Alabama QB Croyle could win - but not alone
Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 4:05 a.m.
Just how much paint is there in the state of Alabama? How many blank canvases are there? How many Alabama walls are crying out for a mural? How many T-shirts can be mass-produced in a week? How many artists can the University of Alabama sue at one time?
If today's Alabama-Florida game finishes in a certain way, we could be about to find out.
Obviously, almost any result is possible in a college football game, especially one that promises to be as competitive as the Crimson Tide against the Gators. If one team has miscues in special teams, or turns the football over five or six times, the other team might win in a blowout. It might be a defensive struggle. It might be a shootout. It could go in any number of ways.
But if Alabama were to win in dramatic fashion, the outpouring of emotion will be tremendous. And if Brodie Croyle does what his head coach, Mike Shula, made his trademark - a dramatic drive for a thrilling Southeastern Conference win - the reaction will be unbridled adulation.
Croyle is already popular, and rightly so, for his Alabama bloodlines, and his perseverance, and his strong right arm. He's played tremendously well in some games in which Alabama came close. But he doesn't yet have a victory that defines his career. (Just shoot me if I use the phrase "signature win.")
But, to be honest, Croyle says he isn't looking for one.
"I'm not going to win this game (by myself)," Croyle said Tuesday. "If anything, I'm going to lose it. But I just don't get into all that 'Brodie beat Florida' stuff. If we come out and win, it's a team win. We'll have to do some things on offense, and we'll have to play well on defense."
Shula supports that idea.
"I think the biggest thing mentally for Brodie is 'Don't feel like you have to win the game by yourself,' " Shula said. "As a quarterback, you make good decisions. You continue to do the things that you've been doing. And I think physically, we're going to have to adjust to a defense that's got more speed than we probably have ever seen."
In other words, it doesn't take heroics, just sound management. In fact, there are times when sound management can become heroics. Rick Clausen's second-half control of the Tennessee offense in Monday night's Volunteer come-from-behind win over LSU was a perfect example. That's the sort of thing that Croyle was alluding to when he said he was likelier to lose the game by himself than he was to win it.
But there are other factors at work as well, and Shula says that Croyle provides those factors.
Shula had those same qualities himself as a college quarterback, and admits that it's a little tougher to be sanguine on the sidelines.
"I've got a lot of nervous energy over there," Shula said. "A lot of people don't get to see that, although our assistant coaches know it. But one thing that makes you a little calmer is knowing you have a quarterback like Brodie out there."
The significance of the Florida game isn't lost on Croyle. He admitted that his lunchtime conversation on Monday consisted of the surprising fact that Alabama had never beaten a top five team at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"That was surprising," he said. "It gives us a little extra motivation. There aren't a lot of things you can do at Alabama and say you were the first team to do it."
So history could be made today. As Croyle points out, he can't make it alone - but he can certainly contribute to it.
Cecil Hurt is sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News, a member of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. Reach him at email@example.com.
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