Crimson Tide QB takes criticism in stride
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's John Parker Wilson knows all about the love-hate relationship fans have with their quarterbacks.
Three weeks ago, they loved him following his game-winning touchdown pass to beat Arkansas. And now?
Wilson has drawn plenty of criticism for his play in the two games since -- losses to Georgia and Florida State -- while both he and the Crimson Tide offense have been misfiring at times.
"It doesn't bother me a bit," Wilson said. "I just realize it's part of the job. It goes both ways. If you think you're the best in the world when you win, you're not going to prepare like you should and you won't win the next week and then everyone hates you."
Wilson and Alabama (3-2) will both try to bounce back Saturday against Houston (2-2), and it's not as if he hasn't been putting up decent numbers.
Wilson has thrown for 425 yards the past two games with two touchdowns and no interceptions, but he has completed only 51 percent of his passes and many of those yards came when the Tide were trying to come back from early deficits.
As in the Arkansas game, Wilson has been at his best running the two-minute offense late in games. He led the tying touchdown drive against Georgia before losing in overtime.
Against Florida State he threw two TD passes in the final 5:04 but it was too late and Alabama lost 21-14. He also helped set up a Florida State touchdown with a fumble deep in Tide territory.
Coach Nick Saban said there's plenty of blame to go around for Wilson's troubles, including pass protection.
"John Parker has done a lot more good things than bad things," Saban said. "I think that we would like for him to continue to develop consistency in what he's doing. Nobody can play perfectly. Nobody can make every accurate throw.
"I'm not going to sit here and blame the quarterback when I think the entire offensive team should assume a better responsibility for being able to execute."
Wilson attempted 53 passes against the Seminoles, two shy of Alabama's record set by Scott Hunter in 1969.
The running game wasn't effective enough to take the load off him. Tailback Terry Grant has only 20 carries the past two games combined, which is fewer than his average for the three wins to start the season.
Florida State sacked Wilson three times, pressuring him at times despite rushing only three men and covering the receivers with the remaining eight. And all that has led to more third-and-long situations that are difficult for any quarterback to convert.
"John Parker competed his tail off in the game, under some really adverse circumstances," Saban said. "I thought he persevered well. I don't think that we played around him as well as we need to in the passing game."
Center Antoine Caldwell said he "couldn't agree more" with that assessment.
"The quarterback's the most scrutinized position on the field, and I realize he's going to take a lot of criticism that he shouldn't take," Caldwell said. "But we've got to protect better.
"We've got to make his job easier. It's hard enough being the quarterback and having to call out this, that and the other. Everybody's got to make his job a lot easier than we've been making it."
Wilson has done plenty right in pressure situations, too. He was 9-for-12 with a touchdown pass and run in those late drives against Arkansas and Georgia.
Defensive end Wallace Gilberry has faith his quarterback will get back on track.
"When you get confidence in your throws and everything is on point, it gets into a rhythm," Gilberry said. "Once he finds his rhythm, he's going to be the John Parker of old."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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