw Alabama lose. I was 11 years old."
Mustin, a senior linebacker from Brentwood, would like to finish his Bama career with at least one win over the home-state school that passed him over for a scholarship offer. ""All the games are big to me. This game is a little something different," he said. "I know more players from Tennessee and you tend to want to beat the players you know. My family is from Tennessee. I really don't want to lose this game because my sister went to UT and I don't want to hear it from her.
"You walk down the halls (of the Alabama football offices), and you see paintings that are hung from the UT game of people who make these big-time plays," continued Mustin, who has 32 tackles this year despite missing the Georgia game with an injury. "That kind of thing immortalizes them because they're in a painting. I'm just going to go out and work hard this week in practice and try and get better so we can win the game on Saturday. If we win the game, that's going to go down in history longer than me." Mustin walked on at Alabama after two years on scholarship at Middle Tennessee State. He earned a Bama scholarship just prior to this, his senior season.
On his opinion if at this point in the season it's time to separate the teams, Mustin said, "It's the time of the year where the teams that are supposed to be great, come out and play great and the ones that aren't, start lacking. We do not want to start lacking. We need to put the pedal to the metal and get to work. It's not a time to coast. Like coach said, when you coast, you go downhill, and we can't coast. We have to try and fight and go up hill. We've got to do all we can to get better every day."
The always talkative Wallace Gilberry would like to add to his career win total against U-T, and knows the recent record during his four years at The Capstone. "We've only beaten them once. It definitely means a lot," said Gilberry, who has four sacks in the last two games. "There is definitely some tradition there. Coach Fulmer and those guys whenever we play them it's a very physical game. I'm expecting nothing less. It's always been close. Last year up there the game got away from us in the second half. We've been playing them close for the last couple of years. It's an SEC battle. It's in our conference and both of the programs need it."
Regarding the Tennessee offense, Gilberry said, "It poses a big challenge. Their offense gives up few sacks. (U-T quarterback) Erik Ainge is a guy who definitely can get the ball away before he goes down and not have an intentional grounding. They are a very well put together unit."
Gilberry was asked about the play of fellow defensive star Rashad Johnson, Alabama's safety. He said, "He is a guy who has been overlooked. Not just this year but last year too. He is a guy who walked on. I don't see how he is a walk-on. He and I kind of connect on a personal level ever since he's been here. You can definitely count on him. He's an athlete. He played the running back position well but he's definitely a defensive guy. He really has a knack for hitting you and he definitely has great hands. You can tell who the athletes are and who aren't and he sticks out in a crowd."
Comments from other Tide players Monday:
Senior wide receiver Matt Caddell:
On the Tennessee-Alabama game
"The Tennessee game is always a special game. It's one of the biggest out-of-state rivalries, but in other ways it seems like whenever any other SEC school plays Alabama it's a rivalry. It's such a tradition that it being the third weekend in October it gets the fans riled up, and Alabama fans always want to beat Tennessee and Auburn."
On getting open on the field
"Basically just executing the play properly and [John Parker Wilson] was doing a good job on putting the ball where it needs to be. I was finding spots to get open and just catching the ball and turning up field."
Junior offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell br>
On Tennessee's defense br>
"I tip my hat to them. Their defense is probably the best we're going to play so far. I've watched them a lot. We have just got to make sure we are the most mentally prepared that we've been all year. I know how physical and how big this game is. I've played through two Tennessee games already, so I know this game is going to mean a lot to us and to Alabama football." br>
On Rashad Johnson br>
"He has come in and worked so hard. He won't let any obstacle stand in his way. He works hard and he is at the front of anything we do. He shows up and does what he's supposed to do. Right now, he's playing like an All-American. He honestly is. He comes in everyday and is a leader for our defense. He's probably one of the best-playing defensive players we've got on our team right now. He's just been doing a wonderful job for us this season, and I tip my hat to what kind of guy he is and as a leader."
Redshirt freshman running back Terry Grant
On confidence in winning close games
"We've proven we can win games when they're close. We just have to take advantage of when we're up and we've got to learn to stay up as a team and stop letting people come back. It's been making my heart jump out of my chest for the past couple of weeks. We don‘t like it but everything happens for a reason so it‘s a lesson learned."
The Tide and Tennessee will kick off at 11:34 a.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bama enters the game 5-2, 3-1 in the SEC, while the Vols are 4-2, 2-1. The game will be televised by the SEC's Lincoln Financial network.
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