News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

College Football Notebook


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — While Alabama coach Nick Saban praised Prince Hall’s play in Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Florida State, he sees a troubling trend whenever Hall replaces Darren Mustin at linebacker.

According to Saban, whenever Mustin comes out, Rolando McClain is forced to Mustin’s position at inside linebacker, where he’s not comfortable playing. Hall then plays middle linebacker, which is McClain’s usual spot.

Saban said Florida State put together its best drive of the game, an eight-play 67-yard drive at the start of the second half, with McClain and Hall confused after Mustin came out.

“It’s really hard on Rolando when we go back and forth, because he’s the guy who ends up playing different positions, and he is a freshman,” Saban said. “That wasn’t the whole problem, but it caused confusion, and they put their best drive of the night together, that first drive of the second half.”

? It looked like a typo on the score sheet, but the wind was indeed 19 to 27 miles per hour at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Saturday. It was so windy that the Tide’s P.J. Fitzgerald hung a punt, which got caught by the stream of air and went 56 yards.

For Alabama, the wind was a detriment, as Florida State went with the wind on the first and third quarters, setting up good field position for the Seminoles in both halves.

“The wind had something to do with it, but our inability to execute, move the ball and change field position had a lot to do with it as well,” Saban said. “That was a big factor in the game, especially in the first half.”

Josh Cooper,
Daily Sports Writer


AUBURN — Coach Tommy Tuberville has never been part of a more injury-plagued team. Seven starters have suffered injuries over Auburn’s first five games.

After Saturday, that number grew to eight.

Defensive end Quentin Groves dislocated three toes in the third quarter of the Tigers’ 20-17 win at then-No. 4 Florida. Fellow defensive lineman Sen’Derrick Marks said Groves told him that he could be out a week.

“I don’t know if he’ll be back for Vanderbilt or not,” Marks said.

Tuberville said Groves was in a walking boot Sunday. Groves, who did not interview with reporters, suffered the injury when someone stepped on his foot. Tuberville said his toes bent backward, hyper-extending them.

“We’ve had the freakiest stuff happen this year,” Tuberville said, “and that just adds to the list.”

Groves, who remains one sack shy of tying Auburn’s career sack record, will have another X-ray on his toes Monday.

Groves’ injury wasn’t the only bad news for Auburn on Sunday.

Running back Tristan Davis will need his second surgery in two months. Davis had surgery during preseason practice after suffering a hairline fracture to his toe.

In his first action of the season Saturday, Davis injured his foot. Tuberville said that during surgery Monday doctors will put a pin in the foot.

“He’s probably out indefinitely,” the coach said.

Linebacker Tray Blackmon, still suffering from a lingering ankle injury, played 28 snaps against Florida. It was his first action since the season-opener when he twisted his ankle on an interception return in the second quarter of the win over Kansas State.

Blackmon said Sunday that his ankle is “fine” and he expects to see more playing time this week against Vanderbilt.

Linebacker Merrill Johnson remains uncertain for this week’s game. Johnson suffered a shoulder injury in the second contest of the year, but Tuberville said Johnson “felt a lot better” Sunday.

Left tackle King Dunlap did not travel to Florida because of a wrist and elbow injury that he suffered against Mississippi State. Coaches said last week that Dunlap was practicing. He practiced Sunday, also.

? Tuberville commended the play of his three true freshmen offensive linemen in the Tigers’ 20-17 win at No. 4 Florida on Saturday.

Left tackle Ryan Pugh and right guard Chaz Ramsey got their second start of the season. Lee Ziemba won the right tackle job in preseason and has held the spot since then.

Tuberville said he was “amazed” by the trio’s play, especially on the final drive of the game when Auburn marched 35 yards to set up Wes Byrum’s game-winning field goal. The linemen only had two procedure penalties in front of a boisterous crowd of 90,685 in The Swamp.

“Every time we’d go out, we’d tell them, ‘Just keep your concentration. You’ve got to focus on your snap count,’ ” Tuberville said. “They were having fun. They were jumping up and down on the sideline, running off the field, running on the field.”

Tuberville said that when he called a timeout to reconsider attempting a fourth-and-one at the Florida 4-yard line in the second quarter, the freshmen urged the coach to give them a shot.

“They said, ‘Coach, don’t change it. Let’s go for it,’ ” Tuberville said. “You like to have that kind of input from 18-year-old guys who weren’t old enough to know how scared they should have been.”

? In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Auburn’s 1957 national championship, the team will sport helmets without the AU logo and the face mask will be gray — similar to those worn during the championship season.

Auburn hasn’t worn plain white helmets since 1965. A year later the team adopted the traditional “AU” logo.

The 1957 national championship team will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt, which is scheduled to kick off at 11:30 a.m. The game will be televised on WZDX-54.

Ross Dellenger,
Daily sports writer

Mississippi State

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State quarterback Josh Riddell tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during Saturday’s loss to South Carolina and is out for the rest of the season.

Spokesman Mike Nemeth said Sunday that Riddell will have surgery, probably next week, to correct the problem. Riddell was 9-of-21 for 101 yards and an interception before leaving the game. South Carolina won 38-21.

The injury puts the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) down two quarterbacks. Starter Michael Henig broke his hand during Mississippi State’s 24-16 win over Auburn on Sept. 15.

Wesley Carroll, a true freshman, is expected to take over behind center at least until Henig returns in several weeks.

The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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