Studying film ahead of Saturday’s game at No. 1 Alabama, Missouri running back Damarea Crockett noticed players flinching when they went up against the Crimson Tide. Receivers would brace themselves for hits, even if no one was near them. Players weren’t relaxed. They looked scared.
They may have had valid reason.
Alabama has won its games by an average score of 40 points. The Tide won last year’s national title, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has yet to appear in the fourth quarter this season.
Crockett sees the numbers, but he doesn’t plan to play afraid.
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“They bleed,” he said. “They’re human. They have flesh.”
Humans? Yes. But ones playing at a seemingly superhuman level. The Crimson Tide hasn’t lost at home in over three years, and most betting sites list it as a four-touchdown favorite over Missouri.
“My mom probably doesn’t think we’re going to win this game,” Crockett said. “Your mom probably doesn’t think we’re going to win this game.”
Linebacker Cale Garrett said you can let yourself feel intimidated looking at Alabama’s resume, and teams seem to “crumble over” for the Tide. That’s not an attitude he wants to take going into this weekend: He wants to give Alabama his best shot.
After practice Tuesday, Tigers players repeated that Alabama marks just another game on the schedule. They try to tune out outside noise, though the Tide’s reputation doesn’t always make that easy. Receiver Jalen Knox said he’s received texts this week about the strength of Alabama’s team.
“No one gives us a snowball’s chance to win this game,” offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton said. “That’s fine. We understand that, but I know what we have in the locker room, we know what we have in the locker room. If we do what we’re supposed to do, if we execute the things that we’ve been coached to do, I’ll take us over anybody, anyday.”
Pendleton said Alabama will pose a test. No team has come close to beating the Tide this season — its closest win was by 22 points — and the team’s punter has only had to appear in four of six games.
Quarterback Drew Lock remembers watching Alabama growing up, and he cited the 2012 matchup where the Tide beat LSU on a late touchdown. Now Missouri will be in a big game under the lights, which Lock said is cool to think about.
While recognizing the excitement around this weekend, Lock stressed the need not to make the game bigger than it is. He thinks the aura of Alabama sometimes stops teams from having success when, at the end of the day, the game is still just two football teams playing on a field.
“You don’t want to blow it out of proportion,” Lock said. “You can leave your sharpies at home. We’re not going to ask for any autographs.”