Expectations were high for Alabama running back Kenneth Darby going into the 2006 season, but after eight games, the least of the Tide’s expectations have been met.

Going into last Saturday’s game against Tennessee, Darby had back-to-back 100-plus rushing yard games against Duke and Ole Miss, but had failed to break the 100-yard mark in the first five games. Darby has yet to have a defining performance this season, and after Saturday’s game, the Tide family is beginning to ask why.

Against the Volunteers, the Tide had 30 rushing attempts for a total of 53 yards, and Darby accounted for 26 of those yards on 14 carries. Along with the dismal 1.9 yard per carry performance, Darby was out rushed by teammate Jimmy Johns who had 37 yards on just three carries.

“We faced a tough Tennessee defense,” Darby said. “We struggled to run the ball, but we were still able to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

So far this season, Darby has had a total of 612 yards on 148 attempts and has yet to reach the endzone this season while averaging 76 yards per game.

Even through the offensive struggle this season, the Tide continue to put themselves in position to win games. In the fourth quarter against Tennessee, the Tide was holding on to a 13-9 lead, but couldn’t find a way to win the game.

“I thought our defense did some real good things,” said Alabama head coach Mike Shula. “They came up with some big plays and some turnovers. I felt like having the lead in the fourth quarter there, 13-6 and then 13-9, that we were going to find a way (to win the game). We couldn’t, and they made the plays in the fourth quarter and had a nice drive that we couldn’t come back and overcome.”

A lot of the struggle this season has been the play of the offensive line, who has not been able to sustain blocks, pick up blitzes and create lanes for the backs. Shula said the line had a part in the team’s troubles.

“It’s tough. It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Shula said. “We’ve got to be able to hang in together and just execute a little better in the game on the line.”

On Saturday, the Crimson Tide faces a Florida International team that has given up 913 yards this season against the run in a game that could be a huge momentum builder for the Alabama offense. After FIU, the Tide finishes out the season against Mississippi State, LSU and Auburn.

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