Maze Strikes Big; Tide Defense Stuffs Mallett
Mallett was harassed all day by both the Tide defense and its fans in the stands. He was sacked three times (two by Javier Arenas and one by Eryk Anders), and hurried eight others.
"That's a goal as a defense: to confuse the quarterback," said Anders, who had to play both his normal Jack linebacker and the Sam position due to a knee injure suffered by Donta' Hightower.
Said Anders, "I'd practiced some at the Sam (strongside linebacker), but I've got a lot of work to do there." He did OK Saturday, with three tackles (two for losses of 22 yards), the sack and a pass break-up.
"On the sack, the left tackle split wide and I just went around him and got to the quarterback," Anders said.
The injury to Hightower accounted for some sliding around of Tide defenders. Cory Reamer moved from his normal Sam linebacker to the Will (weak side) normally played by Hightower. Anders went to the Sam, and backup Courtney Upshaw played the Jack, Bama's hybrid defensive end /linebacker spot. No matter what the Tide tried, it seemed to work against the strong-armed Mallett.
"Some of best pressures we got were edge pressures," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "Some of the things we did today were not conventional. We used a lot of different looks today. "Making (Mallett) feel uncomfortable was probably a key to it." Anders had plenty of help from his defensive mates. Safety Mark Barron led the Tide with seven stops, while Arenas, fellow cornerback Kareem Jackson, and middle linebacker Rolando McClain had five each. Safety Justin Woodall added four, including the afore-mentioned pick. Barron had two break-ups, as did Jackson.
Then, there were the fans, who braved fierce pre-game Tuscaloosa storms to nearly fill the stadium for a second straight week. Saban noticed, and so did Mallett.
"I challenged our fans Thursday night on my radio show to come out and affect the other team's offense, and they did that, " said Saban. The Hogs had to burn timeouts at least twice and were whistled for a total of 98 yards in penalties, many on false starts when receivers like Greg Childs were unable to hear Mallett's count and jumped.
"The louder they are, the harder it is for the offense," said Anders.
Said Mallett, "We just didn't execute. That hurt us and you can see that throughout the whole game. We have to execute." "They didn't confuse us, but they brought pressure. They brought some pressures that we hadn't seen. We need to go look at that on film and see what we did wrong."
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was unhappy with Mallett's play. "He didn't see things see things like he saw in the previous two games. You can't take anything away from their defense, because they are very good. They do a nice job of disguising and hitting the blitzes when they're supposed to, but he's very capable of playing a lot better than that."
Offensively, the Tide went to airwaves for 291 of it's 425 total yards. Bama had scoring plays of 52, 50 and 80 yards, the latter a quick answer to the only score by the Hogs of the day. When again stellar quarterback Greg McElroy called a hitch and go to speedy Marquis Maze, the red shirt sophomore was ready, and his eyes lit up before Bama broke the huddle.
"When they call any deep route, I'm pumped. I'm excited. I started to lick my chops.
"It was a stutter. A stop-and-go. Once I went eight yards and stopped, and I saw the corner bite up on the stop route, I just used my speed and caught the ball. I just to open, and made the play. I'm supposed to make those plays. I was just happy it came at the right time, and it blew the game open."
That it did. Maze is part of a receiving corp that includes the now healed Julio Jones (2 grabs, 65 yards) and Darius Hanks, and it appears McElroy has equal faith in all his receivers. "Greg's got faith in all of us. He's really a great quarterback. He‘s probably going to be one of the best quarterbacks to every play here. He‘s a standup guy."
The "standup guy" finished another solid game17-for-24 passing for 291 yards and a career-high tying three scores. And it could have been better, had UA not had a trio of first-half drops.
Bama will now prepare for a trip the Bluegrass of Lexington, Ky, where the home-standing Wildcats are coming off a beating by Florida. Kickoff on SEC-TV is set for 11:21 a.m. CST.
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