With rain pouring down 90 minutes before the scrimmage at Tiger Stadium, head coach Nick Saban told his team they were going through with their mock game regardless of the weather in order to prepare for conditions they could face sometime in the 2002 season.
The players set an early tone for the practice, getting down and dirty in during pre-practice calisthenics. By the time they were done with the quick set of up-downs, push-ups and sit-ups, they were soaked and muddy.
"Nobody complained so we let them do it," said Saban. "So they all got nice and soaked, kinda like when you were a kid and you'd go out and play in the mud. You throw the ball, dive to catch it and look down to see how muddy you are. They all got like that early, and they were happy about it. And I was happy for them because I love it too."
The one aspect of the scrimmage adversely affected by the wet conditions was special teams play, according to Saban. Snappers, holders, kickers and returners struggled at times, but Saban said he was not disappointed in their effort or that of the rest of the team.
"I was really pleased with the progress that we made in the scrimmage," he said. "Both first units executed much better today. Our first defense was pretty good when they were out there. The first offense made some big plays and moved the ball."
The scrimmage was the first for No. 2 quarterback Marcus Randall, who missed the first while continuing to nurse the repaired ACL in his left knee. He took part in approximately 50 plays and completed 16 of 35 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown. His scoring toss went to running back Joseph Addai for 73 yards, and he was also responsible for another drive that ended with a 45-yard field goal by John Corbello.
Starting quarterback Matt Mauck was 12-of-26 for 163 yards and one touchdown, leading the No. 1 offense to touchdowns on its first two possessions. LaBrandon Toefield that capped a 9-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard plunge, while Mauck threw to Bennie Brazell for a 46-yard touchdown on a 5-play, 62-yard drive.
"Both Matt and Marcus had there moments when they made some really good decisions today and minimized their bad plays in terms of not throwing interceptions," said Saban.
Addai was the top rusher and receiver in the scrimmage, totaling 45 yards on seven carries and 100 yards on five catches. The Tigers' top two tailbacks, LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis, saw limited carries but were still effective, said Saban.
The defensive highlights of the scrimmage included Chad White intercepting a Rick Clausen pass and returning it 59-yards for a touchdown. Adrian Mayes picked up a bobbled snap and took it 67 yards for another score.
Cameron Vaughn led the defense with six tackles and one fumble recovery, and linebacker Bradie James totaled five tackles and one sack.
Compared to the first scrimmage held last Saturday, Saban said the offense played with more consistency. But he noted his disappointment in some of the second unit players who were still not playing up to their potential.
"It's amazing to me that when you put a guy with the first team, he plays better," Saban explained. "When you put him back on the second team, even in the same scrimmage, he doesn't play as well. I think it's something to do with mental intensity, the way he sees himself, the confidence that he plays with.
"We need more guys to act, feel, look and perform like guys who are starters."
Saban announced that the Tigers picked Bradie James and Toefield as their team captains for 2002. Davis, Mauck and Kenderick Allen also received a number of votes and will alternate as the third captain throughout the season.
"I'm pleased with the leadership on the team," said Saban, "but I'm very pleased with the way team recognized the leadership."
Allen, who returned to practice Tuesday after missing the first two weeks, did not scrimmage Thursday. Saban said he would have to be "weaned back into football shape" following his successful rehabilitation from a torn left patellar tendon. Allen has practiced in light gear the last two days.
Saban said he would not rule out having Allen or Randall available for the Virginia Tech game just yet, but he did note that Randall was further ahead of Allen in regards to being put back in action since he has practiced more through August.
There were no injuries reported from the scrimmage, although Saban noted that defensive end Marquise Hill was held out as a precaution after suffering cramps Wednesday night.
Free safety Damien James (shoulder) and cornerback Demetrius Hookfin (shoulder) both took part in the scrimmage wearing no-contact jerseys.
A closer look at the videotape from the scrimmage will allow Saban to determine the 22 players he will turn to as starters and primary reserves. The coach noted that there are still a few spots in that number up for grabs, and some players will need to assert themselves in order to help the team.
"We're a little thinner now depth-wise than we were a year ago," said Saban. "We need to have more younger players come through for us right now based upon their development and where they are, so that in a few weeks if we need them to play they will be a lot more mature about being able to assume the responsibility to do it."
Statistics from fall scrimmage No. 2
Rushing (No. Yards TD) Joseph Addai 7 45 1; Domanick Davis 4 27 0; Chris Vincent 6 19 0; Ryan Gilbert 6 18 0; LaBrandon Toefield 6 14 1
Passing (Att. Comp. Yards TD Int.) Marcus Randall 35 16 248 1 0; Matt Mauck 26 12 163 1 0; Rick Clausen 5 2 11 0 1
Receiving (Rec. Yards TD) Joseph Addai 5 100 1; Michael Clayton 4 51 0; Blain Bech 4 44 0; Demetri Robinson 3 52 0; Shyrone Carey 2 23 0; Bennie Brazell 1 46 1
Punting (No. Yards Avg.) Donnie Jones 7 311 44.4
Field Goals John Corbello 2 of 3, made 42, 45; missed 39