tampabay.com

Coaching legend praises his son's improvement

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published October 2, 2005


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Don Shula knows a little about coaching.

So when the Hall of Famer says his son, Mike , has vastly improved since he took over at Alabama three years ago, it's hard to disagree.

"Obviously, that was his first head coaching job, and he got thrown into a tough deal," Don Shula said of his son replacing Mike Price four months before the 2003 season began. "I think he's grown every year on the job. He's got a good staff. He's surrounded himself with good assistants, which I think is important. Now the players he's got playing are players he's picked and worked with."

Shula and his wife, Mary Anne , attended their third Alabama game this season and said they love sitting among the Crimson Tide fans, although it's not easy hearing criticism of her son.

"It's hard," Mary Anne said. "But I don't tune (the fans) out. I love it, especially all the Alabama fans' support they give to Mike."

Saturday's 31-3 win was exactly what his son needed, Shula said.

"It was the win that everybody had been waiting for; the one that he needed," he said. "Hopefully, this will be the one that puts him over the top, and they'll go on from here."

COSTLY WIN: Alabama's victory did not come without a price. Receiver Tyrone Prothro broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg with 8:53 left while trying to catch a pass in the end zone. Prothro had been one of the game's stars, catching five passes for 134 yards, including two touchdowns. He's expected to miss the rest of the season.

"It leaves you with an empty feeling to see the nature of the injury," Mike Shula said. "My heart goes out to him. He's been a big impact in every game, even if he doesn't touch the ball."

CROYLE'S BIG DAY: After seasons of multiple injuries and questions about his toughness, Brodie Croyle is proving critics wrong big time. The senior was 8-of-9 for 219 yards in the first 11/2 quarters and finished with 286 yards on 14-of-17 passing.

With his third touchdown, Croyle moved into first all-time at Alabama with 36, surpassing Andrew Zow and Mike Shula. Zow, Alabama's all-time passing leader, presented the game ball before Alabama took the field.

EARL'S BIG PLAY: How bad was it for Florida? Linebacker Earl Everett had the longest run of the day, a 32-yard reverse on a fake punt. The former high school quarterback said he was surprised when the play was called.

"I was actually on the bench sitting down when they called it, and I heard everybody say we were going to run it," he said. "I was happy at the moment. We've been practicing it since the first game, every week in practice.

"When the time came to run it, we executed it well. I give all the credit to the punt team. They blocked well. The main thing on my mind was to get a first down."

NOT SO HAPPY RETURN: Florida receiver Chad Jackson was under the impression Alabama fans can forgive and forget.

He was mistaken.

Jackson grew up just an hour from the Alabama campus but spurned the Tide for the Gators. He said last week he was curious what kind of reaction he would get from the fans of his home state but added he had received e-mails from friends hoping he and the Gators would beat Alabama.

Those people must not have been at the game.

Jackson was soundly booed when his name was called as part of the starting lineup before the game then booed each time he touched the ball.

By the second half, the Tide was beating Florida so badly, the fans became bored and quit booing Jackson. He finished with eight catches for 50 yards.