Everyone Agrees Arenas Changed "Mo"
Javier Arenas' 46-yard punt return to the Mississippi State two set up Alabama's first offensive touchdown vs. MSU since 2004, a 1-yard sneak by John Parker Wilson, that gave Bama 12-7 lead it would not relinquish. Later, the junior took a punt back 80 yards to "the house" to extend the lead to 19-7.
"My teammates set up it up nicely. The blocks were there and all I had to do was run," said Arenas. "I was able to get comfortable back there and relax and use the blocks that were there for me.
"We had people prove tonight the importance of the special teams. We were able to put together some nice returns and that kept us in the game tonight. Its proof that we‘re a capable team, and it instills faith."
In the third quarter, Arenas struck again, taking a punt back 80 yards to give his team a 19-7 cushion.
"We gave up 16 points in the kicking game, and that's pretty much the ball game.," said MSU coach Sylvester Croom, as he also referenced a blocked punt for a safety by Bama's Kareem Jackson.
"Special teams were big," said junior linebacker Cory Reamer. "We got that big return by Javy that put us up seven more points, and definitely helped us finish the game."
"Coach (Nick Saban) always talks about the three phases of the game and we needed to win the special teams phase to be successful," said senior safety Rashad Johnson, who himself downed a pair of punts at the 2. " We were able to do a good job at all aspects of special teams and that gave us a big boost.
"(Arenas) is a special weapon for us. He's fun to watch, as well. Coach Saban talks about it all the time: this guy is a game changer, and he can do it at any point. That's why we stress (special teams) so much at practice, because we know the ability we have to change the game, or put a game away, any time he gets the ball in his hands."
Both starting quarterbacks in the game were impressed with Arenas' performance.
"Javier Arenas is a playmaker and everyone in the country knows that," said the Bulldogs' Tyson Lee. "We knew that coming into the game and he made some big plays tonight. When those things happen, we have to realize we have to go back on offense and make plays to counter what they do. You can't take anything away from a playmaker and he did that tonight."
Bama's John Parker Wilson seems to never tire of watching his teammate return kicks. "It seem like every time he catches the ball, he's probably going to take it back," Wilson said. "He's fun to watch. He got us down there inside the 5 one time and then scored another time. He's helping our offense out, a lot."
Said running back Glen Coffee: "We needed that. For our special teams to come through like that when we're not clicking on offense is big. (Arenas) came through big, and at the right time. He's just a great weapon for us to have, and for him to come through like that, is big. He's a great player."
"Javy is incredible," said junior guard Mike Johnson. "We all know what kind of job he can do returning the ball in the fashion that he did, and with the ability that he's shown . When he gets his hands on the ball, we all get excited, and he was just able to pull through for us and change the game tonight."
"We didn't execute tonight, especially on special teams," said MSU linebacker Dominic Douglas. "They ran one back on special teams and scored on offense. There were a lot of miscues and we just didn't execute tonight."
Croom, who had beaten his alma mater two years straight coming in to the game, was all class during his post-game press conference. "I want to congratulate Coach Saban and the Alabama team. They're undefeated, and we wish them luck the rest of the season.," he said.
Alabama has a bye week during which it will both rest and begin preparations at an attempt to snap another streak, the six straight Iron Bowl wins by rival Auburn, who visits Bryant-Denny Stadium Nov. 29.
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