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October 13, 2012

Tide breaks out eye-popping acrobatics

COLUMBIA, Mo. | The University of Alabama went to Faurot Field on Saturday for a football game, but it added some elements from a circus act.

The Crimson Tide didn't literally float through the air with the greatest of ease, but you could have mistaken a few UA players for trapeze artists in Alabama's 42-10 victory.

On three different plays, three different Crimson Tide football players showcased the athleticism found on the roster of the nation's No. 1-ranked team: Eddie Lacy hurdled a Missouri defender on an over-the-top touchdown plunge, Christion Jones did a 360-degree, end-over-end flip on a punt return and T.J. Yeldon went horizontal from nearly 5 yards out on a dive into the end zone for another score.

Alabama football coaches might see that sort of thing all the time, but the plays made an impression on UA track and field coach Dan Waters, who was watching on television. He saw skill sets that could be well utilized in his sport.

"Those are amazing, athletic plays," Waters said via telephone.

Yeldon's dive was the kind of thing a track coach could appreciate.

"We'd like to have him long-jump for us," Waters said.

Lacy's hurdle, too, caught his eye.

"Those performances with that athleticism would translate in any athletic endeavor. Eddie, with his flexibility and explosiveness and strength, could do a lot of different things."

Lacy, who started the game with a 73-yard touchdown run on UA's second snap and ended the first half with 143 yards on just 10 carries, didn't really plan to go airborne on second-and-goal from the 3-yard line midway through the first quarter, but he followed the block of defensive lineman Jesse Williams and literally hurdled his way into the end zone, jumping completely over Missouri defensive back Braylon Webb.

"It was a kind of high jump," Lacy, who totaled 177 yards on 18 carries, admitted. "I don't know, something in my head just said, 'Jump,' and I did it."

Said teammate Kevin Norwood, "If you've got the hops, you can do it."

Jones' somersault at the end of his 30-yard punt return on the last play of the first quarter caught the eye of Sarah Patterson, coach of the two-time defending national championship UA gymnastics team, who knows a thing or two about flipping.

Patterson commented on her Twitter account right after the punt return: "Wow!! Bama Football Can "FLIP" with the BEST!!"

It also made an impression on his teammates.

"We were hoping he'd land and kept running," linebacker Adrian Hubbard said. "It was a good play. It's tough."

Yeldon, the rookie, swept right end for 15 yards in the second period. He turned the corner and was headed for the end zone as he raced up the sideline, but the Missouri defense seemed to have the angle to head him off. He planted his foot just inside the 5-yard line and launched himself toward the end zone, keeping the ball inbounds as it crossed the goal line.

"I was on the field for that one," Norwood said, "so I was looking over and all I saw was somebody flying in the air. I was like, 'What is going on?' He did a great job, he read his blocks and got in the end zone."



Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.


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