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By the time summer rolled around each year, the only things left in my trick-or-treat pillowcase at the base of my closet were a few rolls of Smarties and a bunch of empty wrappers.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 27, 2016

Photo courtesy of Jacob M. Carter

Although University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban may not rack up a host of Coach of the Year awards when the 2016 college football season is said and done,  there is little doubt that the 10th-year Crimson Tide coach has done one of his best coaching jobs in Tuscaloosa this season, if not his best.
He has taken an Alabama team dominated in large part by freshman leaders in critical spots such as quarterback, running back and along the offensive line and once again has the Tide very much in contention for the Southeastern Conference championship and the College Football Playoff national title.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide team, off this week before returning to action on Nov. 5 against No. 19 LSU in Baton Rouge, is currently 8-0 overall and has defeated five ranked opponents thus far.
There may be many football fans and observers around the nation who may tend to wonder how Saban continues to keep the Alabama dynasty rolling, in terms of victories, national and conference titles and No. 1 recruiting classes year after year.
A new book regarding Saban, his process and his dynasty allows for a glimpse into the staggering success of the Tide football program over the course of the past eight years or so, and from a host of unique perspectives.
Jacob M. Carter's book, The Riptide, The Untold Stories from Those Who Built The Alabama Dynasty,  takes an inside look at some of the ingredients required to become a successful student-athlete in Saban's Crimson Tide juggernaut and what has contributed to the Tide once again becoming the gold standard in terms of the college football landscape.
And while this is detailed in fine form partly by Carter, author of the critically acclaimed book Before History Dies, most of the story is told through the words of a group of former Crimson Tide players, mostly those who have played for Saban at UA.



Kentucky (4-3, 3-2 SEC) at Missouri (2-5, 0-3 SEC), Series: Tied 3-3, 11 a.m. CT • SEC Network, Last: UK, 21-13 (2015 at Lexington), Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field / Memorial Stadium (71,168)            

Samford (6-1) at Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3 SEC), Series: MSU leads, 16-1-1, 2:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network, Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (61,337)        

Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) vs. Georgia (4-3, 2-3 SEC), Series: UGA leads, 49-42-2, 2:30 p.m. CT • CBS, Last: UF, 27-3 (2015 at Jacksonville), Jacksonville, Fla. • EverBank Field (82,871)                                       
Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 SEC), Series: AU leads, 29-11, 6:15 p.m. CT • SEC Network, Last: UM, 27-19 (2015 at Auburn), Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)                  

Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC) at South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC), Series: UT leads, 25-7-2, 6:15 p.m. CT • ESPN2, Last: UT, 27-24 (2015 at Knoxville),  Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)                         

New Mexico State (2-5) at Texas A&M (6-1, 4-1 SEC), Series: First Meeting, 6:30 p.m. CT •  ESPNU,  College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,512)                    

OPEN: Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC); Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC);  LSU (5-2, 3-1 SEC);  Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-3 SEC)

My toddler is three years old. He loves Peppa Pig, PJ Masks and Doc McStuffins. He will also glue himself to anything electronic that plays race car and monster truck videos (child-themed of course). When he sees something he does not understand, he questions me. “Why, mama?” When he sees someone hurt, his rough-on-the-outside exterior doesn’t quickly soften but his long-lashed, brown eyes do, and he will ask,Are ooo (meaning “you”) okay?”

My point is this: He’s innocent, just like all children are. And in his quest for answers to a never-ending list of questions, I have found myself anxious as I await the big question. 

Halloween treats are a must if you’re planning on attending any gatherings in coming days. I thought I’d offer up a couple of different options, including a healthier option, a Candy Corn Treat that’s oh-so-simple to make and really cute. But really, this Pumpkin Torte Cake will be the crown jewel of your Halloween party. It’s rich, sweet, elegant and festive. Enjoy your spooky holiday and bon appétit!

