Tide turns in 'complete' game

By nature football coaches tend to be slow to praise their teams, especially during the season when progress can always be made. But following Saturdays' shutout victory over the then top-rated defensive team in the nation--not to mention the defending SEC champions--Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione was pleased.

"You might well say it was our most complete game," he acknowledged. "We had our first turnover in awhile, which probably cost us a field goal. As a coach you'd like to play every down well, but it would be hard to be too critical of our performance in Saturday's game."

Up by just six points late in the first half, Alabama took over at its own four-yard line. At that time neither team had established any dominance, and with less than two minutes to go the plan was to protect the football and run the clock out until half.

But someone forgot to let the Tide running backs and offensive line in on the plan.

Franchione explained what happened. "Once we got out to the 35 yard line and got a little breathing room, then the focus changed from milking the clock to get out of the half to trying to find a way to get in field-goal range. The players did a great job of managing the clock. We had two passes, but they were both spikes. We executed and blocked very well. The running backs did a great job of hitting the seams. We got out of bounds when we needed to. Tyler scrambled to get us down inside the five. And then the last touchdown play was well executed."

Evan Mathis (far left) was one of two Offensive Linemen of the Week. Alabama gained 300 yards rushing versus LSU.

Gaining all its yards on the ground, the Tide moved down the field quickly. And when an LSU defender hit Tyler Watts out of bounds, it set up a first and goal from the two-yard line. The next play Watts scored Bama's second touchdown--again via the run. "It was just one of those drives in a game on the road in a tough place to play," Franchione said. "I don't know if we took it as a momentum change, but we were certainly excited about getting to the locker room ahead two scores."

With Triandos Luke's two-point conversion run, the Tide took a 14-point lead into halftime. But no one was taking anything for granted. "As I preach to our players, on the road you have to expect to win the game in the fourth quarter," Franchione said. "We still had a long way to go, and we respected LSU's ability to be able to come back and score."

Noting that the offense finished up with 477 yards of offense against the Bengal Tigers' No. 1 ranked defense, Franchione praised Bama's play on both sides of the football. "Shutouts are hard to come by in football today," he said, recognizing the Tide's excellent defensive play.

Unfortunately the kicking game was another story. Several miscues troubled the Tide coach, including one embarrassing kickoff that traveled less than ten yards down the field. "I wish I could say it was going to be an on-sides kick," Franchione said. "It was intended to be what we call our kangaroo kick. We wanted to get it down around the 25 or 30 yard line and force a fair catch. Brian (Bostick) miss-hit it. The football got caught in the wind, which flipped it over sideways. It almost turned into a great on-sides kick, but no, it was not intentional."

Franchione listed the team's Players of the Week:

Pictured cleaning in the weight room, Ramzee Robinson was named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Week for his work simulating the LSU QB.

Overall Alabama's defense did a good job containing him, but the LSU quarterback, Marcus Randall, gained 54 yards on the ground to lead his team in rushing. Next Saturday, the Tide defense will face another good running quarterback in Jason Campbell. "Mobile quarterbacks are always a challenge," Franchione said. "Campbell certainly is that type player. He's got a strong arm, and he's athletic and mobile. He's a threat in more ways than one."

A scrambling quarterback capable of tucking the ball in and running for big yardage when pressured is always a threat. "You've seen Tyler (Watts) do it time and time again," Franchione said. "Sometimes the most frustrating thing is when a defense has everybody covered, you put a good rush on the quarterback, then all of a sudden he steps up, avoids the rush and gains about 15-20 yards to get a first down. That can be a frustrating moment for a defense, to do everything well but not account for that scrambling quarterback."

In addition to his regular Sunday teleconference, Franchione had a sit-down meeting with the various beat writers around the state yesterday evening to discuss next Saturday's game. As much a fan of college football as a coach, rivalry games are one of the reasons Franchione enjoys coaching at Alabama. "(Before I came here) I don't know if I ever made a list classifying just one rivalry as the best," he recalled. "I knew that (Alabama/Auburn) was--if not the best, then one of the best. There is a certain elite category of great rivalries. This one might be at the top of that list.

"You only think of a few: Michigan/Ohio State, Texas/Oklahoma, Texas/Texas A&M, Florida State/Florida, USC/UCLA. There are only a handful that stick out in your mind. If (the Alabama/Auburn game) is not the top rivalry in the nation, I'd be very interested in seeing one that deserves to be more than this one."

Defensive lineman Kyle Tatum was a Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week.

Before last season's game, there was much talk among rival fans that Franchione simply did not understand the pressure involved with Alabama/Auburn. Of course that talk died out after 31-7.

Asked to assess how important that victory was toward solidifying his position with the Alabama fans, Franchione declined. "I can't answer how far last year's game went, but it is one of those games where the fans had a lot of discussion about wherever I went last winter. Fans talk about the game one way or another, so fortunately we were able to win.

"It's certainly one of the games on our schedule that our fans point to, like it should be as a great rivalry game."

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