Alabama players ready for a less stressful week

Alabama players ready for a less stressful week

October 26th, 2015 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard breaks free from the tackle of Tennessee defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. during Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will enjoy an open date before facing LSU, another top-10 team, on Nov. 7.

Photo by Butch Dill

Derrick Henry went a lot of places Saturday afternoon, but he wasn't going too far down the road.

After rushing for 143 yards in the 19-14 triumph over Tennessee inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama's 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior tailback was asked about this week's open date.

"It's a good time for everybody to rest and for everybody to get their bodies back," Henry said.

Then he was asked about Alabama's next game on Nov. 7, when undefeated LSU arrives. Not only will that be an anticipated showdown of top-10 teams in a prime-time matchup on CBS, but there is the dynamic of Henry dueling against LSU sophomore tailback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette.

"I'm not going to worry about that," Henry said. "I'm going to enjoy this week. When that week comes, then I'll focus on that."

Alabama improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Southeastern Conference play following its ninth consecutive win over the Volunteers. Tennessee had an open date before making the trip to Tuscaloosa, just as Texas A&M did the week before, when the Aggies fell 41-23 to the visiting Crimson Tide.

LSU improved to 7-0 and 4-0 with a 48-20 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday night — the Tigers are playing one less game than every other SEC team due to a weather-related cancellation on Sept. 5 — and is off this week as well.

"Obviously, this bye week is going to be very welcoming for us in terms of getting some guys healed up and rested up so that we can be at our best down the stretch," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.

Saban credited Tennessee after Saturday's game but also said his players were "tired" and "dead-legged." Alabama's players weren't as quick to point to that as the reason for their closest game with the Vols since 2009, but they are welcoming some down time.

"I'm looking forward to it," senior cornerback Cyrus Jones said, "but I don't think we were looking ahead to it. We knew we had to finish this game off the right way. We're going to take advantage of the extra rest and be as fresh as we can when we face LSU."

Said junior tight end O.J. Howard: "I think it's going to be real important for us. Of course, we're going to practice, but it's a chance for us to get rested up a bit."

Alabama is ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press poll and USA Today coaches poll, while LSU is No. 4 in each.

The Crimson Tide and Tigers made history after the 2011 season when they took part in the first national championship game involving teams from the same conference. Alabama won that matchup 21-0 in New Orleans, and they've won the three additional meetings since.

Last year's game went into overtime before Alabama prevailed 20-13.

"I don't want to talk about LSU," junior outside linebacker Ryan Anderson said. "I've got a bye week coming up. I get to see my granny and my family."

West owning East

Alabama's win Saturday afternoon over Tennessee followed by Mississippi State's 42-16 thumping of visiting Kentucky later that night left the SEC West 8-1 this season in head-to-head matchups with the SEC East. The next such meeting takes place this week when Texas A&M hosts South Carolina.

The SEC West went 10-4 against the East last season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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