No. 1 Tide hop­ing to build on wire-to-wire chal­lenge

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Sa­ban is hop­ing his team can find a way to grow from its first wire-to-wire chal­lenge of the sea­son.

The top-ranked Crim­son Tide were chal­lenged Satur­day night, but walk away with a 31-24 win over Mis­sis­sippi State . Lead­ing the way was quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts.

Faced with that high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tion for the first time since a last-sec­ond loss to Clem­son in the na­tional cham­pi­onship game, Hurts and Alabama de­liv­ered.

“We’re a four-quar­ter team,” Tide wide re­ceiver Cam Sims said Mon­day. “They came out the first quar­ter ready and we just had to wear them down. In that fourth quar­ter, that’s where we came alive.”

Alabama is ex­pected to take over the top spot in the play­off rank­ings re­leased Tues­day since pre­vi­ous No. 1 Georgia fell 40-17 to Auburn .

Now, the Tide gets a breather from South­east­ern Con­fer­ence games with Satur­day’s visit by Mercer, an FCS team. Then comes the Iron Bowl at No. 6 Auburn in two weeks with an SEC West ti­tle and berth in the league cham­pi­onship game on the line.

Hurts led two fourth-quar­ter touch­down drives against Mis­sis­sippi State, hit­ting fresh­man DeVonta Smith for the win­ning 26-yard score with 25 sec­onds left. Alabama hadn’t been that sit­u­a­tion that late in a game this sea­son.

“It’s sort of a work in progress all the time to try to con­tinue to grow and de­velop as a team,” Sa­ban said. “That’s cer­tainly what our fo­cus needs to be if we want to fin­ish the way we’d like to fin­ish.”

A short-handed de­fense al­lowed only a field goal in the fi­nal 21 min­utes to cap off an im­per­fect per­for­mance. The Bull­dogs ran for 172 yards, the most Alabama has al­lowed this sea­son. The sec­ond-most (151 yards) came the pre­vi­ous week against LSU .

The Tide was play­ing its first full game since los­ing start­ing line­backer Shaun Dion Hamil­ton for the sea­son with a knee in­jury, as well as key backup Mack Wil­son (foot), pos­si­bly for the rest of the reg­u­lar sea­son. Lineback­ers Ter­rell Lewis and Chris­tian Miller had al­ready been lost to in­juries in the opener against Florida State.

Sa­ban said he em­pha­sized hav­ing his play­ers “thrive on hard” — mean­ing dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances — last week, and they did that in this one.

If play­ers want to lean on the ex­pe­ri­ence with Clem­son as mo­ti­va­tion or a ral­ly­ing cry in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, Sa­ban doesn’t “think that’s a bad thing.”

Line­backer Rashaan Evans def­i­nitely saw some sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two games, ex­cept with a dif­fer­ent out­come and with Nick Fitzger­ald at quar­ter­back in­stead of Clem­son’s De­shaun Wat­son.

“Be­ing down and for us to ac­tu­ally come back and fin­ish the way we did kind of shows you some im­prove­ments as far as team-wise, be­ing able to just over­come ad­ver­sity and play­ing against a great quar­ter­back that we faced,” Evans said. “The quar­ter­back we faced has some plays that kind of re­sem­ble De­shaun Wat­son, be­ing able to just use his feet.

“De­fen­sive-wise, I feel like that was prob­a­bly the best thing for us to kind of just learn and un­der­stand that you’ve got to just do bet­ter in­di­vid­u­ally — and not only in­di­vid­u­ally but un­der­stand that you’re not just play­ing for your­self but you’re play­ing for a lot of other peo­ple, as well.”

• Wy­oming QB Josh Allen has in­jured throw­ing shoul­der

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Wy­oming quar­ter­back Josh Allen, who has been viewed as a pos­si­ble high NFL draft pick next year, in­jured his right shoul­der dur­ing the Cow­boys’ win over Air Force.

Coach Craig Bohl said Mon­day it’s too early to say whether Allen will miss this week­end’s game against Fresno State.

“It may come down to a game-time de­ci­sion,” he said.

Bohl de­scribed the in­jury as in­volv­ing “soft tis­sue” and said Allen is re­ceiv­ing treat­ment. He de­scribed his sta­tus as day-to-day.

“Struc­turally, the in­for­ma­tion that we were given, is that he’s in good con­di­tion there and it will just be a mat­ter of time to when he’s able to come back and re­turn, and we’re in hopes it’s sooner than later,” Bohl said.

Bohl said he be­lieves Allen will be cleared to prac­tice some­time this week.

Allen was not avail­able for com­ment Mon­day be­cause he was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment on the shoul­der, he said.

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