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    FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2007


    Saban offers support for Alabama's starting QB

    John Parker Wilson stood in the Crimson Tide's interview room this week, looking like a linebacker.

    A giant bag of ice on his right shoulder immediately perked the interest of several reporters that maybe Alabama's starting quarterback was hurt, but he dispelled those rumors quickly — he was just sore from throwing a lot.

    If Alabama coach Nick Saban talks about overcoming adversity, judging by Wilson's minor physical problem Tuesday, it appeared that the quarterback is attacking the Crimson Tide's current situation head on.

    Two straight losses and two straight so-so performances have some reporters asking Saban about a quarterback controversy as Alabama (3-2, 2-1 SEC) heads into its homecoming game against Houston (2-2, 1-1 C-USA) on Saturday.

    Wilson's stats against Florida State last weekend weren't terrible as he completed 28 of 53 passes for 240 yards, but 121 of those came in the fourth quarter when Alabama was losing.

    On Monday, Saban backed Wilson as his starter, citing other issues as contributors to Wilson's most recent performances.

    "John Parker has done a lot more good things than bad things. And I think that we would like for him to continue to develop consistency in what he's doing," Saban said. "He got hit way too much, and he showed a lot of mettle and character and competitive spirit in the way he continued to play because we didn't do a good enough job of blocking him."

    Against Houston, Wilson will face a defense that is ranked No. 56 in the country and has played one BCS conference opponent this year, losing to Oregon 48-27.

    It could be a good way for Wilson to break out of his funk.

    Along with the passing game, here are some other issues facing the Crimson Tide this week:

    Finding running room: With Alabama's offense struggling, it seems like Houston can be the perfect elixir for all that ails the Crimson Tide.

    Not only is Houston's pass defense ranked in the lower half of the country, but its run defense isn't much better, giving up 178 yards a game. While Wilson had a tough game against Florida State, Saban criticized Alabama's running attack more than his passing offense.

    Terry Grant had 36 rushing yards, way down from his previous season low of 80 set against Georgia the previous week. Houston should give Grant a chance to improve on those numbers, and rediscover the form that saw him gain 403 yards through Alabama's first three games.

    Stopping the Cougars: Houston's offense is considered unconventional by some. But to Houson head coach Art Briles, it's pretty simple.

    "We've been messing around with it for around 20 years," Briles said.

    "It may be unconventional to some, but to us, it's what we do."

    The Cougars rarely huddle and pretty much use every kind of offensive strategy you can think of.

    "We run a lot of different formations," Houston quarterback Blake Joseph said.

    "We run the option game. We can spread out and throw down field out and throw the ball downfield."

    Oddly, this puts a lot of pressure on Alabama's scout team for this week, which Saban thinks will be up to the task.

    "It's difficult to match the speed and it's difficult to get the execution that you need in practice in terms of preparation, so that's going to be a challenge for us," Saban said. "But I will say this — our scout teams have done an outstanding job this year of helping us get ready on both sides of the ball."

    Homecoming hangover: Homecoming is supposed to be a pushover, not a tough opponent from a decent conference.

    A nice win against Houston could erase the sting of consecutive losses and put the Tide back on track.

    Houston at Alabama

    2 p.m

    Josh Cooper Josh Cooper
    DAILY Sports Writer

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