October 4, 2005

Alabama's Kines gave Meyer and Leak fits

No tricks or gimmicks. No innovative adjustments. Just relentless effort and mistake-free execution. According to Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines, that's how the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide (5-0, 3-0 SEC) shut down Florida's spread offense in their 31-3 rout in Tuscaloosa last week.

The No. 13 Gators (4-1, 2-1) didn't score a touchdown for the first time since 1992, and their three points were the least the team had scored since Steve Spurrier's first season in the Swamp in 1990. It was also the first time a Meyer-coached team did not get in the end zone. The performance earned Kines Rivals.com's Coordinator of the Week.

"I don't think our success had a lot to do with our game plan, but more to do with our players and their spirit," said Kines, who is in his 34th season of coaching at the college level. "They worked extremely hard and really wanted to do well as a group. They really wanted to win this game badly and played hard for 60 minutes. We've had games where the emotion wore off, but I don't think it wore off this time, not even late in the game."

Kines' simple explanation makes sense. The motivation was clearly there. None of the players on the Tide roster had won what could really be considered a big game. Plus, Kines has his best and most experienced group of personnel since coming to Alabama three years ago. The linebackers and defensive backs - who make up a back seven that Meyer called the best the Gators would face heading into the game - have combined for nearly 200 starts.

But, Kines also deserves credit for picking the right X's and O's and putting them in the right place. Alabama leaned on its 3-3-5 defense more than ever, using nickel back Simeon Castille nearly the entire game instead of another defensive lineman. That allowed the Tide to play some more zone coverages and the result was little room for Florida receivers to maneuver. Star receiver Chad Jackson averaged just 6.2 yards per catch, making 8 grabs for 50 yards. Jackson and other Gator wideouts were met by a swarming mass of defenders nearly every time they touched the ball.

"We really put an emphasis on tackling this past week," said Kines, who also coaches the linebackers. "We knew we had to tackle the quarterback on the option, we had to tackle the pitch man, and we had to tackle the receivers. The players did a great job of executing all of that."

Gators quarterback Chris Leak didn't do any damage on the option, rushing for just 2 yards, but it was his problems in the passing game that proved to be more costly. Kines mixed in some zone blitzes and decided to play pass-rush specialist Wallace Gilberry more. The moves rattled the normally poised Leak, who was sacked four times and completed just 16 of 37 passes (43 percent) for 137 yards with two interceptions. It was the least accurate game of the junior's career. His first three passes fell incomplete and his fourth was tipped at the line of scrimmage and caught in midair by Alabama's Chris Harris. He had made 117 consecutive passes without being picked off.

Kines also said his defensive staff played a big role in slowing down the Gators. After working on staffs at Florida State, Georgia, Arkansas (including a season as the Razorbacks head coach in 1992), Florida, Clemson and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he knows how valuable assistants can be.

"Guys like Buddy Wyatt (defensive line), Chris Ball (secondary) and Paul Randolph (defensive ends) deserve a lot of credit," Kines said. "They all knew what was happening next."

Other coordinators who did extraordinary jobs this past week include:

• USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin could be mentioned for this award every week, but his latest performance was the most impressive yet. With Matt Leinart going through some uncharacteristic struggles and No. 17 Arizona State (3-2, 1-1) double teaming many of the Trojans receivers downfield, Kiffin turned to his running game. Reggie Bush (17-158) and LenDale White (19-197) responded by combining for 355 yards on the ground and averaging 9.9 yards per carry. Bush broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run that put the top-ranked Trojans (4-0, 2-0) ahead 31-28 and White took off for a 46-yard touchdown run that gave assured the Trojans of a 38-28 win and their Pac-10 record 29th straight victory. Kiffin also took advantage of little-known fullback David Kirtman, who was left wide-open in the flat on several plays. Kirtman caught seven passes for a team-high 97 yards.

• Penn State's offensive and defensive coordinators, Galen Hall and Tom Bradley, are both largely responsible for shutting down Minnesota's star running back Laurence Maroney, the key to the Nittany Lions' 44-14 thrasing of the visiting Gophers (4-1, 1-1). Maroney entered the Big Ten showdown as the nation's leading rusher, averaging 174 yards a game. But, with Bradley putting eight men in the box throughout the game and the Nittany Lions defensive linemen stuffing running lanes, Maroney managed just 14 yards in the first half and finished with 48 on 16 carries. Hall's offense, which piled up 364 rushing yards, kept Maroney off the field for much of the game, holding more than a 10-minute edge in time of possession. The Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0) moved to No. 16 in the AP poll.

• Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon showed why he is considered to be one of the top assistants in the nation in the Hurricanes' 27-7 win against visiting South Florida. The No. 9 Hurricanes (3-1) put together a dominating defensive performance, holding Bulls (3-2), who were coming off their shocking 45-14 upset of Louisville, to just 174 total yards. More than half of that number came in the fourth quarter. The 'Canes forced five first-half turnovers and limited star running back Andre Hall to just 53 yards on 19 carries.


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