Saban answers criticism

Updated: October 2, 2003, 3:02 PM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU coach Nick Saban has heard the criticism of his decision to play running back Shyrone Carey with 10 minutes left in last Saturday's Mississippi State game.

The Tigers were up 34-6 at the time on their way to a 41-6 victory. But Carey suffered a sprained left knee ligament that has him out of practice this week and questionable for No. 6-ranked LSU's next game, Oct. 11 against Florida.

"Every game we have a plan of what we'd like to accomplish," Saban said. "What we were trying to accomplish in that game, which we've done in every game we've gotten ahead this year, we tried to let (backup quarterback) Marcus Randall play a number of plays with the good players."

Randall went in in the middle of the third quarter. The Tigers had bad field position and went three-and-out the first time. The coaches decided to give Randall another series with the first string. There was still nothing going with Randall so the Tigers started swapping personnel. Then Saban changed his mind.

"The score is 34-6 with 10 minutes to go in the game. I say, 'Let's put the good guys in there one more time with Marcus.' So a guy doesn't block who he's supposed to block, Shyrone gets hit when he catches the pitch and he gets hurt."

Saban contended he had little choice to do that or keep his six best defensive backs in until game's end. He noted State played it's No. 1 defense throughout.

"Can we put a flag up for the other team. 'Look, we don't want to get anybody hurt, so will you surrender? And quit trying to win. And why don't you take your first defense out?' They played their first defense right to the end," Saban said. ^------<

INJURY REPORT: Saban won't make a decision until at least Monday on Carey's playing status. Same goes for starting strong safety Jack Hunt, who suffered a sprained right knee ligament against State.

"Jack is probably making a little better progress than Shyrone," Saban said.

Defensive end Marquise Hill (ankle) returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since missing the State game.

Starting middle linebacker Lionel Turner had some clicking in his right knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery Sunday morning, Saban said. The coach expects Turner to return to practice Saturday.

"This week we would have had several guys struggle to play in the game," Saban said. "Hopefully we'll get those guys back in a week."

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MAUCK TESTED: Quarterback Matt Mauck might also have been iffy if LSU played Saturday. He suffered a jammed index finger on his right (throwing) hand against State that is still somewhat swollen.

"He could throw the ball today but he really couldn't take a snap," Saban said.

Mauck said the finger hurts but, "It's getting better every day."

Mauck's head may be hurting soon as well. Monday the pre-med student will take the Dental Admissions Test as preparation to eventually enroll in medical school.

Mauck said he hasn't definitely decided on a field of medicine but finds himself attracted to dentistry.

"I've followed a couple of dentists around and it seems to be something I enjoy," he said. ^------<

LSU MAN, CUBS FAN: A former Chicago Cubs minor league catcher, Mauck is keeping an eye on the National League Divisional series between Chicago and the Atlanta Braves.

Mauck caught Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs' starting pitcher Wednesday, in spring training in Arizona and in Class A ball in Lansing, Mich.

"You definitely knew he would be a good player," Mauck said. Zambrano went 5 2/3 innings as Atlanta beat the Cubs 5-3, tying the series 1-1.

Asked who he thought would eventually win the best-of-five series, Mauck said: "Cubs win!"

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index