TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama coach Mike Shula was encouraged by what he saw in the lockerroom.
The sights on the field were a different matter altogether in the Crimson Tide's punchless 20-3 loss to No. 25 South Carolina on Saturday night.
Quarterbacks throwing the ball straight to defenders. An 0-for-11 performance on third downs. Costly penalties.
Still, Shula said he didn't sense any panic among Tide players after their second straight loss and another woeful passing performance.
"That's what makes me feel good," he said Sunday. "I feel good about this football team. Our defense is playing their tails off. Offensively, we're moving the ball, we just came up with some turnovers that hurt our chances of winning
"Was everyone frustrated? Yeah, we all were frustrated and yet I believe this team is going to continue to work hard. I think we've got good leadership and we've got guys who are committed to this football team."
Now, the main thing Alabama (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) desperately needs is an effective quarterback. Marc Guillon was ineffective for the second straight start since replacing the injured Brodie Croyle.
He was 9-of-18 for 53 yards with a pair of interceptions. His longest pass was 13 yards to tight end Clint Johnston.
Spencer Pennington fared even worse, going 1-of-6 for 4 yards and two more picks in relief.
Shula said he would announce a starter early in the week. Whoever it is, their first directive will be to avoid turnovers - or, as Shula put it, "covet the football."
"We've got to be able to learn to throw the ball away or come to our second receiver or third receiver," he said. "That's the No. 1 thing for the quarterback is to not lose the game, to keep from beating yourselves."
Shula said the Tide's "terrible" showing in third-down situations went beyond the passing of Guillon and Pennington to protection and unsuccessful running plays.
The Tide's running game was enough to keep the game close at Arkansas before a couple of late touchdowns made it seem less respectable, at 27-10.
But Alabama wilted when South Carolina proved able contain the run. Ray Hudson, the league's No. 2 rusher coming in, managed a modest 74 yards, 96 fewer than he had against the Razorbacks. Backup Kenneth Darby had only six carries for 27 yards.
Alabama had eight first downs, none in the second half.
Starting midway through the second quarter, Alabama's final eight drives ended with a missed field goal, three punts, three interceptions and a failed fourth-down play. None lasted longer than four plays.
South Carolina held onto the ball for two-thirds of the second half. Thanks to the turnovers, its starting field position after halftime was Alabama's 39-yard line.
The Tide visits Kentucky on Saturday, seeking to rebuild its confidence and fashion some sort of offense.
"We've got to move on," Shula said. "We don't have time to sit back and think about it. You've got to move on and start thinking about Kentucky."
TIDE TALK: Receiver Keith Brown and linebacker Juwan Garth both sustained shoulder injuries. Shula didn't expect Brown to miss the Kentucky game. Garth could be out a "few weeks," however.
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