Alabama braces for big­gest test from Texas A&M

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By John Zenor AP Sports Writer

Alabama dropped 49 points on a na­tion­ally ranked team and South­east­ern Con­fer­ence chal­lenger, then went out and did it again.

Now the Crim­son Tide wants to keep rolling through another huge game. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) hosts No. 6 Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0) Satur­day in what’s not only a sec­ond straight Top 10 matchup but also a meet­ing with the big­gest ap­par­ent threat in the West­ern Di­vi­sion.

The coaches and team lead­ers harp on stay­ing grounded even after a 4910 thrash­ing of then-No. 9 Ten­nessee, which fol­lowed another road win over No. 17 Arkansas (49-30).

“They’re big on that, but we’re all like that,” tail­back Damien Har­ris said on Mon­day. “None of us re­ally think any dif­fer­ently just be­cause we had two good wins. More so than any­thing, we just want to keep work­ing on im­prov­ing. That’s more mo­ti­va­tion to get bet­ter each and ev­ery day at prac­tice, fin­ish ev­ery drive at ev­ery game, things like that.

“That’s the men­tal­ity that we’re try­ing to de­velop. We try to main­tain a sense of hu­mil­ity be­cause we made a lot of mis­takes in both games and there’s still room for us to im­prove. So we try to em­pha­size stay­ing hum­ble and hun­gry.”

It’s hard to be hum­ble when you’re av­er­ag­ing 49.5 points in four games against Top 25 teams and com­ing off a de­mo­li­tion of the SEC East front-run­ners. But fac­ing the Ag­gies, who are com­ing off a bye week, in the Tide’s tough­est test yet makes it a ne­ces­sity.

Tide coach Nick Sa­ban called the per­for­mance against the Vol­un­teers prob­a­bly “the most com­plete game we played all year,” then quickly shifts to the need for im­prove­ment.

That men­tal­ity helps ex­plain why Alabama is 23-6 against Top 10 teams since the start of the 2010 sea­son and rid­ing a 19-game win­ning streak..

“I think the ques­tion is do you rest on your lau­rels or do you stay hun­gry to try to im­prove, build on the things that you did cor­rectly and fix the ones that you didn’t?” Sa­ban said.

No. 23 Mis­sis­sippi is the only team that has re­ally given Alabama trou­ble this year. The Tide won that game 48-43 but has brushed aside the com­pe­ti­tion be­fore and since.

The most im­pres­sive statis­tic against the Vol­un­teers: 438 rush­ing yards. Even cen­ter Bradley Boze­man was taken aback by that num­ber when de­fen­sive end Jonathan Allen re­layed it on the team bus af­ter­ward.

“I was like, ‘Holy crap. That’s a lot of yards,”’ Boze­man said.

Now, Alabama is a 16-1/2-point fa­vorite over the Ag­gies. Still, Sa­ban dis­misses “out­side talk” about how good Alabama is as me­dia-fu­eled clut­ter.

“Those are ex­ter­nal fac­tors that I call clut­ter that re­ally can af­fect your psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­po­si­tion about how you need to com­pete in the next game, be­cause you can get sat­is­fied with peo­ple pat­ting you on the back for what you did last week, then you get punched in the nose the next week,” Sa­ban said. “So it takes a spe­cial kind of ma­tu­rity and a spe­cial kind of com­peti­tor to un­der­stand that.”

NOTES: Quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts is SEC of­fen­sive player of the week for the third time and earned fresh­man hon­ors for the sec­ond time. Fel­low fresh­man right tackle Jonah Wil­liams is the of­fen­sive line­man of the week . ... Guard Alphonse Tay­lor, who missed the Ten­nessee game with a con­cus­sion, is “day to day” this week, Sa­ban said.

WADE PAYNE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alabama de­fen­sive back Ed­die Jack­son re­turns a punt for a 79-yard touch­down dur­ing the sec­ond half of his team’s 49-10 win over Ten­nessee in Knoxville, Tenn., on Satur­day.

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