By Stan J. Griffin: October 23, 2016

With University of Alabama standout tight end O.J Howard currently in his final year of eligibility for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide team, Saban and his staff knew it would be needing some players to build depth at that position once Howard departs.
On Sunday night, the Crimson Tide program gained some great news in that regard.
Bullard (Texas) tight end Major Tennison, one of the nation's top prospects at that position, committed to continue his academic pursuits and his football career at Alabama.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 22, 2016

With both No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M bringing prolific offenses into their mammoth Southeastern Conference showdown Saturday, the common and obvious thought by most observers was that the battle of unbeatens would also be a fairly entertaining offensive display and certainly a tightly-contested affair.
And while Kevin Sumlin’s visiting Aggies did provide a semblance of drama for a brief portion of the game, the Tide’s ground attack and defense proved to be more than enough as Alabama gained a huge 33-14 triumph in front of a capacity crowd of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 
The top-ranked Crimson Tide improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in SEC play while the Aggies fell to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Alabama also extended its overall winning streak to 20 games dating back to the 2015 season.
The win, however, did not come without a price for the Tide as Alabama coach Nick Saban reported in his postgame comments that senior strong safety/return specialist Eddie Jackson fractured his leg early in the fourth quarter and will miss the rest of the season. 
Alabama totaled 451 yards in the game, including 287 on the ground, while the Tide defense held the Aggies to 278 yards overall, and the conference’s leading rushing team entering the contest was held by UA to 114 yards on the ground. The Tide stop unit also contributed another non-offensive touchdown as defensive lineman Jonathan Allen scored his second TD of the season.
Sophomore tailback Damien Harris tallied 125 yards rushing on 18 carries while true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts carried the ball 21 times for 93 yards and a score. Hurts also completed 15 of 25 passes for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also had two interceptions. 
 "I was really proud of the way our players competed in the game and how they finished the game," said Saban. "I was really proud of the way our players, after going down 14-13, played in the second half. After we got in that position, I thought it was great competitive character on their part to persevere. It's good to have a week off. I want the players to get some rest, relax and get healthy, but we can't be relieved."
 On the first offensive series of the game, the Tide marched from its 25-yard-line to the Aggie 10 before it bogged down and Alabama had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Adam Griffith to go up 3-0 with just under 12 minutes to go in the first quarter.

Most would agree that cocktails in general are great for summer, but they are also great for fall and spring in the south on those days when it feels like summer again or when you just need to recapture a bit of the summer feeling. However, narrowing down the list for the best summer cocktails for fall is a challenge. The consensus is that people want a drink that is thirst-quenching, above all else. This means tart flavors and fruit mixtures that send the right amount of summer vibes for any sweltering get together.  If you’re lacking inspiration and need help staying away from your worn-out go-to drinks, we’ve got some suggestions for your next cocktail here. Cheers!

Halloween is a fun time of year at our Alabama state parks. Take your pick of several family-friendly "spooktacular" park events around the beautiful state.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 20, 2016

With Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Sam Ponder and the rest of the ESPN College Gameday crew heading to Tuscaloosa this weekend, and the college football microscope largely centered on Saturday's juicy matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M at Bryant-Denny Stadium. analysts from all over the nation are furiously dissecting what should be an intriguing chess match between tenth-year Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and fifth-year Aggie head man Kevin Sumlin.
Other than a 59-0 blowout by the Tide over the Aggies in 2014, the recent matchups between the Southeastern Conference West Division rivals have been fairly entertaining, including last season's 41-23 victory by Alabama in College Station in which UA returned three interceptions for touchdowns to help seal that victory.
Both teams bring prolific offenses into Saturday's clash, with Alabama averaging just over 45 points per game and Sumlin's team tallying just over 40 points and a league-leading 274.3 rushing yards per contest. The Tide defense, however, is only allowing 15 points and 64 yards rushing per contest, and the Tide also continues to make things happen, scoring-wise, defensively and on special teams.
So it will be interesting to see which team is more effective in establishing its particular strengths early and often.
Alabama (7-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC play) is currently more than a two-touchdown favorite over the Aggies (6-0, 4-0 in league play) in this Top 10 matchup set for 2:30 p.m. CT (CBS), but Saban said earlier this week that he knows the visitors, who have already bested opponents such as UCLA, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee, will present an array of challenges for his team.


