Tide Has Enough To Down Eagles
Alabama didn't always look great in doing it, but the Crimson Tide was a 45-21 winner over Georgia Southern at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. The Crimson Tide improved to 10-1 overall while the Eagles fell to 9-2.
Alabama was ranked third in the nation going into the game with the prospect of moving to number two in the nation following Oklahoma State's loss to unranked Iowa State Friday night.
Alabama, 6-1 in Southeastern Conference games, closes out regular season play next week with an SEC game at Auburn. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by CBS.
Alabama followers enjoyed watching the wishbone through the 1970s and early 1980s when Coach Paul Bryant's Bama teams were racking up yards and wins and championships. It's not so much fun from the other side. Major college teams rarely see true option offense teams.
That explains why the Eagles were able to get the most points any opponent has scored on Alabama this year. Georgia Southern also rushed 39 times for 302 yards with fullback Dominique Swope having 18 carries for 153 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown run.
But Alabama was able to more than match the Eagles in offense. Bama had 49 rushes for 272 yards and quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 14 of 19 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
Trent Richardson had 32 carries for 175 yards and two touchdowns and also had a touchdown reception. Brad Smelley had two touchdown receptions as he caught four passes for 58 yards. Brand Gibson caught four passes for 49 yards and Marquis Maze had three receptions for 44 yards.
Mark Barron led Bama with eight primary tackles. Quinton Dial had three primary stops and five assists. Nico Johnson and Dont'a Hightower were in on six each and Hightower had a blocked field goal attempt that resulted in an Alabama touchdown.
Alabama vs. Georgia Southern Statistics
Alabama was not sharp to open the game. The Tide's first drive went well enough for three plays -- two complete passes from A.J. McCarron to Brandon Gibson for 24 yards around a 12-yard run by Trent Richardson -- but then bogged down inside the Georgia Southern 20. Jeremy Shelley kicked the Tide to a 3-0 lead with a 32-yard field goal less than four minutes into the game.
The Georgia Southern triple option would give Alabama's defense problems from the start. The Eagles moved from their 26 to the Alabama 23 in four plays before Damion Square and Quinton Dial caught Georgia Southern quarterback Jabo Shaw for consecutive losses, forcing a field goal try from the Alabama 25.
Adrian Mora's 42-yard effort was blocked by Tide linebacker Dont'a Hightower and picked up at the Georgia Southern 45 by Bama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. With 5:12 to play in the first quarter, Alabama had a 10-0 lead.
It looked as though Alabama was taking charge of the game when the Tide forced the Eagles to punt and started a drive at the Alabama 29.
Richardson had back-to-back runs of 15 and 12 yards. Eddie Lacy gave Richardson a breather and Lacy took an outlet pass from McCarron for 13. Bama had to overcome a block-in-the-back penalty with Lacy running for 19 and seven on back-to-back plays for a first down at the Georgia Southern 15 as the first quarter ended. Four plays later Richardson took a short pass from McCarron for a four-yard touchdown and the Tide had a 17-0 lead.
That margin didn't last long.
After Cade Foster's kick into the end zone and a run out to the Eagles 18, the triple option got Dominique Swope free over right tackle and he went 82 yards for a touchdown. Mora's extra point kick closed the game to 17-7.?
A pop-up kickoff to Michael Williams got the Tide started on its 35, but Bama didn't seem to want to get started. Two false starts around a couple of poor plays had the Tide facing third and 17 at the Bama 28 when McCarron found Gibson on the sideline. Gibson made a nice catch for a gain of 18 into Georgia Southern territory. From there it was a little bit of Lacy running to the Eagles 31 and then a dose of Richardson for all but a couple of yards for the rest of it. Richardson made a dive into the end zone for the touchdown and 24-7 Bama lead with 6:16 to play in the first half.
The Eagles weren't done. After another Cade Foster kickoff into the end zone (this one not returned), Georgia Southern started at its 20. The Eagles gave the Bama defense seven more looks at triple option runs (around a fourth down quarterback sneak for a first down). With the clock running to the one minute mark, the Eagles had the Bama defense suckered. Shaw faked the dive, then could take his choice of two Eagles receivers running behind the Alabama secondary. He threw it to Jonathan Bryant for the only Georgia Southern completion of the half and a 39-yard touchdown. With less than a minute to play the Tide lead had been cut to 24-14.
Bama made a last ditch drive, but it ended with three incomplete passes and a missed 47-yard field goal by Foster.
It looked as if Alabama might have a new resolve to start the second half. First, the Tide defense forced a punt. Then the offense made an excellent drive.
Starting at the Bama 15, Alabama went 85 yards in 10 plays. McCarron had a 16-yard pass to Marquis Maze to get the march started and then found Maze for 24 on a third-and-13 play. On a second-and-10 from the Georgia Southern 34, McCarron had to scramble. He spotted a wide open tight end Brad Smelley at the five and hit him. Smelley stretched into the end zone for a touchdown with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter and the Tide had a 31-14 lead.
That little bit of breathing room lasted only 14 seconds as Georgia Southern return man Laron Scott took the kickoff at the five and raced 95 yards untouched for a touchdown, pulling the Eagles to within 31-21.
The Bama offense -- which would not punt all day -- had another drive ready to go, though. Bama went 74 yards in nine plays following the kickoff. McCarron had two nice passes on the drive. After a low snap to him in shotgun on a third-and-six, he got off a pass to Smelley, who made an excellent catch for a first down. Richardson then picked up 20 at right end, eght at left tackle, and three at right guard for a first down at the Georgia Southern 31. McCarron then hit Kevin Norwood for 22 and a first down at the Eagles nine.
It took Richardson two runs to get his third touchdown of the game and Alabama a 38-21 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Basically, there would be only two more series in the game.
Georgia Southern kept the ball for eight minutes before a fourth-and-goal pass was broken up by DeQuan Menzie in the end zone.
Alabama then went on a 15-play, 92-yard drive that used up all but 44 seconds of the final quarter. It was mostly Richardson until the Tide got to midfield when Jalston Fowler took over at tailback. Fowler had a 12-yard run to get started and later in the drive on a third-and-eight would have a 22-yard run to the Georgia Southern two. Two plays later McCarron connected with Smelley for the touchdown and the final of 45-21.
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