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Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 21, 2015

Perhaps it was a return to the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum.
Or maybe it was three days of intense video review, along with practice work that even found the head coach himself on the court running plays and teaching lessons during those sessions.

Whatever it was, Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team looked like a totally different team Friday night as it hit the century mark and then some in topping Bob Marlin's experienced Louisiana Ragin' Cajun team 105-93 before a crowd of 11,465 at Coleman Coliseum.

After scoring only 48 points in a 32-point loss to Dayton Tuesday, Alabama scored 55 points in the first half on the way to improving its early-season record to 2-1. Louisiana fell to 1-2.
Three days after a dismal offensive performance in the loss to the Flyers on the road, the Crimson Tide shot over 54 percent from the field, had six players in double-figures, made 15 shots from 3-point range and made 26 of 35 free throws.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 18, 2015

After a long regular season, and then two rounds of the state high school football playoff following that weekly grind, the season is still alive for six schools in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area.
Also alive are dreams of possibly advancing to the Super Seven state title games at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium, with those contest set to begin on Dec. 2.
First things first, however, and those title aspirations must be put on hold for now as most of the remaining area teams must be focused on taking care of business in quarterfinal play Friday night.
One team, however, that will actually be playing for a state title this Friday is Webb Tutt's Marengo Academy Longhorns.
The Longhorns, led by quarterback/running back Hayden Huckabee and defensive end/tight end Cason Cook among others, have rolled to a 10-1 record, and are now set to play for the AISA Class AA championship at Troy University in Tutt's first season as Longhorn coach.
No. 4 Marengo Academy, which ousted Pickens Academy last week 48-7 will go up against 12-0 Edgewood in a rematch of last season's title game, which Edgewood captured 55-25.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 16, 2015

As the No. 2 Alabama football team steps away from conference play this week for a Saturday battle against Big South Conference opponent Charleston Southern, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban acknowledged Monday that much of the emphasis of this week, as per usual, is improvement in his own team from its last game, a 31-6 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start (against the Bulldogs) in the game and just didn't seem to have the energy, especially offensively, to pay attention to detail and get the kind of execution we needed against a very good defensive team," he said. "We played a lot better in the second half and made some big, explosive plays that made a big difference in the game. Defensively, we did a good job of affecting the quarterback (sacking MSU quarterback Dak Prescott nine times) and played well in the red zone. That was probably the difference in the game. We probably didn't tackle as well in space as we'd like to, and we gave up a few big plays that we probably shouldn't have. Those are things that we definitely need to work on and try to fix."

Saban noted that senior tailback Kenyan Drake, who sustained a fractured arm during Saturday's game, had successful surgery Monday and will likely be out at least a couple of week.


"Then (after that period where he cannot play), it will be, how functional can he be at this position with what he has," he said, also noting that freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is day-to-day in terms of practice this week, and he will be questionable for Saturday's game.

Fitzpatrick suffered a sprained knee against MSU, and he and Drake both suffered their injuries during second quarter play against the Bulldogs.

This week's contest marks the last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium for Alabama's seniors, and Saban spoke about that fact, and praised the senior players for their representation of UA both on and off the field.
"It's the last game for a lot of our seniors who have had a great career here and contributed and had a lot of success, and I certainly hope that our fans will show the kind of appreciation that we all should have for what their hard work, and their blood, sweat and tears have contributed to the program over the last four or five years," he said. "A lot of good people and a lot of successful guys, and guys that are going to be successful in life. They've been great ambassadors for the University of Alabama and this program. We're just very thankful for them for what they've contributed."

In terms of Saturday's 3 p.m. game (SEC Network) against Charleston Southern, Saban said third-year coach Jamey Chadwell will bring in a very talented Buccaneer team.
"Charleston Southern is 9 and 1, and probably one of the best teams in their FCS division, and they're ranked in the Top 10 in almost every current category, and one of the top defenses in that league, as well as very productive offensively," he said. "A different style of offense than we've played against, a lot of option and split back and a lot of options that we have not played against and their quarterback Austin Brown does a really good job. He's a very athletic guy who can run as well as he is a good passer. So this is going to be a challenging game for us from a preparation standpoint. Their defense has created a lot of negative plays and very quick. They play a 3-4 and they do a good job in their pressure package in creating negative plays, so this is a good team that we're playing, and hopefully our players will have the kind of respect they need to go out and play good, positive and winning football against them."

