Saturday’s almost comeback win provided Big Blue Nation plenty of optimism moving forward. With a single quarterback at the helm, the Cats continued fighting for their lives despite trailing 21-0. Coach Stoops had to admit that the 21-0 score bothered him, “I was very frustrated I admit that,” but the team didn’t give up, “We talked about it throughout the week. If they started fast, ‘hang in there, (we’ll) make some adjustments and battle back to give ourselves a chance to win the game.’”
A big part of their success has to be accredited to Jalen Whitlow. A game with limited mistakes, Whitlow managed the game well and had only 7 incompletions while playing interception free. What stood out to Coach Stoops the most was his physical running play, but more importantly his competitiveness and decision-making that had been shaky in the past. Was that enough for Jalen to be “THE GUY” at Quarterback? “I do. He’s the starter and let’s hope that he takes it and runs with it and gets better and better each week.”
Jalen’s play and the tenacity of the entire team wasn’t enough to win the game alone. For Coach Stoops, the last piece of the puzzle is to, “find ways to make plays when the game is on the line, on both sides of the ball.” The zebras may have interfered with some of that. As Tyler said earlier, the league’s head official Steve Shaw has already informed Coach Stoops that they made the wrong call on a ’12 men on the field penalty’ during the game’s last drive. Not only did that unjust penalty harm the Cats, but a drive was halted earlier in the game because of a critical penalty on 3rd down. Lined up in the Wildcat formation on 3rd and 1, Jojo Kemp pushed forward for the first down before the zebras assessed a 5 yard penalty for illegal formation, ending a promising drive near field goal range. That’s right, not once but TWICE the Cats were victims of home cookin’.
Stoops cannot look back on the South Carolina game too much, the #1 and back-to-back National Champions are coming to town Saturday night. There were many lessons learned last week, lessons Stoops hopes will carryover:
“I just hope we continue to understand that we can win these games. It’s not just me up here talking about that. If we truly believe, if we go about our business, if we work the wright way, if we prepare the right way and execute and make plays when the game is on the line, we had every opportunity to win that game. And that’s a VERY good team, very well coached and we have a lot of respect for them, but had we done some things right we could (have) won that game….a lot of it’s mental. We mentally need to be stronger.”
What makes Alabama great is their systematic approach to the game. Well coached with great technique, players are forced to execute or they’ll sit the bench. There aren’t many teams with depth like Alabama, but they can consistently rotate guys in without missing a beat. They’re 3-year starting quarterback A.J. McCarron
has a hot girlfriend plays with that same systematic approach, maintaining poise and making the right throws in the most difficult situations, “McCarron is very poised, confident and tough. You can tell he’s played in a lot of big games.”
Defensively, Nick Saban orchestrates a complex system that can confuse the hell out of offenses, if simply smacking them around doesn’t work. Common knowledge might say that cornerbacks Coach Derrick Ansley could provide some insight after coaching for Saban at Alabama, but Saban’s defense is the best of the best, “I think there’s so much defense that they can grab from, even if you know what they’re in, it comes down to technique and execution at that point. They’re very good at what they do.”
Ansley might not have too much of an added effect on the gameplan this week, but Saban indirectly effects the Kentucky football team everyday (not just by giving us tons of BCS money). Mark Stoops doesn’t have any experience coaching with Nick Saban, but his former boss Jimbo Fisher has plenty. “The way coaching trees sometimes workout, in an indirect way I would imagine I’ve learned some things from the way Coach Saban structures practice or goes about his business. Obviously I’ve never worked with anybody on his staff or anything like that, but Coach Fisher did take an awful lot of that from Coach Saban and would often talk about it….He’s affected a lot of people in a good way.” I don’t know about you, but it’s very reassuring knowing the everyday practice structure of the football team is modeled after Alabama.