Both Quarterbacks Have Success For Alabama

No one has even attempted to make a secret of the fact that the Alabama quarterback position is firmly in the hands of the man who has won the team, and thereby won the job. In Saturday’s 37-10 win over Middle Tennessee State, two men split time about evenly.

For the second consecutive game, senior Jacob Coker got the start for Alabama, and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban – who makes the decision in such matters – said that he thought it was meaningful that Coker had started both games.

In addition to Coker starting, he played the entire first half. But then he played no more. Save for a few mop-up snaps by Alec Morris, the second half was played with Cooper Bateman at quarterback.

Both Coker and Bateman had some success.

With his eight-yard pass to Kenyan Drake just before the end of the first half, Coker moved his first-half total to 214 yards through the air. That yardage total is more than his previous career high for a game of 213, which he accumulated one week earlier against Wisconsin. Coker did not return at quarterback following the halftime break.

Sophomore Bateman’s 14-yard shovel pass to Kenyan Drake was the first touchdown pass of his career. Bateman’s first career pass came last week against Wisconsin.

For the game, Coker completed 15 of 26 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Bateman completed 11-17 for 98, also with one touchdown and one interception.

Coker’s touchdown pass went to Robert Foster and was the Tide’s first score of the afternoon.

Coker led Bama to a 23-3 halftime lead.

The Tide is 86-6 when leading at halftime under Saban. Last week, Alabama claimed a 35-17 victory over Wisconsin after heading into half with a 14-7 lead in the 2015 season opener. The Tide had converted 36 straight halftime leads into wins before falling at Auburn on Nov. 30, 2013. The Crimson Tide had also converted 28 consecutive halftime leads into victories before seeing that streak snapped in 2010 against LSU. The first two losses in the current run (when leading at the break) came against LSU, followed by a defeat to Auburn in 2010. In 2007, Alabama held a 20-17 halftime lead before losing to LSU, 41-34, in 2007 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In 2010, the Tide led 10-3 at the half before the Tigers rallied for a 24-20 win in Death Valley. Alabama lost 28-27 to Auburn to close out the 2010 season, after leading 24-7 at the half. The Crimson Tide is 3-7 under Saban when trailing at halftime and 3-3 when tied at halftime. The three wins in the Saban era when trailing at the half: 34-24 over No. 7 Virginia Tech in 2009 (in Atlanta); a 24-15 over No. 9 LSU in 2009; and 24-20 at Arkansas in 2010. And Alabama’s three wins under Saban when tied at halftime: at LSU in 2008, (27-21), at Auburn in 2009 (26-21) and against Tennessee in 2011 (37-6).

With Robert Foster’s 19-yard reception from Jake Coker on the Crimson Tide’s second drive against Middle Tennessee, Alabama has scored in the first half of the last 105 games played, the longest streak in the nation. The last time UA failed to score in the first half was Sept. 29, 2007, when Alabama and Florida State headed into halftime in a scoreless tie. The Seminoles won that game 21-14.

That score by Foster also improved the Tide’s scoring streak to 185 consecutive games, the longest streak in program history.

Alabama now owns a 75-11-2 (.864) all-time record through 88 home openers. With the win against Middle Tennessee, Nick Saban has moved his home opener winning streak to 15 games and is a perfect 9-0 record in home openers at Alabama.

Alabama pushed its winning streak to 17 games with Saturday’s win. The Crimson Tide has not lost a game at home since falling to Texas A&M in 2012.

Saban is 18-2 all-time in home openers across his four stops as a head coach. He is currently riding a 15-game winning streak in the first game inside his home stadium, with the last loss coming in 1998 when his Michigan State Spartans fell to Colorado State, 23-16. In home openers, Saban’s teams have outscored the opposition 734-238. While at Alabama, Saban is a perfect 9-0 overall in home openers. For his career, he owns a 1-0 record at Toledo, 3-2 mark at Michigan State, and perfect records of 5-0 and 9-0 at LSU and Alabama, respectively.

The Tide is now a perfect 3-0 against Middle Tennessee dating back to the first matchup in 2002.

Alabama forced four total turnovers against Middle Tennessee, with three coming in the first half (two fumble recoveries and one interception). Prior to Saturday, the last time the Crimson Tide forced four turnovers was on Sept. 8, 2012, when the Tide forced three fumbles and one interception against Western Kentucky.

Alabama held Middle Tennessee to 275 yards of total offense in Saturday’s home opener. In Saban’s 110-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited opponents to under 300 yards of total offense 68 times, or 61.8 per cent of the time. UA held six of 14 opponents below 300 yards last season.

Under Saban, the Tide has held opponents to 10 points or fewer 52 times since the start of the 2007 season.

Limiting opposing running backs to fewer than 100 yards is nothing new for Bama. Alabama has surrendered only 15 individual 100-yard rushing games dating back to the 2005 season, a mark that leads the nation. Since Saban’s arrival, the Tide has allowed only 10 players to rush for more than 100 yards in a game.

Crimson Tide freshman defensive back Ronnie Harrison blocked a Middle Tennessee punt attempt late in the second quarter for a safety, the first blocked punt by Alabama since Sept. 21, 2013, when Kenyan Drake blocked a Colorado State punt attempt at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and tight end Dakota Ball both made their first career starts.

Captains for Alabama were cornerback Cyrus Jones, linebacker Denzel Devall, and tailback Kenyan Drake.

Honorary captains were former Tide quarterback Andrew Zow and former Bama lineman Wesley Britt.

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