September 29, 2007

Tide offense struggles in loss

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A search party officially has been sent for the Alabama offense that dialed up 41 points against Arkansas three weeks ago, and Sataurday night, reports from the field were nothing but static.

The Crimson Tide's offense stumbled through a 21-14 loss to Florida State Saturday at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, and while the Alabama offense showed a spark in the two-minute drill for the third consecutive week, it was a lethargic performance through the first three and a half quarters that made a 21-7 FSU lead too steep for a two-minute drill to overcome.

"This is the first game that I felt like the other team was more physical than we were in terms of the way they controlled the line of scrimmage, the tackling, and I didn't feel like we got that done," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "The mental and physical toughness edge that that team established on our offensive team and on special teams was the difference in the game."

The most noticeable difference between Alabama's first four games and Saturday's loss was the absence of an effective running game. Terry Grant's gaudy average of six-plus yards per carry endured its first dent of the season, as a speedy Seminoles defense placed the game squarely on the shoulders of quarterback John Parker Wilson.

Grant finished with a season-low 36 yards as the Crimson Tide rushed for a season-low 89 as a team. Alabama failed to convert a first down until the second quarter. Wilson connected on 28 of 53 passes for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but most of that success came only after the Seminoles had built a 14-0 lead on the strength of a dominant defensive effort.

"The defense was just unbelievable," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "The defense did a magnanimous job."

Alabama's offensive struggles also served to minimize any momentum from a capacity crowd of 85,412 that appeared at least 50 percent Crimson. The crowd was quiet on both sides throughout a scoreless first half, but a touchdown drive led by FSU's Xavier Lee to open the second half kept the Alabama contingent on its hands until a late touchdown pass to DJ Hall provided some short-lived hope.

Defensively, Alabama was led by Ezekial Knight, who made nine tackles including two for a loss and a first-half sack.

"Our confidence is going to be good - we've just got to come back to work, have a good week of practice this week and get this thing rolling again."

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