Alabama football: Robert Foster looks to recover from tough series against Texas A&M

October 10, 2017 GMT

TUSCALOOSA — Head hung down, Robert Foster trudged to the sideline. He had just snapped Alabama’s most improbable streak, fumbling a bubble screen in the third quarter of the Tide’s 27-19 win against Texas A&M — the team’s first turnover in its 634 plays.

A play before, Foster stood wide open, one yard in front of the first-down marker. Quarterback Jalen Hurts delivered a perfect strike. Foster dropped it, setting up the third-and-12 on which he fumbled.

After the fumble, Foster arrived to his coach. Nick Saban removed his headset, placing both of his hands on Foster’s chest. The often-intense coach appeared calm as he explained to Foster how this one play could not dictate the remainder of his game — or season.

“Hey, you’ve got to focus on the next play,” Saban said he told the redshirt senior receiver. “Don’t worry about that, don’t get frustrated with that, just focus on the next play.”

Nick Saban’s reaction after #Alabama ’s first turnover in almost 37 quarters.Reserved and calm in what looks like a teachable moment pic.twitter.com/7TSV5EzJDe — Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 9, 2017

Foster’s journey is filled with these pitfalls. He suffered season-ending injuries at the beginning of both his sophomore and junior seasons. During media day at last season’s College Football Playoff championship game, Foster acknowledged to reporters he considered transferring.

He remained in Tuscaloosa, only to encounter more misfortune. In the offseason, he was hit by a car while riding his scooter, requiring more than 20 stitches. He recovered fully and appeared ready to become Alabama’s second pass-catching option behind Calvin Ridley.

Across the first six games, Foster’s caught seven passes for 96 yards. Fifty-two came on his first career touchdown in a 41-23 win against Colorado State in the third week. No other Alabama wide receiver — aside from Ridley — has caught more than eight passes.

Foster possesses the speed and experience to establish himself as Hurts’ second option. His touchdown against Colorado State was a 10-yard slant that speed turned into a touchdown, out-running at least six Rams defenders.

Asked last week if he’d like one receiver to emerge from the pile as a standalone second option, Saban deflected, praising the balance with which Hurts and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are spreading the ball.

Three days later, on his radio show, a fan asked the coach how he manages the personalities on his team. Saban detailed the way he approaches certain players. Some respond to his fiery ways. Others require a more docile, explanatory tone.

“No player wants to not play well,” Saban said Monday, responding to a question about Foster. “He doesn’t want to line up in the wrong formation. He doesn’t want to drop a pass. He doesn’t want to fumble the ball. He’s as frustrated about that as anybody.”

Saturday, Foster’s forgettable series happened while Ridley pedaled a stationary bike on the sideline, trying to soothe the thigh bruise he had just sustained. In the limelight, Foster crashed.

How he recovers is perhaps his most vital move.

“All guys are going to have their moments where things don’t go the right way,” left guard Ross Pierschbacher said. “And just be there for him, support him, know that the coach is not giving up on him and players, too.”

Added Saban: “He has to overcome his frustrations and overcome the adversity of those circumstances and situations and focus on what he needs to do better. That’s what we’ll encourage him to do and hopefully that’s the way he’ll respond.”