Originally created 09/15/99

Tide still looking to get the ball down field



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama thought it beat Houston by using a balanced attack -- at least that's what the numbers showed.

In this case, the numbers lied.

Sure, the 275 yards on the ground and 230 through the air looked like an even attack. But in putting up those numbers in a 37-10 win over Houston last Saturday, the 18th-ranked Crimson Tide ignored an entire facet of its game -- throwing the ball downfield.

Through two games this season, one can count on two fingers how many times Alabama has successfully gone deep -- a 51-yard touchdown from Andrew Zow to Shaun Alexander against Vanderbilt, and Tim Bowen's diving 31-yard catch from Tyler Watts against Houston.

Plenty of passing plays have been called, but take out the screens and the shovels and it's obvious the Tide has struggled to execute its passing game.

"I think it's going to be crucial that we throw the football better," Alabama coach Mike DuBose said. "I'm disappointed in our vertical passing game. We've talked about trying to throw the football deep and throw it deep with some success, and we still have not been able to do that."

Alabama has definitely tried to go deep -- the Tide opened the game against Houston by calling for a pass but Zow was sacked for a loss before he could get the ball off.

"The first play was meant to be thrown whether it's there or not," DuBose said. "It's one or two things -- we've got a chance for a completion and a big play or we're sending a message."

Neither happened, partly because Alabama's receivers have struggled to get open or, when they did, the pass was either out of reach or they were unable to make the play.

The Tide so far has gotten most of its production out of receiver Freddie Milons, who leads the team with seven catches. After that, tailback Alexander has five and receiver Jason McAddley only has four.

Tight end Terry Jones, Jr., picked up the slack for the receivers last week, catching three screen passes for a team-high 124 yards. That didn't go unnoticed by Alexander, who said he'll try to motivate the receivers a little bit this week.

"I'm going to embarrass them," he joked. "How do you let a tight end lead you in receiving for a game? Between him, Dustin (McClintock) and me, we're killing those guys."

He's right.

Alexander, Jones and McClintock, a fullback, have combined for 10 of Alabama's 26 catches and 258 of its 431 receiving yards.

The receivers could redeem themselves against Louisiana Tech this week with the return of freshman Antonio Carter, who has been hobbled by an ankle sprain.

Carter, who will add speed to the receiving corps, practiced on Monday and said he was "nearly 100 percent."

DuBose thinks the deep threat will be better this week against the Bulldogs.

"To be completely honest, I think we just have to rep it a little bit more in practice," he said. "And we have to call it."

Zow agrees.

"It'll come," he said. "We've got the speed and we can stretch the field more. We have guys who are legitimate deep threats, so we'll be all right."