Alabama Gets Win With Defense, Not Flash

Did Alabama look like team trying to redeem itself after last week’s loss to Ole Miss? Did the Crimson Tide look like a team that had made improvement with undefeated Georgia coming up next week? Not so much this week, it didn’t.

Alabama did win convincingly. The Crimson Tide took a 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a game sandwiched between the important 33-27 loss to Mississippi a week before, and the upcoming challenge at Georgia next Saturday.

Jacob Coker, who regained his starting job as Bama quarterback, threw three touchdown passes in the win – including a first-ever TD reception by true freshman Calvin Ridley. Coker also connected with fullback Michael Nysewander and Ardarius Stewart on scoring passes. Derrick Henry had Alab ama’s first touchdown on a short run. Adam Griffith was good on four extra points and on his only two field goals (40 and 35 yards).

Bama did have another turnover this week, one interception, but the Tide defense snatched two interceptions from the Warhawks.

Alabama’s defense was very good, allowing only 92 yards of total offense on 74 plays, and getting a couple of interceptions.

Alabama gets back into Southeastern Conference play and back on the road next Saturday when the Crimson Tide goes to Georgia for a game to be televised by CBS. Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. EDT, 2:30 central.

Alabama had 17 first downs to 10 for Louisiana-Monroe (1 rushing, 5 passing, 4 by penalty). Bama had 35 rushes for 137 yards, ULM 31 runs for 9 yards. The Tide completed 18-32 passes for 166 yards, Monroe 20-43 for 83 yards. Alabama’s total offense was 67 plays for 303 yards.

The Warhawks were successful on only 3-20 third down opportunities and 1-4 on fourth down tries. Bama was also week on third down, only 2-13, and made 1-3 on fourth down attempts. Alabama scored on all five of its red zone opportunities, four of them touchdowns.

In one of those statistical oddities, ULM had the ball possession advantage, 32:32 to 27:28.

Alabama tailback Derrick Henry had missed a couple of days of practice with illness and was used only sparingly in the game, 13 carries for 52 yards and one touchdown. Kenyan Drake was Bama’s leading rusher with 10 runs for 65 yards. Freshman Damien Harris was given a bit of work and had 4-23.

Coker completed 17-31 passes for 158 yards. Cooper Bateman, who had started last week, took over with the second offense with under five minutes to play and was good on his only pass try for eight yards.

Ridley had 4 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown and Stewart 3-39 and a TD. Cam Sims was 3-21, Chris Black 2-23, Richard Mullaney 2-10, O.J. Howard 2-8, Nysewander 1-19 and a touchdown, and true freshman Daylon Charlot 1-8.

JK Scott punted 6 times for a 37.8 average with four of his kicks inside the 20.

On defense, freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick was in on a team-high 7 tackles (5 primary) and was in on one tackle for loss. Reuben Foster (4-1), Dalvin Tomlinson (3-2), Jarran Reed (3-2), and Da'Shawn Hand (1-4) were in on five tackles each. Foster had a tackle for loss; Reed a sack and a tackle for loss and a pass broken up and quarterback hurry; Hand a sack; and Tomlinson a pass broken up. Denzel Devall had a sack, broke up two passes, and had two quarterback pressures.

Geno Matlias-Smith had an interception return for 16 yards and Ronnie Harrison had an interception return for 12 yards.

With no one other than television analysts to worry about Monroe having beaten Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s 2007 Alabama team, there was a discernible lack of urgency to the Crimson Tide attack, at least offensively.

Bama had only a l4-0 halftime lead, even though the Crimson Tide had held the Warhawks to only 37 yards on 36 plays, compared to Bama’s 42 plays for 175 yards. Third down plays were an issue with Bama good on only 2-9.

The Tide got on the board with a nice 11-play, 55-yard drive. Jacob Coker completed a pass to Cam Sims for an 11-yard gain, Derrick Henry had a 10-yard run for another, and Bama moved to the Monroe 12. Three plays failed to get the first down, but on a fourht-and-one Henry went over the left side for the touchdown with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter. Adam Griffith’s extra point made it 7-0.

Monroe had a bad snap on a punt from deep in the Warhawks’ territory and it led to a quick second quarter touchdown for the Tide. ULM punter Chris Qualls tried to run with the ball after chasing down the snap, but Qualls clocked at the 15 by Marlon Humphrey. On first down, Coker through an out pass to freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who started the game, and Ridley took it in for the touchdown and the 14-0 lead. Over 13 minutes remained in the half, but the Tide would thxreaten no more. Louisiana-Monroe would threaten not at all.

Alabama started the third quarter having the settle for a field goal. The drive was aided by interference on a punt catch and by a face mask penalty against the Warhawks, but also hindered as the SEC officiating crew saw an ineligible receiver downfield – an observation deemed a week too late by Alabama fans after Ole Miss got away with that tactic for a touchdown.

When the drive stalled at the 23, Griffith boomed his 40-yard field goal try through for a 17-0 lead.

Bama got started on its next possession in good field position when the Warhawks again interfered with a punt catch. Freshman Danien Harris had a nice 14-yard run for a first down and from the 19 Coker threw a little out pass to wide open fullback Nysewander, who had a nice head of steam up as he plowed into the end zone and a 24-0 lead with six minutes remaining in the third quarrter.

Bama made it 27-0 on Griffith’s 35-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Coker had two completions to Chris Black for first downs in the drive.

Ronnie Harrison’s interception of ULM quarterback Garrett Smith’s pass at the 31, which Harrison returned 12 yards to the 19, set up the final score of the day. On second down from the 16 and with just over l0 minutes remaining in the game, Coker rolled right and connected with Stewart in the end zone.

Alabama, ranked 12th in the nation going into Saturday’s games, is now 3-1, while Louisiana-Monroe fell to 1-2.

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