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Backup QBs take center stage in Alabama

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Oct. 10, 2003
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Southern Miss' midseason match up with Alabama could be billed as a battle of the depth charts.
The Eagles (3-2, 3-0 Conference USA) and the Crimson Tide (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) will meet for the 50th time in the two programs' history with quarterbacks that weren't even listed on their respective depth charts at the start of the season.
USM head coach Jeff Bower announced on Monday that true freshman Damion Carter would start on Saturday against Alabama, despite a shaky performance against Cincinnati last weekend. Carter completed 3-of-6 passes for 23 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Carter may be getting the nod for the start, but sophomore quarterback Dustin Almond will be ready to come of the bench if the freshman struggles again.
Almond completed 9-of-18 passes for 133 yards led the Eagles' 64-yard drive in the final minutes against the Bearcats to set up the game-winning field goal.
Alabama head coach Mike Shula hasn't been as up front about his starting quarterback entering the contest at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The first-year Crimson Tide coach has only ruled out second-string quarterback Spencer Pennington, who has a separated right shoulder, from playing in the game.
First-string quarterback Brodie Croyle, who has a separated left shoulder, is still listed as day-to-day, but Shula will most likely start freshman Brandon Avalos under center.
No matter which quarterback Shula uses, Bower said the Eagles will be tailoring their defense to stop what the Tide has been doing very well this season run the football.
Alabama's two-headed backfield attack of Shaud Williams and Ray Hudson has combined for 808 rushing yards, and the Tide is averaging 155.5 rushing yards per game this year.
Though Alabama's running game was held to just 95 yards on 31 carries against Georgia last weekend, Bower has not forgotten the 351 yards on the ground the Tide notched against the Golden Eagles last season.
The Eagles have struggled to stop the run this season. Opponents are averaging 183.8 yards on the ground per game against USM.
Despite the Eagles' miscues against opposing running backs, Shula said his team will have to be prepared to fight for every yard against a very physical team.
USM is scheduled to kick off against Alabama at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be the Eagles third non-conference game of the season.
USM has not fared well against opponents outside Conference USA. The team lost 34-2 to California in the season opener, and Nebraska trounced USM 38-14 on Sept. 24 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.