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MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2007
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Cardwell gets his chance to play for UA

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — It wasn't the best way for Evan Cardwell to get his first start at Alabama.

Cardwell usually backs up Antoine Caldwell at center, but in Saturday's 30-24 win against Houston, the redshirt sophomore center moved into the starting lineup. Caldwell slid to right guard, replacing Marlon Davis, who went home earlier in the week for what Tide coach Nick Saban said was a death in the family.

"I feel like I was ready to go," Cardwell said. "Coach (Joe) Pendry did a good job of getting me ready. ... I feel like I made all the right calls and was ready for what they threw at us."

Saban said he was not penalizing Davis for missing practice time. Instead, Cardwell had done well in practice, and with Davis missing workouts Monday and Tuesday, that gave Crimson Tide coaches an opportunity to insert Cardwell into the lineup for an important game against a decent opponent.

Last season, Cardwell sometimes worked at center during Alabama's two-minute offense, but saw most of his action against lesser opponents Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International, where he played 27 snaps.

His most vital performance came in the Iron Bowl. After starting right tackle Chris Capps allowed Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves to sack quarterback John Parker Wilson twice and cause fumbles both times, Cardwell went to center and Caldwell moved to Capps' spot at right tackle.

Although Cardwell didn't do much revolutionary in that game, he showed he could play in a big game.

And it also showed Caldwell's versatility in moving to another position.

"Antoine has backed up every guy on the offensive line," Saban said. "He can play right tackle. He can play left tackle.

"He played guard today. So it was an opportunity for (Cardwell) to play."

Cardwell's emergence also has brought to light a recent trend with the Crimson Tide.

Through four games, Alabama had used virtually the same starting lineup with the exception of a few minor tweaks here and there. But this past week, Saban mentioned that if a certain individual were not performing as well as he should, he would be replaced.

Saturday saw a host of different players who had spotty playing time thrust into more important roles.

Nikita Stover caught Alabama's second touchdown pass, a 23-yard grab in the first quarter. Running back Glen Coffee outrushed Terry Grant for the first time this season, posting career highs in yards (121) and carries (30).

And then there was Davis, who was relegated to second team.

"Marlon knows that everybody knows that their spot is not guaranteed," Cardwell said. "It's unfortunate for him that he had to miss a few days, but it shows how important it is to get ready for Saturday, how important Monday and Tuesday are and each day leading up to the game."

Alabama Monday Playback

Three points that Alabama should remember after Saturday’s 30-24 win over Houston.

It should feel like a loss: The cliché states “a win is a win” but allowing Houston to climb back from a 30-10 fourth-quarter deficit wasn’t exactly what the Tide was looking for. If anything, Houston exposed the general discomfort in Alabama’s offense down the stretch.

Develop the killer instinct: The Crimson Tide had more than enough opportunities to put away the Cougars in the fourth quarter, but faltered. Alabama needs to get better in going for the jugular.

This is not last season: Alabama had the same record at this point last year but it just does not seem like it will finish 6-7. There is something about this team that doesn’t look like one that will lose four straight.

Josh Cooper

Alabama at Ole Miss

Saturday
11:45 a.m.
WZDX-54

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