He said there are similarities between Charleston Southern and the Georgia Southern team that Alabama played in 2011, in terms of the Buccaneer option offense. But he added that Georgia Southern ran more of a Georgia Tech-style true option offense, and that Charleston Southern presents more multiple formations which create adjustment issues for an opposing defense relative to remaining sound on the option.

When asked about the play of junior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who was a key  part of Alabama's effective pass rush against MSU Saturday, Saban began his response with a lighthearted reference to the inadvertent hit that he took from the 6-foot-3, 283-pound lineman before that game started, leading to a noticeable abrasion on the coach's cheek.

"The first thing is knocking the hell out of the coach," he said, drawing a big chorus of laughter from the assembled media. "Jonathan was a really good high school on-the-edge pass rush guy, very, very good. I think he has gotten bigger and developed a lot of strength to where now he can rush off the edge, but he's a really effective inside rusher because he's gotten bigger and stronger. Certainly he plays the run a lot better and he's athletic and he can still move. I think that's the biggest difference, he just gotten, each year he's been here, a little bigger and stronger. He's always been very athletic and great first-step quickness. He does a great job of using his hands and moving his feet, which is critical in being a good pass rusher."

Asked about the process that goes into the scheduling of non-conference tilts against opponents such as Charleston Southern, the Tide coach said Alabama is sometimes limited in terms of its option when trying to assemble a schedule.

"We don't have a lot of choices," said Saban. "It's not like when you go into a restaurant and you get the menu and say, 'OK, we can play these 24 different teams, which one do we want to play?' Most of the time we're bargaining and begging to get anybody to play us, and so we don't always have a lot of choice, and especially lately where since we went to 14 teams in the league, it put the SEC schedule back a little bit in terms of when we got it so (the Tide was forced to fill in their schedule as well as it could), so those things have been challenges for us in scheduling, and we're going to continue to do the best we can in trying to get the best opponents, but we always don't have a lot of choice."

Alabama junior running back Derrick Henry and Allen earned SEC Player of the Week recognition following the win at Starkville Saturday, the league office announced on Monday.
Henry was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this season after rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against the Bulldogs. He has rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games and three of the past four overall, with each coming against teams ranked in the top-20 nationally. Henry broke free for touchdown runs of 74 and 65 yards to extend his school record of consecutive games with a rushing touchdown to 15, the longest such streak by an SEC player in the last 20 seasons.

In his first season as the team’s starting running back, Henry has amassed 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns on 240 carries for a 6.1 yard average. He is currently the national leader in rushing touchdowns and ranks second overall in yards rushing. The junior tailback has performed his best in the Tide’s six games against ranked opponents, averaging 178.7 yards per game (1,072 yards) and scoring 12 touchdowns.    

Allen was recognized as the Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week after a dominant performance in Starkville. The junior defensive end finished the day with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss (-17 yards), to go along with three sacks, one forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry. Allen is the first Alabama player to record three sacks in a game since Courtney Upshaw did it against Auburn in 2010. The Alabama defense collectively totaled nine sacks, representing the most by any unit in a single game under head coach Nick Saban.  

In addition to those honors, Saban and his coaching staff recognized ten Crimson Tide standouts as players of the week following the win against MSU.

Henry, Cam Robinson and ArDarius Stewart were the honorees on offense, while  Allen, Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster represented the defense. Kenyan Drake, Adam Griffith, Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve made the special teams list.

It was announced by the SEC Monday that the Nov. 28 Iron Bowl contest between Alabama and Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium will begin at 2:30 p.m., with CBS televising the game.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 16, 2015

The second round of the state high school football playoffs proved fruitful for six teams in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area as lived to play for at least another week, with their dreams of capturing a state championship still very much alive.

However, for seven other local schools, their title hopes were squelched as successful seasons ended in defeat.
One of those teams that continues its hunt for that state title trophy, while also chasing perfection is Ryan Lolley's Gordo Greenwave.

The No. 2 Greenwave moved to 12-0 on the season last Friday, while advancing in the Class 3A playoffs with an impressive 33-14 road win against Opp.
After a scoreless first quarter, Gordo exploded in the second period, outscoring the host Opp team 21-0.

At the end of three, Gordo still had a comfortable 27-6 advantage and was able to hold onto a comfortable lead in the final quarter.
Opp's season ended at 8-4.

Koy Chapman threw three touchdown passes, to Tyler Davis, Ben Davis and Collin Herring, for the Greenwave, which now hosts Bayside Academy.

