Bama has to pick it up this week

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 5, 2002

The first fifteen minutes of Saturdays game against Middle Tennessee State went just as the coaches planned for Alabama.

The offense was moving at will and amassed a 22-0 lead in the first quarter.

The defense was stifling MTSU’s vaunted running back and passing game.

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Then the second quarter began.

Whatever had gone right for the Tide now went wrong, and MTSU could do no wrong.

The defense could not seem to figure out what was coming next from the Blue Raiders bag of tricks. Alabama fan James Webb was not at all complimentary of the defensive effort by the Tide.

&uot;Our biggest problem is we have the same defense as last year,&uot; referring to the often-burned secondary that returned intact this year. That was our biggest problem last year, the secondary.

The DB’s will be the downfall of Alabama.

MTSU operated out of a no-huddle offense much of the game.

This, along with direct snaps to the running back, quick hand offs, the receiver-in-motion and halfback passes, kept the defense on their heels.

Webb did concede that MTSU is a better team than most people think. &uot;Everybody looks at MTSU and thinks Alabama should beat them 52-0. Anyone who knows that team knows they are better than that.&uot;

Offensively Bama played well despite stalling in the second quarter.

Tyler Watts showed good accuracy on most of his passes and was protected well by the offensive line.

Alabama had no turnovers and several unproven receivers stepped up to make big plays.

Overall it was a good performance.

Alabama was its own worst enemy on many drives.

They tied a school record with 16 penalties.

Many either killed potential scoring drives for Bama or kept them going for MTSU.

The one positive out of this is even though they did not play especially well, they still found a way to win.

I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.

Alabama will have to play much better to win against the heavy-hitters on their schedule.

Possibly their biggest challenge this year will be this week’s opponent, Oklahoma. Oklahoma is the third ranked team in country and won the National Championship in 2000. This will be the third meeting between the two storied programs.

The first contest was the 1963 Orange Bowl.

Joe Namath and Lee Roy Jordan led Alabama to a 17-0 victory.

The second was the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl.

Scott Hunter and Johnny Musso helped Alabama battle to a 24-24 tie that year.

Overall, the two schools have 19 national championships between them.

Oklahoma’s defense is considered the best in the country with five potential All Americans on the field.

Despite this, Bucky Hinson feels Alabama has a shot at an upset. &uot;If Tyler has a perfect game and AC (Antonio Carter) is healthy and the ghost of Frank Thomas is with us, Alabama has a chance.&uot;

Not to belittle Frank Thomas but if I see any paranormal activity in Norman I hope it’s wearing a houndstooth hat.

Hinson feels Alabama will crowd the line and make them prove they can pass the ball. Their inside running game is strong.

On paper, Alabama doesn’t stand a chance, but that’s why they play the game.

I was in New Orleans in 1993 when Bama defeated Miami for the National Championship.

My wife and I were in Gainsville in 1999 when Alabama defeated Florida to break Spurrier’s 30-game home unbeaten streak in the Swamp.

We were also in Auburn last year when Alabama spanked the Tigers all over the field.

They weren’t supposed to win those either.

I’ll be in Norman on Saturday as well to help pull the Tide through.

Hopefully this will be the next great game in Alabama’s lengthy football history.