News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

College Football Notebook


TUSCALOOSA — Alabama coach Nick Saban offered a defense of his predecessor at LSU, Les Miles, this week.

In LSU’s 30-24 win over Auburn, Matt Flynn hit Demetrius Byrd on a 22-yard pass with one second left.

When asked about Miles’ decision to go for the touchdown on his team’s last offensive play, Saban said, “In a situation like this, the quarterback’s got a shot at it. Take the pressure off the field-goal kicker — so I’m not saying what I’d do in that situation. I’m not making any comparisons or getting into any hypothetical situations, but I did not see that as a mismanagement like a lot of people did.”

Also, against Florida, LSU went for it on fourth down five times — twice on its game-winning drive in that game.

So is Alabama preparing its fourth-down defense

  • “We’re going to go in and focus on doing what we do,” Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. “If it comes down to where they go for it on fourth down, I’m pretty sure the coaches have some calls ready for them.”

  • Alabama receiver Nikita Stover has some fond memories from last year’s game against LSU, and his first Crimson Tide touchdown comes to mind.

    His teammates are telling him to go out and rehash some of those this weekend.

    “A couple people on the team said I need to show out this weekend,” Stover said. “They said, ‘You played good against them last year, so got to do the same thing this year and help the team out.’ ”

    So far on the 2007 season, the Hartselle High grad has five catches for 66 yards and one touchdown.

    When asked whether he is looking forward to Hartselle’s upcoming playoff run, Stover said, “I don’t even know what their record is or nothing.”

    He then mentioned that he needed to call Hartselle coach Bob Godsey sometime this week.

    Josh Cooper,
    Daily Sports Writer


    AUBURN — Coach Tommy Tuberville referred to Austin High grad Morgan Hull as the “Decatur Flash” at his news conference Tuesday, eliciting giggles from reporters.

    Hull is one of several kickers being evaluated by coaches this week for Auburn’s temporary kickoff job. Starting kicker Wes Byrum will attempt field goals against Tennessee Tech, but a sore knee will keep him from kicking off.

    “We’re looking at several guys,” Tuberville said. “It could be the Decatur Flash.”

    A true freshman, Hull walked onto the team in late August and impressed coaches with his leg strength. Up until the season opener, he was competing with Byrum to be the kickoff specialist, but Byrum got the starting nod.

    Hull got a chance to prove his kickoff skills in the opener when Byrum twisted his ankle on the opening kickoff. Hull’s low line drive sailed out of bounds. He hasn’t kicked since.

    Hull, who is on academic scholarship at Auburn, made 14 of 16 field goals at Austin, including a long of 53 yards. He had athletic scholarship offers from a host of schools, including Arkansas and Ole Miss, but he badly wanted to attend Auburn.

  • Left tackle Ryan Pugh did not practice Tuesday. Pugh still is recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered against Arkansas. Tuberville said if the true freshman does not return to practice by Wednesday, he will not play Saturday against Tennessee Tech.

    Starting running back Brad Lester also missed Tuesday’s practice because of a nagging groin injury, but Tuberville said he should return Wednesday.

    “What we want to do is try to get him as healthy as we can,” Tuberville said, “but he should be ready to go Saturday.”

    Safety Eric Brock is “beat up a little bit,” the coach said. Aairon Savage, who has missed the last four games with injury, will return to the lineup.

    Linebacker Merrill Johnson will also see playing time for the first time since a shoulder injury during the second week of the season. Tuberville ruled out the possibility of linebacker Craig Stevens playing. Stevens twisted his ankle against Ole Miss.

    Tuberville is hoping running back Tristan Davis will return for next week’s game at Georgia. Davis missed the first four games of the season with a broken toe suffered in the preseason. Upon his return, Davis broke his foot against Florida.

    “He’s out running,” Tuberville said. “He’s not hitting anybody. He gets a little better every day, running.”

  • Quarterback Brandon Cox was asked who he thinks will win the “Saban Bowl.” Alabama coach Nick Saban meets LSU, his former team, Saturday in what has been dubbed the “Saban Bowl.”

