TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama senior cornerback Javier Arenas' efforts to be known as a great cornerback in addition to a stellar punt returner gained some more momentum Monday when he was named the Southeastern Conference's defensive player for the week.
Arenas recorded seven tackles including two for a loss and had a quarterback pressure during Alabama's 24-15 win over LSU on Saturday.
By correctly reading a run to the right and dropping Russell Shepard for a 7-yard loss, and stopping a screen pass to Terrance Toliver behind the line of scrimmage, Arenas has 10.5 tackles for a loss this season. That's tied with South Carolina's Eric Norwood for second in the SEC, but Arena's 1.31 average in eight games is better that Auburn's Antonio Coleman's 1.25 (12.5 in 10 games.
Arenas is the only defensive back to be listed among the top eight players in the category.
"It's them scheming me, not necessarily me, but what's the best fit for what that team does and it just happens," said Arenas, who is third in team tackles with 52.
Sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones was listed as honorable mention for SEC offensive player of the week and sophomore defensive lineman Marcell Dareus was likewise for defensive lineman of the week.
Arenas and Dareus were named co-defensive players of the week by the Alabama coaching staff, while senior right tackle Drew Davis, sophomore wide receiver Marquis Maze and Jones shared the offensive honors, and senior kicker Leigh Tiffin and sophomore Jerrell Harris earned the special-teams awards.
With five games remaining Arenas' 1,590 career punt-return yards are 106 short of breaking Lee Nalley's SEC record (1,695 set in 1949), and 172 yards to set the NCAA record (Wes Welker, 1,761, 2003).
"It would mean a lot, but I don't I've done pretty well since I got here so I'll be satisfied," Arenas said.
Controversy continues to linger
Both Nick Saban and LSU coach Les Miles were sympathetic regarding the controversial call Saturday when replay officials felt there wasn't enough evidence to overrule the incomplete pass that cornerback Patrick Peterson may have intercepted in the fourth quarter.
"If it was an interception, that doesn't mean they will win the game," Saban said. "I saw it and it was hard for me to tell on our film. I don't watch the TV stuff, so I can't tell you or give you an opinion one way or the other. I just really do believe this, if I was an official and I was making what I made officiating, because I loved the game and I loved doing it and was getting criticized by the media, including our announcers on TV, like these guys are getting criticized, I think I'd step back and say: 'I think I'm going to the lake this weekend, you guys can have this.'
"Those guys do a great job. They work their tail off and try and do a good job. We have a guy jump offside and he doesn't get criticized like that. Both are mistakes, one way or the other. Can somebody stand up and fight for these guys and what they do, for the game? And probably get less for it than anybody."
Miles didn't wait to be asked about it during his weekly press conference in Baton Rouge.
"The interception or the call and the way that was reviewed, I can tell you that I've had phone conversations with the (SEC) commissioner and the head of officials, and I can tell you that they looked at it long and hard," Miles said during his Monday press conference. "I can tell you from the sideline how it viewed to me. I knew that the officials could not see it and when I went back and found the film they were in great position to see the play but could not see it. Their eyes can't see through the back of Patrick Peterson at one angle, and the other official who has the best view of it is on the other boundary, and he can't see through one of our players.
"What has to happen is it turns to the instant replay booth, and it's an interesting thing that's going on in college football across the board. I think the view is that if it's not irrefutable evidence, so the instant replay man is given the instruction, and not exactly these terms but to defend and to defer to the call on the field. Well, in this instance in my opinion, two well-meaning officials were working like heck to make that call on the sideline, and they need that help. I don't know to be very honest with you. I looked at the television feed, and I do not know what the instant replay officials are looking at. I defer, and I'm going to understand that in fact these guys are doing everything they can to get it right. I'm going to figure that if there's an issue, they'll get it fixed.
"I know this, the final score is the final score. I believe in my heart that those officials are trying, and if I felt differently, I'd say that. I don't believe that. I believe they are working hard to get it right, and that doesn't change the score today and the position that we're in."
Miles was also asked which played a bigger role in determining the outcome of the game, Jones' 73-yard touchdown or the controversial call.
