September 17, 2006

Sunday Update: Ready for the road

The Tide ended its season-opening three-game home stint on a very positive note, drumming the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 41-7 before an enthusiastic sell-out crowd.

"I thought of our three games so far that was the loudest I've heard our fans," head coach Mike Shula said Sunday. "It was exciting for our football players and exciting throughout the game especially on defense."

The shoe will be on the other foot next week when the Tide takes its first road trip of the season to Fayetteville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. Shula and his coaches said they are planning to do all they can this week to make sure their young team is ready for the road, including pumping in simulated crowd noise in the Tide's indoor practice facility.

"We'll have crowd noise in practice this week at least one day, maybe two days," Shula said. "I think the biggest thing is that our players realize that the field is the same and they're only going to have 11 guys on the field, just like us."

"They just need to keep playing the way they've played and don't try to make things happen on their own," Shula said. "The communication in the huddle is going to have to be sharper than it's been. It's going to be loud too so we'll have to look at things like having a silent count."

Shula happy with Tide's 1st Quarter

Three games into the Tide's 2006 campaign, Shula is pleased with the direction his team is headed and the rate at which it has improved from week to week.

"I think one of our goals each and every week is to improve and think we've improved. I don't think we're where we want to be right now. We were a little better last night in the plus territory. I think our kick and punt return units were a little better last night as well."

Shula was most impressed with the offense's runaway success in the second half and believes the success will prove to be invaluable later in the season.

"I think it definitely helps, especially with a young offense," Shula said. "To be able to finish drives off helps with momentum, it helps the defense, it helps everybody. We still had a couple drives that we should have scored on but we're getting better."

The offensive line's improved play at every position was one of the reasons cited by Shula for the Tide's boost in scoring.

"Andre Smith is one of our playmakers, if you can talk about an offensive lineman like that," Shula said. Shula also said rotating between B.J. Stabler and Marlon Davis at right guard kept the interior of the Tide's offensive front fresh throughout the game.

"I think we're going to try to do that every game to split the snaps between BJ and Marlon. I think it helps keep BJ fresh and we feel like Marlon is playing well enough to help us win."

The focus for the Tide defense this week will be on tackling, an area where miscues by the Tide led to big gains during ULM's second-quarter scoring drive.

"Last night we had some opportunities to make plays and we didn't tackle well," Shula said. "We did come back though and play better defense in the second half, like we have in all our games."

Tackling strong will be crucial to stopping Arkansas' powerful running back Darren McFadden whose effort against the Tide last season left an impression on Shula.

"I can't get that out of my mind, that stiff arm on our sideline against Roman Harper. It's going to be a big challenge whenever he has the ball to try and get more than one guy around him as fast as we can."

Notes

* The Tide currently leads the SEC in time of possession with an average of 34:24 per game.

* Shula said the entire team made it through last night's game without any serious injuries and he expects everyone to be available for play against Arkansas next week.

* Earning an average of 104.3 yards per game through the first three games, Keith Brown is on pace to break David Palmer's school record for most receiving yards in a season. Palmer earned an even 1,000 yards in 1993.

* Brown also leads the team in all-purpose yards with 341 total yards.

* The Tide defense has forced nine total turnovers so far in 2006 including 4 recovered fumbles and 5 interceptions.

* Jeffrey Dukes, Juwan Simpson and Terrence Jones lead the Tide defense with 16 tackles each this season.


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