TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Generally speaking, Alfred McCullough was happy with his first performance as an Alabama starter Saturday against Mississippi.
What came Monday, though, was far from expected.
Being named the team’s co-offensive player of the week by the Crimson Tide coaching staff caught the right tackle off guard.
“I’m a humble guy,” McCullough said. “I didn’t really think too highly of it. … Everybody started calling me and telling me how (they were) proud of me. I was happy, but I didn’t take a big head over it.”
Replacing regular starter D.J. Fluker, who was nursing an injured groin, was a long time coming for the fourth-year player who converted from the defensive line to the offense after one season.
“It was crazy,” McCullough said of his emotions trotting onto the field for the opening drive Saturday. “I was really excited, but I wasn’t trying to do too much — just go out there and do my job.”
With Fluker limited again in practice this week and coach Nick Saban calling him “very questionable” for Saturday’s game at Tennessee, McCullough is ready for career start No. 2.
Saban said Wednesday that Alabama had a hard time finding an opponent to play the Tide in the 2011 opener after an undisclosed school backed out of a contract to play Sept. 3 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Kent State eventually stepped up, but Purdue now says the Mid-American Conference school pulled the same trick on them.
The Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier reported Thursday that Saban’s alma mater is paying Purdue the $425,000 buyout clause to trade the Boilermakers for the Tide.
“This is a new one, having someone opt out of a contract just over 10 months before a game,” Purdue athletics director Morgan Burke said in a written statement. “I am personally surprised because of the positive relationship Purdue and Kent State have had through the years.”
Saban made a similar comment Wednesday.
“These old contracts that people have —that I probably shouldn’t be commenting on — people are willing to give them more, so they take more,” Saban said.
Still kicking himself
Will Lowery has been a shining example of a walk-on who worked his way into a prominent role on the Alabama defense this year.
But the safety is still kicking himself about a pass he should have intercepted against Mississippi that fell to the turf instead of in his hands.
“It’s been bothering me all week,” he said with a smile Wednesday. “It’s tough when you get opportunities like that and don’t come up with the play.”
The Hoover, Ala., product had interceptions earlier this season against Penn State and another at South Carolina. He plays mostly in nickel and dime packages — those that include extra defensive backs — that defend considerably more passes than the base 3-4 defense.