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October 17, 2009

Notebook: Arenas a last-minute scratch due to sore ribs

TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama senior cornerback Javier Arenas had his string of 20 consecutive starts snapped when he dressed for Saturday's game, but wasn't able to play.

"Javier Arenas was not suspended," Coach Nick Saban said. "We thought he would be able to play today. He got punched in the ribs Wednesday at the end of practice, finished practice and wasn't a big deal. He was sore on Thursday, did walk through, did everything on Friday, we thought he would be able to play in the game and he went out pregame warm-up and said he couldn't move and it was very sore so hopefully he won't be out for any extended period of time."

In his absence, senior Marquis Johnson started at cornerback, sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones handled punt returns, and freshman Trent Richardson joined junior Terry Grant deep on kick returns.

South Carolina went after Johnson, pairing Alshon Jeffrey against him in the red zone and threw four fade attempts without a completion.

"I feel like I just did what I'm supposed to do," said Johnson, who broke up six passes and made two tackles. "Come my way, knock it down.

"That's what we all try and do in the secondary, lock down."

Jones had five punt returns for 75 yards and Grant had one kick return for 25 yards.

Senior Tyrone King Jr. also saw extensive playing time nickel and dime formations and made seven tackles, with 1.5 sacks.

"We'll get (Arenas) back but No. 20 did a really good job out there today," Saban said. "It's a message for every player on our team that sometimes we have a hard time getting the backup players to focus and get ready because they don't think they're going to play. Well here's a guy that does a good job all the time on special teams, does a good job in practice and gets an opportunity to go out there and played a wonderful game for us."

Starters and injuries
True freshman Nico Johnson started at weakside linebacker and senior Cory Reamer slid over from strongside on passing situations.

South Carolina senior receiver Moe Brown sustained a concussion when he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from sophomore safety Robby Green near the end of the first half. With fans of both schools chanting "Let's Go Moe," he was removed on a stretcher and taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons. He was expected to travel home with the team.

Plenty to criticize
Alabama had four turnovers and 10 penalties, both season-highs.

"When you do those kinds of things, you're not playing winning football," Saban said. "You might win the game, but you're not playing winning football because you're not playing with the kind of discipline and making the right decisions that will enable you to be able to continue to play winning football."

Even more disappointing, though may be the problems in the passing game, with just 92 yards. Junior Greg McElroy's streak of 141 passes without an interception ended with his first attempt over the middle to senior running back Roy Upchurch. It's third in the Alabama record book, behind Brodie Croyle (190) and Jay Barker (155).

"The absence of explosive plays in the passing game, the inability for us to throw the ball effectively in the last two games is something that we definitely need to get corrected," Saban said. "We've got to get back and get our confidence in what we're doing and where we're going with the ball and get comfortable in the pocket and get the timing back in terms of what has been very successful for us in the past and it's something that we're going to need in the future."

Said McElroy: "It'll come back."

Tide-bits
The first Bowl Championship Series rankings will be released Monday. Incidentally, Alabama spent five weeks at No. 1 last season, but not until after it defeated Arkansas State 35-0 on Nov. 1, just before its showdown with LSU.

Phil Steele named his midseason All-American and All-SEC teams, which were both full of Alabama players. Senior guard Mike Johnson was the lone first-team selection, but junior linebacker Rolando McClain and senior nose tackle Terrence Cody were second-team, Arenas was third-team at punt-returner with senior kicker Leigh Tiffin, and sophomore running back Mark Ingram was fourth-team. As for SEC selections, Ingram, Johnson, Arenas, Cody and McClain were first-team, McElroy, Arenas at cornerback, sophomore safety Mark Barron and Tiffin were all second-team, but there were no third-team selections.

At kickoff the temperature was 48 degrees with the wind NNW at 9 mph, which made it feel much colder. Tuscaloosa was also under both a freeze watch and a lake wind advisory from the national weather service. While testing the wind during warm-ups, senior kicker Leigh Tiffin made a 52-7ards attempt, but missed from 57.

The last player to score a touchdown against Alabama was Kentucky running back Alfonso Smith on a 2-yard run. The streak is up to 132:52 in game time.

Bowl representatives on-hand Saturday included the Sugar, Capital One, Outback and Music City Bowls. … Mike Johnson, McClain, Reamer and Terry Grant were team captains. … Senior accounting major Sarah Gieger from Birmingham was crowed Homecoming Queen at halftime.


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