UMass (1-6) at South Carolina (2-4, 1-4 SEC), Series: First Meeting, 11 a.m. CT • SEC Network,  Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)          

Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0 SEC) at Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC), Series: UA leads, 6-2, 2:30 p.m. CT • CBS, Last: UA, 41-23 (2015 in College Station), Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)            

Middle Tennessee (4-2) at Missouri (2-4, 0-3 SEC), Series: MIZ leads, 1-0, 3 p.m. CT • SEC Network,  Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field / Memorial Stadium (71,168)

Arkansas (5-2, 1-2 SEC) at Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC), Series: AU leads, 13-11-1, 5 p.m. CT •  Last: ARK, 54-46 OT (2015 in Fayetteville), Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)                      

Tennessee State (5-1) at Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-3 SEC), Series: VU leads, 1-0, 6:30 p.m. CT • ESPNU,  Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)                    

Mississippi State (2-4, 1-2 SEC) at Kentucky (3-3, 2-2 SEC)    Series: MSU leads, 22-21, 6:30 p.m. CT •  SEC Network, Last: MSU, 42-16 (2015 at Starkville), Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium (61,000)              

Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2) at LSU (4-2, 2-1 SEC), Series: LSU leads, 59-41-4,  8 p.m. CT •  ESPN, Last: UM, 38-17 (2015 at Oxford), Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)                         

OPEN: Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC); Georgia (4-3, 2-3 SEC), Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC)


Rawleigh Williams III, RB, Arkansas
Ran for 101 yards in the first half against No. 12 Ole Miss and a career-high 180 yards for the game which is the most by a Razorback in an SEC game since November of 2010.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 18, 2016

Photo by Stan J. Griffin

Fans of both Avery Johnson's University of Alabama men's basketball team and Kristy Curry's Crimson Tide women's hoop team are urged to head to Coleman Coliseum Friday for the unofficial christening party for the upcoming 2016-17 UA roundball seasons.
The 2016 Supe Store Tide Tipoff will begin at 6 p.m. CT at the venerable arena with a 45-minute autograph session featuring both teams' players and head coaches stationed throughout the concourse.
Beginning at 7 p.m., both Crimson Tide teams will be introduced followed by the on-court activities, which will involve students and representatives from both the men's and women's teams.
The dunk contest will be held in front of celebrity judges, who will be announced prior to the competition.
Friday night's event will feature a skills competition, three-point shootout and a dunk contest prior to the entertainment of the night, giving it the feel of an NBA All-Star game.
Admission to the event is free for UA students as well as men's and women's basketball season ticketholders. UA students, admitted one per student ID, will swipe their Action Card similar to a regular men's basketball game at the west entrance of Coleman Coliseum event night beginning at 6 p.m. CT.
General admission tickets for all other fans interested in attending will be $5.

Here are some simple tips to help parents prepare their child for a positive experience in kindergarten and later life.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 17, 2016

The hype meter concerning Nick Saban's No. 1 University of Alabama football team, as generated by the local and national press corps, has been ramped up a notch following the Tide's impressive 49-10 rout of the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
As if the hype and pressure for this team was not already persistent enough.
Many analysts from ESPN and other national networks are proclaiming that the Tide (7-0 overall, 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play) has distanced itself from just about other team in the nation other than maybe Ohio State and Michigan, and one local columnist even suggested Sunday that this Alabama team is beginning to perhaps distinguish itself as Saban's best team yet at the Capstone.
But with five games still to play in the regular season, such talk is surely still premature at this point, and Saban said Monday his team cannot afford to focus on self-gratification, especially with No. 6 Texas A&M coming to town this coming Saturday, sporting a perfect record itself at 6-0.
Alabama and Kevin Sumlin's Aggies (also 4-0 in league play) are set to clash Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game is set for a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff and the pivotal league showdown will be televised by CBS.
"I think the question is, do you rest on your laurels, or do you stay hungry to try to improve, and build on the things that you did correctly, and fix the ones that you didn't?," said Saban. "So you can either build on it or rest on it."
The 10th-year Tide coach, who improved his Alabama record to 10-0 against Tennessee this past weekend, said complacency would obviously not benefit his team in any way for its upcoming game against a very talented and prolific Aggie squad.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 13, 2016

Alabama vs. Tennessee says it all.
It is one of the most fabled college football rivalries, not only in the tradition-rich Southeastern Conference, but in the nation as well.
It conjures up images and memories of tremendous battles between teams directed by legendary coaches General Robert Neyland and Paul W. "Bear" Bryant.
It is Bryant as a Crimson Tide player playing on a broken leg against the Volunteers, and Neyland himself noting, "You never know what a football player is made of until he plays Alabama."
It is "Roll Tide" and "Rocky Top" and victory cigars after the Crimson Tide gets a big win over that hated rival suited up in orange and white.
Many Crimson Tide fans, especially of the older generation, claim that the Tide/Vols clash is Alabama's main grudge match, even more so than the iconic annual Iron Bowl showdown between UA and Auburn.
Regardless of what the opinion is for Tide fans in that regard, no one can dispute that this rivalry certainly ranks high in the annals of college football lore.
It has also been a particularly streaky feud game, as the Crimson Tide won 11 straight in the series from 1971 to 1981 before Tennessee responded by winning four straight from 1982-85.
UA won eight out of nine from 1986-94, but the Vols captured seven in a row from 1995 to 2001.

