|Even with Saban, Alabama in same boat as last year's team|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 12 November 2007 13:36|
The Crimson Tide, coming off a humbling loss to Mississippi State, is 6-4 and destined for a second-tier bowl, just as they were this time last year. Gilberry, though, thinks the similarities end there.
``There's definitely something different about this team and definitely something different about this staff,'' the defensive end said Monday.
He's sure hoping so. Last year, the Tide ended the season with three more losses to finish 6-7 and coach Mike Shula was fired before the Independence Bowl.
Now, Alabama is preparing for the home finale against Louisiana-Monroe (4-6) from the Sun Belt Conference. Then it's on to the Iron Bowl and trying to snap a five-year losing streak to rival Auburn - and maybe avoid a repeat trip to Shreveport, La., by landing a better bowl invitation.
The stakes have dwindled with back-to-back losses to LSU and Mississippi State, both games decided in the closing minutes. Both still sting.
It's not exactly what Tide fans and players were hoping for in coach Nick Saban's first season. As Gilberry pointed out, though, there are notable differences this time around.
For one, Alabama managed only two Southeastern Conference wins last season and already has four, including victories over Arkansas and Tennessee - two teams that beat the Tide in 2006.
Linebacker Darren Mustin wasn't interested in discussing the past weekend's game or the more distant past.
``I don't want to talk about it,'' he said of Saturday's 17-12 loss at the Bulldogs.
As for last year, he points to a quote posted on Alabama's weight room wall: ``Don't let the future be held hostage by the past.''
``We can't look back at that,'' Mustin said.
Gilberry doesn't think this team is going to fold. An 8-4 regular-season finish wouldn't sound all that bad, even if it doesn't quite live up to what exuberant Alabama fans were hoping for in Saban's first season.
``This thing is not even close to being over,'' Gilberry said. ``We've shot a lot of bullets but we still have a lot left. We're nowhere close to being empty. We've just got to keep fighting.''
Saban isn't questioning the Tide's fight. It's the execution he would like to see improve, saying Alabama didn't play badly against Mississippi State except for several ``major mess-ups.''
Those include an interception returned 100 yards on a pass by John Parker Wilson with the Tide poised to expand a 9-3 lead in the final seconds of the first half. An interception early in the second half set up another Mississippi State touchdown.
``The bottom line is the major mess-ups in the game that the other team was able to take advantage of,'' Saban said. ``It's all about execution. You win or lose as a team, which we will, but every individual executing is what helps you win.''