    Because Auburn lost to LSU, the Tigers need LSU to lose two more conference games to be able to have a chance at winning the SEC West and going to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

    “We all want Alabama to win,” Cox said, “but deep down, I really don’t want Alabama to win.”

    There was a noticeable decline in TV and radio reporters Tuesday at Auburn’s regular media day. Cameras were likely more prevalent across the state. Auburn faces the Football Championship Subdivision’s (formerly Division I-AA) Tennessee Tech on Saturday.

  • Tuberville said Tuesday’s practice reminded him of two-a-days with fights breaking out.

    “Receivers were pushing around the defensive backs a little bit, and, when competition starts, tempers start to flare,” Tuberville said.

    The coach said he is pleased to see players challenging each other. Most of the competition came from younger players who are competing to play in Saturday’s game.

    “They try to get each other’s attention,” the coach said.

    Ross Dellenger,
    Daily sports writer


    NASHVILLE —Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett has been named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top receiver.

    Bennett, a product of Birmingham’s West End High, became the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading receiver Saturday against Miami of Ohio, passing former Kentucky standout Craig Yeast with his 209th-career catch early in the game that Vanderbilt eventually captured 24-13.

    Bennett leads the SEC with 54 receptions, as Vanderbilt has compiled a 5-3 record. He is third in the conference with 639 receiving yards.

    The other 11 semifinalists are Florida’s Percy Harvin, Dorien Bryant of Purdue, Keenan Burton of Kentucky, Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, Harry Douglas of Louisville, James Hardy of Indiana California’s DeSean Jackson, Mario Manningham of Michigan, Jordy Nelson of Kansas State, Brian Robiskie of Ohio State and Chris Williams of New Mexico State.


    NEW ORLEANS — Tulane has sent video to Conference USA as part of a formal complaint after officials declined to stop the clock on a late-game reception along the sidelines in the Green Wave’s 28-27 loss to Memphis on Saturday.

    Head coach Bob Toledo said Green Wave tight end Gabe Ratcliff clearly was able to get out of bounds after making a first-down catch at midfield with 17 seconds to go.

    “We see very clearly in our video he catches the ball; he’s going out of bounds,” Toledo said Tuesday. “He lands, clearly, out of bounds.”

    Tulane had a timeout remaining and Toledo said he intended to save it for another play while the Green Wave tried to get into field-goal range.

    While Tulane huddled, thinking the clock would be stopped until the next snap, the referee signaled for the clock to start as soon as the chains were moved to mark the new first-down distance.

    However, neither Toledo nor quarterback Anthony Scelfo realized the game clock was running again until Tulane’s offense came to the line of scrimmage with about 7 seconds left.

    Scelfo, seemingly flustered, ran a play instead of using Tulane’s last timeout. He was tackled after scrambling 5 yards and the game ended.

    South Carolina

    COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina football team will honor students killed in a beach house fire by placing stickers on their helmets Saturday with the phrase “Forever to thee,” a line from the school’s alma mater.

    The song is typically sung by fans and players after each home game as the Gamecock faithful stand. Many of the students who died in the Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., fire have been described as devout college football fans who were partying and watching the games on television Saturday. A seventh victim attended Clemson.

    No. 23 South Carolina (5-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) could do a lot to lift its campus’ spirit with a victory at Arkansas (5-3, 3-1).

    “We’ll do whatever we can. It’s certainly not going to bring anybody back, but life goes on,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday. “Most students here love football, love all the sports. Football seems to be the sport that you take personally, passionately, so forth. It’s a terrible tragedy that’s happened.”

    North Alabama

    FLORENCE — The North Alabama football team dropped eight spots to No. 10 in the latest NCAA Division II football poll.

    UNA (7-1) was second nationally last week before a 27-24 loss at then-No. 11 Valdosta State, which is No. 8 in the new rankings. The Lions now look to close the regular-season with home wins against West Georgia and West Alabama to remain in contention for an NCAA playoff berth.

    With two games left in the regular-season, the UNA Lions rank third in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region.

    The top six teams in the final region ranking advance to the playoffs.

    Delta State is first, followed by Valdosta State, UNA, Catawba, Carson-Newman and Fort Valley State.

    From Staff, Wire Reports

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

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