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November 5, 2012

Final drive carries Tide

TUSCALOOSA | Every Thursday, the University of Alabama football team does its two-minute drill in practice. And every Thursday, UA coach Nick Saban puts his team through all sorts of two-minute possibilities.

One minute left, two timeouts, needing a field goal? Been there.

Two minutes left, no timeouts, needing a touchdown? Done that.

But properly executing various two-minute scenarios at the Thomas-Drew practice fields, and matching that execution at LSU's Death Valley, are two entirely different propositions.

"That last drive was something I'll never forget," Saban said Saturday.

The Crimson Tide's 21-17 win over the Tigers was perhaps the season's best example of the team ignoring the pressure, the crowd noise, and other such things Saban often describes as "clutter."

"It was straight focus. We knew we had to move the ball down the field," receiver Kevin Norwood said of the feeling in the UA huddle. "We knew we had to get something going, either a field goal or a touchdown. ... We changed the game."

Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio got much the same sense in the UA huddle.

"We looked in each other's eyes and we knew we were all going to do our jobs," he said. "We all had extreme confidence. We had a job to do and it was time to execute."

The five-play, 72-yard drive began with three consecutive completions from AJ McCarron to Norwood. Two of those were out patterns at the sideline that allowed the Crimson Tide to not only move into field goal range, but stop the clock as well.

So why was Norwood such a big part of the drive?

When Alabama's defense plays zone coverage on Thursdays during the two-minute drill, Norwood said, McCarron usually throws to him. So when LSU showed zone coverage on UA's final drive Saturday night, Norwood expected the football.

And got it.

"We saw our season going down the drain. I guess our eyes just popped open and we got it done," he said.

On the final play, however, a 28-yard touchdown on a screen pass to T.J. Yeldon, LSU would have been better off in the same zone scheme.

"They blitzed. When we called it, everybody was saying on the headset "I hope they pressure"," said Saban. "Because somebody's either got to peel the guy, or someone's got to take him from inside out. And if you block them, everybody else is playing man to man. They blitzed."



Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.


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