Alabama's first three Southeastern Conference opponents have encountered little defensive resistance to begin the game. Arkansas found the Alabama end zone on just two pass plays, totaling 74 yards, to open a 7-0 lead on its first drive, barely a minute into an eventual 24-20 Crimson Tide win.
A week later, Florida marched the same distance — 74 yards — on 12 plays for its opening drive, only to be turned away without points when Nico Johnson intercepted a jump pass in the Alabama end zone.
Last week, South Carolina made it three consecutive SEC opponents to put UA on its heels early, capping a seven-play, 63-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia to Marcus Lattimore.
"Coach Saban talks to us every day about starting the game off strong, and finishing strong. I don't think we've played a complete game yet as a defense," said defensive end Marcell Dareus. "From the first snap to the last, we've got to play to our best ability. They always get a jump on us, and we have to find a way to fight back. We've got to start games off strong, and we're really going to work on that this week and the rest of the season."
The Crimson Tide defense will need to prepare to keep the Mississippi offensive attack at bay. The Rebels offense, led by former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense, averaging 37.2 points per game.
"They have a lot of weapons," Johnson said of the Mississippi offense. "They have more weapons than anyone else in the SEC and we're going to have to go out and be fundamentally sound. Every defender will have to be responsible and do their job."
"Playing college football is always mentally tough," McCullough said. "I think all of our coaches do a good job of keeping our heads on straight and just keeping us into the game."
McCullough said the depth of the Alabama offensive line is deep and he is confident he will fill the void left by Fluker without a drop off in production.
"There is really no difference between all the people," McCullough said. "We all have our different styles, but we all have the same responsibilities on the field."
How Alabama’s players respond to the setback remains to be seen. How they responded to Powe’s remarks didn’t take a week, but none provided any return fireworks.
"We don’t pay attention to (any) of that type of stuff," said offensive lineman Alfred McCullough. "We just do what we’re supposed to do every week."
Added Michael Williams: "We don’t read the papers."