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November 7, 2011

Tide focusing on MSU

TUSCALOOSA | The game of the century is over.

That was Nick Saban's message Monday. Now the University of Alabama's task is to get over it as quickly as possible and turn its attention to this week's game against Mississippi State.

How will the Crimson Tide do it? How can players let go of an oh-so-close overtime defeat to top-ranked LSU, a game that could have gone Alabama's way if just one of a handful of plays had turned out differently?

For Saban, it's a matter of routine. There was no day of mourning, no call to arms, no change in approach at all.

"Nobody here is panicking," Saban said.

Alabama fell to No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, which determine the two teams that will play in the national title game. Alabama will need help to have a chance to play for the title, but isn't out of the chase. If players need incentive to get back in the groove, that possibility should help.

"That's something else that we pay no attention to," safety Robert Lester said. "We feel that if we do what we need to do and win the games that we need to win, everything will fall into place."

Alabama players left a lot on the field against LSU. They have a matter of days to get it back.

"We've got to forget about it, like it never happened," Lester said. "We don't pay attention to our record as it is. We focus on what we need to do, and Mississippi State's the next team to come up. ... We can't' let it affect us or it will turn into another loss."

Alabama must also recover from the physical toll. Left tackle Barrett Jones sustained an ankle injury, although he returned to finish the game, and several other players are banged up.

"It's probably the most physical game I've been in all year," running back Trent Richardson said, "maybe since I've been at Alabama, because both teams are fighting for their season, fighting for the SEC, fighting for the national. It's just something that we were going at it, just fighting for pride, too. Just a whole bunch of collisions. Just imagine you've got two 18-wheelers going at it, like the 'Matrix' movie. That's how the collisions were out there."

Forgetting a game that players, fans and pundits alike had looked forward to since before the season won't be easy. UA players will have to find the motivation to move forward.

"Obviously I'll remember it the rest of my life," center William Vlachos said, "but I've got three (regular-season) games left in the crimson jersey. I'm trying to do my part as a leader on this team and get better each and every practice and finish the year strong."

Reach Tommy Deas at [email protected] or at 205-722-0224.

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