Alabama looks to keep focus

Alabama looks to keep focus

September 26th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

The Alabama Crimson Tide are flying high entering October just like last season.

Which is a concern already getting addressed.

Alabama was overpowering in its Southeastern Conference opener Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, suffocating Arkansas in all three phases in a 38-14 victory. It was a similar performance to last year's 31-6 trampling of Florida in Bryant-Denny, but the Tide followed that rout with a 35-21 loss at South Carolina.

The Tide travel to Florida this week in a CBS primetime matchup of 4-0 teams.

"Last year, we got too complacent, and we got too relaxed," Tide junior cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said after tallying six tackles and three pass deflections against the Razorbacks. "Being one of the leaders, it's my job to keep everybody focused on the goal. Until we accomplish it, I'm not going to stop."

Alabama's secondary got the better of the Arkansas passing game, with cornerback DeQuan Menzie returning a Tyler Wilson interception 25 yards for a touchdown and the Tide doing an excellent job of limiting yards after catch. The Razorbacks threw for just 209 yards and had 226 total yards after averaging 517.3 total yards through three games.

This week, the expected focus will be whether Alabama and Florida can get their running games going against some imposing defenses.

"They've got a lot of great players up front," junior left tackle Barrett Jones said. "We've been playing them for a lot of years, and they have some of the same guys back that we're really familiar with. We know we have a big week ahead of us."

Alabama averages 230.75 rushing yards per game, headed by Trent Richardson's 110.75-yard average, but Florida's defense is yielding 56.5 rushing yards per game and held Tennessee to minus-9 yards on 21 carries. Florida averages 259.0 rushing yards behind the speedy tandem of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, but Alabama only allows 45.75 a game.

Arkansas tried to test the vaunted Tide but managed 17 yards on 19 rushes, and Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked if his 2011 defense is his best yet.

"We certainly had a great one here in 2009 and a pretty good one in 2008, too," Saban said. "We ended up in the top five last year, so we've got a lot of experience, and I think the guys have got to keep challenging themselves to improve, because we're going to play a lot of good teams. I am sure there were some things we could have done better, and people are going to see what we do and try and take advantage of that in the future.

"We certainly don't want any complacency in what we're doing, because we've got some real stiff tests."

Saban gives his players 24 hours to enjoy a victory, but conversation about the Gators and avoiding a rerun of last year's letdown in Columbia is well under way.

"I think it's a little bit of a different attitude right now in the locker room," Jones said. "I think it's an attitude where we're happy we won the game, but at the same time guys are saying this is only the beginning. We felt like this was the kind of win we needed to propel us forward."