Just a week after facing a quarterback duo against LSU, the University of Alabama defense will get yet another two-headed player at the position Saturday at Mississippi State. Quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell share the duties as well, and like LSU's Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, their skill sets bring a different dimension to the MSU offense. "When the two quarterbacks actually do different things when they're in the game, I think it makes it a more difficult preparation," said UA coach Nick Saban. "Obviously if you watched the last game, the plays they ran with one guy in the game were totally different than with the other. At first we didn't adjust to that very well but as the game went on, we did OK."
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen isn't finding a lot of encouraging angles to attack Alabama's defense from so far in his scouting of the Crimson Tide. That may be a major reason Alabama is leading the Southeastern Conference in nearly every statistical defensive category this season. "You have to play a flawless game to beat them," Mullen said. "You just have to execute at the highest level and if we do that, watching our guys and they believe that, after watching the film from the last couple of years against them - we've been in a position to make the plays to beat them, we just haven't made the plays and when we make a mistake they jumped all over it."
The quarterback battle between Russell and Chris Relf, a 19-time starter, will continue in practices this week. Relf played only two possessions Saturday but completed 5 of 6 passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Mullen was disappointed in Russell, who tossed a 78-yard touchdown but only completed 50 percent of his passes with an interception. MSU had 570 yards of offense, the second-best total of the season. "We made some big plays, which has been fantastic and has helped us the last couple of weeks, but when you play a team the caliber of Alabama, you're not going to get away with just depending on big plays," Mullen said. "What you have to do is go out and execute at a very, very high level for four quarters to win this game."
"You've got to let it go," senior defensive lineman Josh Chapman said. "I mean we are going over to Mississippi State, and they are a great team and they are physical. One thing you don't see about our guys - you don't see a lot of heads down hanging around. Those guys see the Bulldogs. Let's go out there and finish this thing strong."
MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: Alabama has been shaken due to the loss. The Bulldogs will try to use the home field advantage at night as much as possible, but the ground attack of Chris Relf and Vick Ballard just doesn't look productive enough to take on a defense like the Tide. Their best chance to stun Alabama early is to try and force McCarron into making poor decisions and hope for an early turnover. Otherwise, it could be a long and painful night for the Bulldogs.
Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick continued to wear a black non-contact jersey, but was able to participate in position drills as the Tide worked on nickel defense during the media viewing period. ...RB Eddie Lacy was limited during the media viewing period, which has become the norm. ...WR Marquis Maze did not have his foot taped as he did in the fourth quarter of the LSU game. He participated in drills with the wide receivers.
Running back Trent Richardson accepted responsibility. "You've got to blame a lot of that on us," he said of the offense. "We should have had them in good field position, or shouldn't have even had them out there doing field goals like that. When we get down in the red zone, we've got to put the ball in the paint." Richardson's message to Foster: Move on. "Remind him, 'Hey, we're going to need you at the end of a ballgame,'" Richardson said. "You can't get your spirits down. You can't worry about that game. That game's in the past."
At the age of 84, there are very few groups that Joe Paterno hasn't affected in a positive way. With the current scandal in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno has the opportunity to spend his twilight years raising money and awareness for one final group: vulnerable, sexually exploited children. He needs to do so, in retirement. Same goes for Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz. Effective immediately.
The proffered reason — that it would result in too much criticism — is so silly that it can’t possibly be true. But if it’s not true, then what is the real reason? I struggle with this (though I shouldn’t overlook the Occam’s razor-esque possibility that it’s simply that the people with decisionmaking authority over these kinds of things at the NFL are not intelligent, thoughtful people and do it for no real reason at all), as the only apparent conclusion is that it’s simply to insult the intelligence of fans and people who enjoy football. In short, it leaves two possibilities: first, either we really would fail to comprehend the complex array of movement on the field by twenty-two supremely athletic but human men, and thus we need the gentle paternalism of the cameraman and producer to show us, in a kind of cinematic baby talk, "See, with this close-up the quarterback throws a pretty spiral to the receiver!"; or, second, football isn’t even a game so much as it is a product to be branded in a particular way, and by restricting the All-22 the NFL can by Orwellian imagery of extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots emotionally convey to us the narratives solely how they want to in the way they want to. In either case, it’s all about controlling the message; the only question is why, and all the answers are depressing.