Francione had stuck with his starting quarterback through a disappointing 4-5 start to his tenure in Tuscaloosa and would have gone with Watts Saturday if he had been healthy. But he wasn't and Francione was forced to start the senior, which turned out not to be a bad option at all.
A lot of credit will go to Francione for the win, but if he deserves any for his team's 31-7 victory, it should be for finally recognizing Zow's strengths and constructing his game-plan around those. And to Auburn's dismay, Francione did just that and the results were astounding as Zow and the Tide embarrassed the Tigers' defense to the tune of 549 yards of total offense and kept Alabama's bowl hopes alive.
Zow completed 22-of-29 passes (76 percent) for 221 yards and two touchdowns and became the Tide's all-time leading passer with 5,694 yards in just 23 career starts. Maybe more important than his impressive stats, was Zow's ability to make things happen when plays broke down. On a third and nine with less than a minute to go in the first half, Zow scrambled right, avoided the Tiger rush and as he was being pushed to the ground he flung a 45-yard sidearm pass to a streaking Jason McAddley for a go-ahead touchdown.
"It was a great play by Andrew," McAddley said. "He was getting hit and falling down, the defense jumped up and I was wide open. He threw a great ball to me and hit me right on stride for an easy touchdown." That play gave the Tide a 14-7 lead and Francione said it swung the momentum for the remainder of the game.
"It looked like Andrew did his best impersonation of Dan Quisenberry (former sidearm relief pitcher for the Kansas City Royals)," said Francione, who grew up in Kansas. "Only Andrew could have made that play."
Alabama quarterback Andrew Zow helped lead the Tide to 549 yards of total offense.
Alabama opened the second half with Zow hitting receiver Freddie Milons for a 27-yard gain then on the next play Santonio Beard took a handoff 53 yards for a touchdown. Francione said his signal caller executed the Tide's plan perfectly. "The whole game plan focused on Andrew," the Tide coach added. "Had Tyler played, we would have changed a few things, but this one was tailor-made for Andrew Zow."
Zow said the win makes up for spending so much of his final season watching instead of playing. "It makes up for a lot," he said. "I can't make up for the time, but as for the feelings and things like that it makes up for that."
Former Alabama quarterback Joe Namath, who was in attendance Saturday night, said it was a gutty performance from Zow. "He had to give every ounce he had," Namath said. "It was absolutely marvelous...It was clearly a team win, but Andrew played one of the best games I have ever seen."
Zow has started all four games in his career against the Tigers and in those games is 3-1 and has completed 62-of-101 passes for 591 yards and three touchdowns. "For me not to play much during the season, but to come and play in this, it feels great," Zow said. "I'm just happy I could get out there and and help my team the best way I can."
With his performance Saturday vs. the Tigers, Zow has now made Francione's job for the last two weeks of the season not so easy. The head coach has a big decision to make as to who will start the Tide's pivotal game with Southern Miss on Nov. 29. Of course, his decision might be easy again if Watts is not healthy and for a coach who many have second-guessed throughout the season that might just be the best case scenario.