WKU football blog: What they’re saying

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Thoughts from Tuscaloosa

I exchanged e-mails this week with Alabama football beat writer Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press-Register in Mobile, Ala.

By doing so, I was able to get a take on Saturday’s game from a new perspective.

Q: After such an outstanding week one performance, has a rather lackluster showing against Tulane last week lessened the buzz in Tuscaloosa?

A: A little bit. I think people were more surprised than anything, and that includes the players. In all fairness, this was Tulane’s season opener and I really think they rallied around the circumstances with (Hurricane Gustav), which forced them to Birmingham for game week. The Green Wave rolled hard and physical, while the Crimson Tide was roundly outplayed.

I think Alabama got caught up in believing its own hype a little too much, and took its foot of the pedal. As a result, it’s difficult to know just what to expect from the team this year given the highs and lows already.

Q: Just what exactly happened last week with the Alabama offense? Was it a situation of Tulane playing better defensively or the Tide playing flat?

A: This wasn’t just a bad game for Alabama. It was a breakdown of staggering proportions. Not since 2000 has a Tide offense put up fewer than the 172 yards it had Saturday. The 73 passing yards marked quarterback John Parker Wilson’s worst career in effort in more than two years as a starter.

As for what happened, it’s worth noting that Alabama was without its best offensive lineman in left tackle Andre Smith (sprained knee, returned to practice Monday) and lost right guard Marlon Davis to a hamstring pull after the first offensive series. That certainly didn’t help. Tulane sacked Wilson four times before intermission.

Tulane was prepared and threw a few things to confuse Alabama’s offense, but nothing that should have led to what occurred. Without two special teams touchdowns and a bend-but-don’t-break kind of night from the defense, the Tide very well could have lost this one.

Q: Overall depth has seemed to be a concern for Nick Saban, is that an overrated point or is he actually on to something there?

A: Alabama has played 12 true freshmen to this point, so I think he’s on to something. Some of the impact of NCAA sanctions and scholarship limitations are still being felt on a roster with nine scholarship seniors, which ties MTSU for the fewest in Division I-A. A good example is (senior offensive guard Marlon) Davis’ injury Saturday. His replacement was inexperienced sophomore Brian Motley, who moved from defensive end during preseason camp.

Q: As someone who sees them every day, just how impressive is this crop of freshmen?

A: They pass the eye test, that’s for sure. Receiver Julio Jones was considered one of the nation’s best prospects and looks like he could physically handle an NFL role right now. A fair comparison is Michael Irvin. Two big defensive editions – inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower and junior college nose tackle Terrence Cody have also made an immediate impact out of the 2008 signing class. There are others who are certainly capable, but as always with freshmen, there is an uncertainty in playing so many so soon. In my opinion, much of the inconsistency that Saban harps on stems from this fact.

Q: Does there seem to be any realistic fear down there of a dicey game this Saturday?

A: Honestly, not really. Alabama fans are forever optimistic about their team, and WKU appears to be getting the Tide on a week where it will have something to prove.
That said, if Tulane can hang with Alabama, why not WKU?

– I’d like to thank Gentry for all his help this week. Those wanting a look inside WKU’s next opponent, check out Gentry’s blog, http://blog.al.com/bamabeat.

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