In this week's paper, we're debuting a "A boy named Sooie," a new sports column from frequent contributor Derek Jenkins. It doesn't yet have a spot on the web, so here tis. Flame away!
Clear eyes, full backfield — can’t lose.
Houston Nutt's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness: The man's a romantic. His dogged faith in playing field position — a conservative approach that relies on perfect execution and leaves literally nothing up in the air — at times inspires his team to equal his simple vision. Other times, those same instincts compel him to take baffling chances.
When two teams rack up exactly 450 yards total offense apiece, the game's bound to come down to one bad play call. Saban had sent in his kicking squad for a meaningless field goal with less than five minutes left moments before Nutt topped him. The game was over, and all of the sudden it wasn't. On third and 12, with less than two-and-a-half minutes left in the game, Casey Dick swung outside and passed into double coverage in an unsuccessful attempt to convert. Nutt took credit for the call, but not the mistake.
He explained to Rivals.com that he “told Casey to run it if it wasn't open ... I wish he had run it. Maybe he could have used up 10 more seconds. That's 20/20 hindsight.”
A run would've ticked off more than 10 seconds — likely enough time for the Downy-soft prevent zone we ran for the rest of the game to live up to its name. That may be 20/20 in hindsight, but only because some things are pretty clear any way you look at them.
Let's hope Nutt gets his eyes checked before we meet Kentucky (3-0) at home this weekend. He's 2-2 against the Wildcats, and our last win, way back in 2003, turned out to be the longest and highest-scoring football game in NCAA history. Seven overtimes after the Cats brought it even at 24, we ended up victorious and exhausted.
We might not survive another close one. Kentucky QB Andre Woodson out-heroed Heisman candidate Brian Brohm last week by chunking a 57-yard prayer down the field to astonish No. 9 Louisville with 28 seconds left. He'd already gone 29-43 with 193 yards and 3 touchdowns. If our secondary gets caught blinking like Christmas lights again, he's liable to run up more than 41 points.
Not that our DBs aren't man enough for man-to-man coverage, but they might as well have been on the bench last week until we switched to a tight zone. Moving Michael Grant to the corner may not be enough to salvage a failed scheme. Reggie Herring's famed adaptability better show up before halftime — before the coin toss even. Ends Antwain Robinson and Malcolm Sheppard might help by staying in Woodson's face. And Kentucky has a good back in Rafael Little, so Marcus Harrison and the D-line need to continue being effective against the run, as well as tromp their way across the line of scrimmage for negative yardage every once in a while.
Last week, McFadden carried Alabama defenders on his back for half of his 195 yards and the Hogs on his back for all of them, and there's no reason to believe he won't have grown five inches and put on 50 pounds by Saturday. All Casey Dick has to do is keep the defense honest — i.e., all he has to do is pretend to be a quarterback. He pulled off a decent impression last week, throwing more good passes than he completed, calling one uncharacteristically brainy audible and tossing three TDs. With a backfield like ours, that'll be enough on all but the worst Saturdays.