NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Alabama receiver Marquis Maze isn’t about to concede anything to LSU, not even the kicking game.
Sure, the top-ranked Tigers controlled field position with Brad Wing’s punts when the teams met two months ago in what, back then, was called the game of the century. And those four field goals missed by the No. 2 Crimson Tide have left a stamp on the season.
So maybe it’s OK to admit LSU has an edge in special teams? Maze, who had one of Wing’s punts sail over his head, isn’t buying it.
“I don’t think nobody’s better than us on either side of the ball,” he said. “Or special teams.”
Now, the Tide (11-1) has a chance to show it. Both teams arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday with a few more days of hype and preparation ahead of a rematch that will decide the Bowl Championship Series’ national title _ and perhaps even which of the two Southeastern Conference Western Division rivals is actually better.
Both have something to prove. LSU (13-0), fresh from an SEC championship, would love to show that it doesn’t need missed kicks and a goal line interception to beat `Bama. Win, and there’s no doubt who’s No. 1.
Maze and Alabama arrived in the Big Easy feeling like that 9-6 overtime defeat on Nov. 5 slipped away courtesy of missed opportunities. Now, the Tide gets a mulligan _ and plans to make the most of its second chance.
“We did learn a lot from that game,” Tide coach Nick Saban said Wednesday, “in terms of things that we can do better.”
_Convert scoring chances. Alabama had only six points off seven trips inside LSU’s 35-yard line last time out. Cade Foster missed three long field goals and Jeremy Shelley had one blocked, but the failed kicks were preceded by stalled drives.
_Avoid backfiring gambles. Like Maze’s pass on a trick play that LSU safety Eric Reid managed to wrangle from the arms of tight end Michael Williams at the goal line early in the fourth quarter. A replay upheld the interception call, but Maze believes it was a catch.
“Really, I think it was a bad call,” he said.
_Clip the Wing. Wing buried two punts inside the Tide 5 and had a late 73-yarder that sailed over Maze’s head.
There are surely plenty of other things Saban and his players can pick over.
“Just little mistakes,” nose guard Josh Chapman said. “Not capitalizing. Finishing. That’s the main thing. We practice this day in, day out, from spring ball. Finish plays. Little things like that.
“When you don’t finish the plays in practice it kind of carries over in the game. We didn’t finish on a lot of things out there and those guys capitalized on a lot of mistakes.”
Tide players have had two months to stew over, and study, that game. They’ve had extra time since Alabama hasn’t played since Nov. 26 at Auburn, while LSU dispatched Georgia in the SEC championship game.
“We just fell short, but this time around I feel like everybody absolutely knows everything they’re going to do from watching film,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “I feel like we’ve got a real good game plan so we’ve just got to go out and execute it.”
Fellow linebacker Nico Johnson said he “watched it a lot after we lost,” and once more during Auburn week.
“It was bothering me to see what point of the game that it kind of turned around and what plays caused this and that, and just trying to watch that and see what happened,” Johnson said. “There were a lot of plays that they made. They made some big plays that kind of gave them the momentum and took intensity away from us. That kind of turned the game around.”
And left plenty of what-ifs for the Tide to ponder.
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