Tide Players Set Sights On State
Ironically, one player who was not on the field for Alabama in that 2006 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs is among those most looking forward to the opportunity for payback in Starkville Saturday.
MSU will host the Crimson Tide in a game to kick off shortly after 11:30 a.m. CST. The game will be telecast in selected markets in the Southeast on the Southeastern Conference's Lincoln Financial network.
One Bama player looking forward to this game more than most will be former Bulldog Jonathan Lowe, now a junior running back and kick returner for the Tide. He signed with Mississippi State out of high school, then transferred to Alabama two years ago. He sat out the mandatory year in 2006 and is a senior for Bama.
"The main thing is that I'm excited to be playing, period," Lowe said. "I'm happy to have the opportunity to try to excel and do anything possible to help my team out. I wish those guys well in everything they do, until now. It is special because it's the next game coming off a loss, but a lot of people are wondering is there any revenge? No, not really, I'm just anxious and excited to play period."
Lowe felt a bit strange in the stands last year as he watched his old team dominate his new one. "I was like ‘Wow!' I was in the stands at that game and I was thinking ‘Did I bring these guys bad luck?' Mississippi State played a great game last year they fought their tails off playing hard," said Lowe, whose father Eddie and uncle Woodrow both starred for the Tide. "We all are aware that this is going to be the same thing Saturday so we have to come out and do the same as well."
Lowe was in an unusual situation last Saturday. Coming off an ankle injury that had limited him for a few weeks, he was back not only in his kickoff return role, but was also a featured tailback in Alabama's offense against LSU. He said, "It was a big one getting back on the field against one of the best teams in the country, and trying to go out and prove to people what I am able to do, even not being a 100 per cent healthy. But a lot of people are trying to see about the Mississippi State situation, I'm just thankful to be playing right now."
As for that State game, Lowe said, "It is special because it's the next game coming off a loss, but a lot of people are wondering is there any revenge? No, not really."
Some Bama players do consider it payback time.
"Oh, it's going to get us motivated," said senior guard Justin Britt. "We've thought about it all year. Mississippi State had a great team. They came in last year and played hard. We can't let that happen again this year. We're going to have that in the back of our minds this entire week. So we'll practice a little harder and work on our accuracy a little bit better."
As for the 41-34 loss to nationally second-ranked LSU last week, Britt said, "It's hard to pull positives when you have a loss like that, when you had it in the fourth quarter and you end up losing it. There're definitely different types of positives you can pull from every Saturday. That‘s part of the game. You just have to take the positives and use them, and take them and go with it, and work with them next week. That‘s all you really can do.
But the LSU loss is tough to swallow, he said. "Extremely tough. It still is tough. We would have been in the driver's seat for the SEC West championship. So yeah it was really tough, it really was."
As for motivation this week, Britt said, "You just have to look inside yourself. You really do. That's part of being an SEC football player. I mean there's going to be ups and downs, but you've got to be able to handle it. If you're a starter for the University of Alabama, you've got to be able to handle the ups and the downs. So that's what you've got to do. You've got to be able to look inside yourself and you've got to respond."
Junior safety Rashad Johnson was injured in the first quarter of last year's Mississippi State game and only saw bits and pieces of it, but remembers how if affected the team. "It stung for awhile because it was a big game for us and losing to those guys just right down the street. They've had a chance to brag for a whole year now, so it's finally back around, so we need to take advantage of it.
"It stung for awhile because it was a big game for us and losing to those guys just right down the street. They've had a chance to brag for a whole year now, so it's finally back around, so we need to take advantage of it. I think it caused a lot of changes to happen around here. The season just changed completely. That was two games in a row and then we ended up losing the Auburn game and ended up losing the bowl game. The attitude of the players just seemed like a big downhill thing for us."
Johnson said returning Tiders should be motivated by last year's loss. "I think it does (help us). Maybe guys didn't look at Mississippi State as a team that actually could beat us last year. They looked at it as a challenge to beat us. Now that they have a great team this year, they've beaten good teams this year. They beat Auburn and a couple other good teams this year. We need to really go out and play well. We can't take this lightly."
State's freshman quarterback has caught the eye of Johnson and his teammates. (Wesley Carroll) is a good player. They have a lot of confidence in him," said Johnson, who has seen the Dogs play on TV this year. "They also make a lot of play calls where things like hitch routes or a little swing pass to the back things like that that let him get relaxed and let him get comfortable in the game before he actually starts taking shots down the field. I think that helps the quarterback a lot."
Junior linebacker Zeke Knight missed last year's game with a head injury, but remembers what he saw from the sidelines quite well. "We just have to be ready for them, they beat us last year and I think everyone has a chip on their shoulders," said Knight. "I'm just going to go out and practice like I normally do and try and focus on the mistakes I made last game, try to eliminate them and make sure I don't make the same mistakes again. I've actually watched them on television and they have a huge offensive line.
"We just have to be ready for them, they beat us last year and I think everyone has a chip on their shoulders. I'm just going to go out and practice like I normally do and try and focus on the mistakes I made last game, try to eliminate them and make sure I don't make the same mistakes again. I've actually watched them on television and they have a huge offensive line."
Senior linebacker Darren Mustin remembers 2006 vs. State well. "They dominated us on the ground. They ran it through us. I suppose that's what they're going to do again. They have a really big, great running back. So we have to strap it up and go."
Asked about payback for the loss, Mustin said, You can say payback but it's not the same players out there as last year. It's not the same team out there as last year. It's still the Crimson Tide versus the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but you try to not really think about the past. If it were the exact same people as last year and the exact same players, then it could be called payback. But this is a whole new year, a whole new season. We just want to get this win."
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