Tide hope to fix problems before Cotton Bowl

Updated: December 17, 2005, 6:18 PM ET
Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A month later, Brodie Croyle knows the Iron Bowl humbling is what lingers most for Alabama fans about this season.

Not the 9-0 start. Not the wins over Tennessee or Florida.

The 13th-ranked Crimson Tide's quarterback knows the best way to give them something more pleasant to reflect on is to beat No. 18 Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.

"We go down there and win the game, we're 10-2 and we'll be ranked in the top 10 and maybe people will remember that we did have a good season as opposed to just remembering the last game we played," Croyle said Friday. "Out of the whole season, we basically had one bad quarter. That one quarter kind of stuck it to us pretty hard. But when you take that quarter away, we had a good season."

The Tide (9-2) fell way behind in that first quarter against Auburn to end the season with its second straight loss, a 28-18 game that really wasn't that close.

That game left Alabama with two huge challenges entering the bowl game: Plugging gaping holes in the offensive line and figuring out how to defend Texas Tech's prolific offense.

Croyle was sacked 11 times in that game -- seven before halftime -- and the nation's No. 1 scoring defense gave up three touchdowns in the first 11 minutes. The Tide trailed 28-7 at halftime and is now hoping to prove that performance was an aberration.

"We slipped up and let Auburn put up 21 points on us quick," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "That's something we're kind of ashamed of. But at the same time we're trying to go out there and secure this 10th win and build on that for next year."

But Texas Tech (9-2) doesn't exactly present the best opponent for a defense to rebound against. The Red Raiders have the nation's top passing offense and is averaging 511 total yards and 42 points per game, ranking second and fourth, respectively, in those categories.

"They're the most unique bunch we've played," coach Mike Shula said.

Shula, however, doesn't think confidence will be a problem for either the offensive line or the team. The Tide will practice on campus until Friday and meet in Dallas on Dec. 26.

"Our focal point, really, with everybody on our football team, is Hey, let's go get another win, let's go help our seniors go win a bowl game," he said.

Shula has changed up the practice schedule from his first postseason foray in last year's Music City Bowl. Instead of having two practices a day, the team will practice once daily. The practices will focus more on preparing for Texas Tech instead of working on the young players to get a headstart for spring practice. The youngsters will stay afterward for separate work.

Alabama lost to Minnesota 21-16 in that game.

"We got a lot of work in, probably just as much for the younger guys as we did for the older guys that had been playing," Shula said. "We're not going to do it that way this year. We're not going to have two-a-days. That's a little demoralizing at times, guys feel like they're back in training camp a little bit."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press