In other playoff action involving Tuscaloosa/West Alabama teams last Friday, it was:

Fayette County 40, Cleburne County 23:  Lance Tucker's Tigers improved to 8-4 and advanced in the Class 4A playoffs by defeating Cleburne County in Heflin.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 14, 2015

On a day when the No. 2 Alabama football team seemingly could not find any consistent offensive rhythm for the most part, especially in the early going, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide needed something significant to provide a lift as it found itself involved in a gritty affair against Dan Mullen's feisty No. 17 Mississippi State team in Starkville Saturday.
Alabama finally began to find a bit of that offensively and in the special teams department through big plays from Jake Coker, Calvin Ridley, Derrick Henry and Cyrus Jones.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

As was to be expected with a first-year college coach making his debut with a new team, and a team officially opening its season with a mix of veterans and newcomers,  the University of Alabama men's basketball team was far from perfect in its first game under the direction of new coach Avery Johnson.

There were flashes of brilliance lumped in with occasional lapses and glitches, and a period of real adversity in the second half as Al Skinner's visiting Owls made a significant run at the host Crimson Tide.

Courtesy of DCM Fan Zone

By Erik Stinnett

It was a big weekend for Alabama. 

Not only did the Crimson Tide notch a pivotal and convincing victory over visiting LSU on Saturday, it also hosted a number of recruits who, no doubt, came away impressed with what they saw at Bryant-Denny Stadium. And then a few days later Alabama reeled in a key commitment for its 2017 class -- a hometown kid.
 

By Stan J. Griffin: November 11, 2015

For 14 high school football teams in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area, it will be time to buckle their chinstraps again Friday night as they will be participating in the second round of the state playoffs.
One of those teams is Mike Smith's 9-2 Northridge High School Jaguars, who advanced with a particularly impressive 48-23 road victory against Dothan last Friday.
Three Jaguar running backs rushed for over 100 yards in that win.
The challenge increases significantly, however, for Smith's team this Friday as the Jaguars play host to Spanish Fort.
Spanish Fort, who comes to Northridge High with a perfect 11-0 record, was the champion of Class 6A Region 1.  It advanced to the second round by topping Pell City last week to the tune of 24-10.

Other playoff action this week involving Tuscaloosa/West Alabama schools includes:

By Stan J. Griffin: November 9, 2015

The opening round of the state high school football playoffs proved very fruitful for a host of Tuscaloosa/West Alabama schools this past week as they took a successful first step toward a hopeful journey to the Super Seven championship games in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

One of those schools was Sam Adams' Hillcrest Patriots, who began postseason play in fine form as they romped past Northview 36-15 last Thursday night before a loud and frenzied home crowd that included the famed "Adams Army" student support section.

Quarterback Cole Frederick was the star of the night for Adams' team as he threw for a pair of touchdowns while running for two more.

Hillcrest (8-3) rolled to a 21-6 lead early before the visitors trimmed the lead to 21-12 by the intermission.

Northview kicked a field goal for the only points of the third quarter, and heading into the final quarter it was a precarious 21-15 lead for the home team.

Hillcrest, however, blew the game open with a 15-0 surge in the fourth quarter and moved on to a second-round game on the road against Class 6A Region 3 champion Opelika.

Standout running back Brian Robinson, who is being recruited by a host of schools including Alabama, also had another huge effort with 169 yards rushing and a score.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 8, 2015

Although Saturday's much-hyped Southeastern Conference showdown between No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama was competitive for a half in terms of the scoreboard, there was never any doubt about which team was the dominating force for this evening.

The Crimson Tide used a methodical offensive attack led by junior tailback Derrick Henry to dominate time of possession, pile up yardage and eventually break the game open against a weary Tiger defense. Alabama also rode a smothering defensive effort that held the Tigers' talented sophomore tailback Leonard Fournette to 31 yards while generally stifling the LSU offensive effort overall.

The result was a convincing 30-16 win for the Crimson Tide in front of a capacity crowd of 101,821 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The win, Alabama's sixth in a row since a home loss to Ole Miss, and fifth in a row over LSU, improved the Crimson Tide to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC play. LSU, with its first defeat of the season, fell to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in league play.

Most importantly, the big win allowed the Crimson Tide to regain control of its destiny in the SEC West thanks to the 53-52 victory by Arkansas at Ole Miss Saturday.

Lake Tuscaloosa Living (LTL) is the premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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