TUSCALOOSA — The NCAA reinstated Alabama’s five suspended players in time for the Tide’s game against Auburn on Saturday.
Offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, running back Glen Coffee, cornerback Marquis Johnson and special teams player Chris Rogers have missed the Tide’s last four games because of an “impermissible receipt of textbooks.”
The suspensions covered Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, although the NCAA informed Alabama of the decision before the game.
“I really think they have paid their dues,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think they have been punished enough. They will have an opportunity to get their jobs back, but it will be up to them whether they get them back or not.”
The NCAA ruling followed a report submitted this week by the university regarding its ongoing investigation into the case.
Crimson Tide players say they are looking forward to getting their five teammates back.
“We’ll be back where we were earlier in the season, and it will be a confidence boost for everybody,” Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson said. “We just have to let those guys come in and play and see where it takes us.”
Alabama athletics director Mal Moore released a statement Saturday: “I’d like to compliment all the people involved in carrying out this part of the inquiry for their hard work in clearing up the situation for these student-athletes. I appreciate their hard work and I am pleased that the young men will be back for the upcoming game.”
Hall sits first half
Before Saturday’s game, Alabama receiver DJ Hall walked to the middle of the field to shake hands with Saban and pose for pictures with his parents.
As one of the Tide’s 22 seniors, he took part in the pre-game festivities honoring the group before their final contest at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
But once the game started, Hall stood on the sideline with a white towel draped around his neck. He sat out the first half for what Saban called a violation of team rules.
“The guys make choices that don’t put them in the position to help the team,” Saban said. “It is something that doesn’t help us represent the team, our teammates and the institution.”
Hall returned in the second half and finished with three catches for 32 yards.
Jimmy Johns starts
Some of the biggest cheers from Alabama fans Saturday came in response to running back Jimmy Johns starting.
Johns, a junior, had never started a game at Alabama, and he was productive to a point.
He rushed for 34 yards on four carries but lost a fumble in the fourth quarter. With Alabama driving on the Louisiana-Monroe 19-yard line, Johns lost the ball on his way down and the Warhawks recovered.
Johns hadn’t played running back since Alabama’s third game of the season, which was a win over Arkansas. According to Saban, the Tide has tried to get Johns to play with more consistency.
“You want to be able to trust the guys, and Jimmy has worked his tail off this year. He just had a lot of things to overcome,” Saban said. “He has been doing better lately. He did deserve the opportunity to play, and other than that (fumble) he did a pretty good job.”
Alabama’s kick return game and defense took a hit Saturday when kick returner/cornerback Javier Arenas went down with a high ankle sprain on a punt return near the end of the first half.
Jonathan Lowe handled the kick return duties after Arenas went down. Arenas walked with the aid of crutches near the end of the game, and his status for the next game is unknown.
Recently, Arenas has seen action as Alabama’s extra cornerback in its “star” package. Cornerback Simeon Castille slid into Arenas’ position after his injury.
Time of possession
In its pregame planning, Alabama emphasized time of possession against Louisiana-Monroe. However, the Warhawks won that battle.
Louisiana-Monroe kept the ball for 34 minutes, 51 seconds, while Alabama had it for 25:19.
“They did keep the ball a lot of the time,” Tide linebacker Ezekial Knight said. “But we should have gotten off the field. If we did, they wouldn’t have had the ball that long.”
Party in Monroe
It didn’t take the Warhawks long to plan a party for their victorious football team. According to the school’s athletics Web site, Louisiana-Monroe’s football team was set to arrive home at Malone Stadium in Monroe, La., at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Fans are encouraged to welcome back their victorious Warhawks in the circle drive in front of Malone Stadium,” the release said.
The Warhawks’ victory over Alabama marked the program’s first win over a Southeastern Conference opponent since 1995 when it defeated Mississippi State 34-32.
“This is the biggest victory we’ve had,” Warhawks wide receiver Marty Humphrey said. “We didn’t come in and beat ourselves.”
Locker room silent
After last weekend’s loss to Mississippi State, several players described the Alabama locker room as “heated.”
This weekend, the shock of a loss to Louisiana-Monroe took the words out of Alabama’s mouths — literally.
“People weren’t saying much,” Wilson said. “It’s tough right now.”
Add a ‘1’ in loss column
Alabama is now 15-1 against teams that are current members of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Tide is 15-1 against Louisiana-Lafayette (8-0), Middle Tennessee (2-0), NorthTexas (2-0), Louisiana-Monroe (1-1), Arkansas State (1-0) and Florida International (1-0).
Grading the CrimsonTide
Decatur Daily Sports Writer Josh Cooper grades Alabama’s performance in Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, giving the CrimsonTide a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.
Scoring 14 points against a team that allows 30.6 points a game shows a lack of execution on so many levels. Those third- and fourth-and-short plays from the Louisiana-Monroe 18-yard line in the fourth quarter that gained zero yards?They exemplify Alabama’s offensive woes.
Forget that Louisiana-Monroe had 282 yards of offense. The Warhawks held onto the ball for almost nine minutes more than the Crimson Tide.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
When Louisiana-Monroe blocked Leigh Tiffin's kick at the end of the third quarter, Alabama probably knew that it was just one of those days.
THE BIG PICTURE:F
Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe. If you say it 100 times fast, maybe you’ll actually believe it. Whether the Tide can rebound in the Iron Bowl will serve as a true test of Nick Saban’s abilities as a head coach.
Best and worst
Best Mike DuBose impression: This loss clearly wasn’t part of first-year coach Nick Saban’s “process.” When you pay $4 million a year for a coach, you expect more than a loss to Louisiana-Monroe — even if you have “Mike Shula’s players.”
Best victory: For Charlie Weatherbie at Louisiana-Monroe. At least that is what he said following the game.
Worst way to end a career: For the 22 Tide seniors who were honored before the game, losing like this had to be the worst possible end to their years at Alabama.
Worst crowd noise: Why Alabama fans don’t show up for games against non-SEC opponents makes no sense. The malaise in the stands carried onto the field. Or maybe it was vice-versa? Either way, the Crimson Tide never got a lift from the boo birds in attendance.
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