Mandatory reporting of all deer and turkey harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system is now required by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). Hunters will have 48 hours to report their harvest through the recently updated Outdoor Alabama mobile app, online at www.outdooralabama.com, or by phone at 1-800-888-7690.

Shopping with children can be a challenge at times.  Plan ahead and have some basic expectations in place so the experience is pleasant for all!

The Alabama Forestry Commission has now issues a fire alert for 46 of Alabama’s 67 counties. All outside burning is now banned in these counties. The decision comes as a drought continues in these areas, and the danger of wildfires continues.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 10, 2016

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban still had the look and sound of a frustrated coach on Monday, even nearly two days after the 49-30 win by his No. 1 Crimson Tide team over the then-No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville.
Although Alabama was never seriously threatened in that game, and had a sizeable advantage most of the contest, defensive lapses by the Crimson Tide probably kept the game much closer than it needed to be.
Arkansas was able to keep the ball for over 37 minutes,  score 30 points and tally 473 total yards of offense, 400 of those yards through the air against a UA secondary that struggled mightily at times.
"I think we had some lapses in the game, I think we still are searching to be able to play a complete game," said Saban. "We got ahead in the game and sort of relaxed a little bit and didn't play with the same intensity and it really affected how we played in the second half. We didn't control the ball at all in the second half, and we only had the ball for 17 plays, turned it over a couple of times, three and out, and the defense ended up playing over 50 plays in the second half. You're not really in control of the game when you do that, regardless of what the score is."
Saban said it is time for his team to learn some lessons from Saturday in terms of giving a more complete effort, and what better time to start than this week against a No. 9 Tennessee team that never seems to be out of a game, even after falling into big holes against opponents such as Florida, Georgia and this past weekend against Texas A&M.
The comeback magic for the Vols finally came to an end on Saturday as they fell in double overtime to the Aggies in College Station, but Saban said he knows Butch Jones' team is a very dangerous opponent.

By Stan J. Griffin: October 8, 2016

Although the No. 1 Alabama football team faced a loud and crazed atmosphere Saturday night at Razorback Stadium as it clashed with Bret Bielema's No. 16 Arkansas squad, it hardly seemed to faze Crimson Tide freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and his young group of offensive playmakers.
The Alabama youth movement continued to translate into big dividends for Nick Saban's team, and an opportunistic UA defense forced a handful of Arkansas miscues as the Tide rolled to a 49-24 win over the Razorbacks in a pivotal Southeastern Conference West Division showdown.
Alabama improved to 6-0 overall on the season and 3-0 in SEC play while the host Arkansas team fell to 4-2 overall and 0-2 in league play.
The Tide won its 18th-consecutive game before a crowd of 75,459 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Hurts ran for a pair of scores while throwing for two more, and Tide sophomore cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick had three interceptions, including one returned for a TD to lead an Alabama defense that had five takeaways overall.
Hurts led a Crimson Tide offense that tallied 517 yards of offense by hitting 13 of 17 passes for 253 yards, along with two touchdowns and an interception. ArDarius Stewart was Hurts' leading target in his return from an ankle injury as he hauled in five passes for 120 yards, including a long catch of 67 yards.
Damien Harris led the Crimson Tide ground attack as he had 13 carries for 122 yards. Joshua Jacobs added three rushes for 57 yards and Bo Scarbrough had seven carries for 56 yards and a score.
Punter JK Scott had four kicks for an average of 51.5 yards and a long kick of 63 yards.
Defensively, Ryan Anderson and Shaun Dion Hamilton led Alabama with nine tackles each, with Ronnie Harrison adding eight and Rashaan Evans with seven.

Azalea City Living is Mobile, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

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