"The 73-yard touchdown was points on the board, and to me, that was by far and away their biggest offensive play of the game," he said. "It led directly to a score. I would have liked to have had the ball with 69 yards to go in a one-possession game and the opportunity at four downs every time I got a first down, but that's ifs. If that ball is awarded to us, we still have to negotiate 69 yards. Now, would I have liked to have that opportunity? You bet, but, that's all speculation at this point."
Junior quarterback Greg McElroy was pleased for Jones following his 100-yard performance Saturday and felt a little redemption himself.
"You can never say you won't face adversity again, because you will," McElroy told reporters after the game. "This is the SEC and you play great teams week in and week out. Is it frustrating to me that people did lose faith in me? Yeah. It really ticks me off.
"But I never lost faith in myself, I never lost faith in my teammates, and I never lost faith in what we were able to do offensively. It really made me feel good to go out and silence everybody tonight and obviously get a big victory."
Monday he was asked if he still felt that way 48 hours later.
"It was never meant to be a personal slam," McElroy said. "It was never meant to be anything derogatory toward anybody. It was really kind of an emotional statement. We have experienced a lot of criticism. Is it deserved? I don't know."
He went on to elaborate about facing criticism in the public spotlight.
"There is nothing to prepare you for it," he said. "You can watch people go through it. You can see what John Parker (Wilson) went through, a lot of credit, a lot of blame and all kinds of things that I was able to witness and watch how he controlled it. When you're in the situation and in the spotlight it's just so much different. You'd like to say that you'd do everything right at the position, you'd like to go out there and perform excellently and do everything off the field perfect, but sometimes you can't.
"I'm 21-years-old and sometimes I get caught up in the moment a little bit, so you just have to take step back and realize what you are going through and the fact that so much is at stake that revolves around Alabama football. Sometimes that can be a negative and sometimes that can be a positive, but in most cases it's positive because we're having a great season. Obviously, we've got three more games to play and the SEC Championship."
Last kickoff time set
Alabama's final home game against Chattanooga on Nov. 21 will kick off at 11:21 p.m. and be shown on the SEC Network.
The other SEC broadcasts that day will be Mississippi State at Arkansas, 11:21 a.m. SEC Network/ESPN Regional, LSU at Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m. CBS, Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 6 p.m. ESPNU, and Kentucky at Georgia, 6:45 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2.
Saturday's game at Mississippi State will kick off at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The Nov. 27 game at Auburn has already been slated for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS.
Injury and practice report
Although the Tide was obviously a little beat up following Saturday's game against LSU, no one missed Monday's practice.
"I'm sore right now," Arenas quipped.
With rain in the area the team began practice outside and then moved inside the Hank Crisp Facility. Junior running back Terry Grant and freshman cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick both practiced after missing Saturday's game with muscle pulls.
Senior tight end Colin Peek also practiced after being limited against LSU (knee sprain). Freshman Chance Warmack was out with the flu. Junior Brian Motley worked in his spot, second-unit left guard with sophomore John Michael Boswell at right guard
Arenas said "No way" when asked if he'd ever like to be a referee. "I don't see anything wrong with the officiating. I got out and play ball each and every week and I've never had an issue with the officiating. If they throw a flag on me I always throw my hands up because that's my first reaction. They have to tell 92,000 angry fans what they don't want to hear, and those fans have beer bottles in their hands. They have the hardest job out there so I never question the officials, and even if I do I keep to myself."
Miles was surprised Alabama came out throwing: "Certainly, there is an element of call there that the frequency of throw necessarily, but we kind of felt like they would have to throw the football to move the football against us and early certainly. I think they had a great plan. They moved the football down the field throwing it. I think it was at the end of the first quarter, off memory, six carries for six yards for Ingram. I think that's reflective of how we start games, and I think what they did late in the game, running the football and really attacking the line of scrimmage also spoke to the fact that it was later in the game, and those runs are a little bit harder to tackle."
Miles wouldn't say that LSU lost to Alabama on Monday, rather that the Tigers came in second. "I just think it's more palatable to say that than the other thing," he said.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was asked to compare Alabama's rushing defense to Florida's on Monday. "They're both great defenses and both have the ability to play man-to-man on the outside which gives them that ability to crowd that box," he said. "How they go about it is different between the two of them, but their ability on their outside guys is what makes them similar."