Photo report: Tide 12, Vandy 9

Glaring sun, high humidity, a high-school stadium and more Crimson fans than black-and-gold--could mean only one thing. Alabama was taking its semi-annual trek to Vanderbilt's 'home' stadium to battle the Commodores.<br><br>Everyone has their pet theory on why Vandy plays Bama so tough--and often no one else. But once again the game played out in typical "ugly win for Alabama" fashion.

Just prior to the game, Alabama's game captains, Andrew Zow (#5), Kindal Moorehead (#54), Ahmaad Galloway (#29), and Gerald Dixon (hidden, #4), follow the referee onto the field for the coin toss.

With the Bama sideline watching in the background, Ahmaad Galloway (#29) takes the handoff from Tyler Watts (#14). Though the team didn't always take complete advantage, the Tide had a clear advantage over the Commodores running up between the tackles. For the game Alabama had 214 yards rushing from its tailbacks.

Looking up into the crowd shows the sad truth for Vanderbilt. The addtion of pro sports (including the NFL's Titans) to the Nashville market has cut significantly into Vanderbilt's fan base. Despite being played in Nashville with decent weather, the game was not a sellout. And once again at least half (maybe more) of the crowd wore Crimson--not black or gold.

Experience can provide a telling edge in college football, and nowhere is that truth more evident than at the quarterback position. Vanderbilt's Greg Zolman, a fifth-year senior and third-year starter for the Commodores, had success passing all game long versus Alabama. He finished with 253 yards on 17-of-34 passing, time after time picking out the open man and delivering the football on target.

Senior placekicker Neal Thomas (#48) talks during a timeout with Andrew Zow (#5) and Marvin Brown (#6). Thomas proved the difference in the game, as field goals of 35, 26, 31 and 27 yards totaled all of Bama's 12 points.

With Dante Ellington (#65) behind them, Justin Smiley (#78) and Alonzo Ephraim (#58) lead the Tide offense onto the field. It was a typical early season Vandy game, with players (and fans) paying for their presence in sweat.

To say that the Tide players have developed a grim respect for Vanderbilt over the past years would be an understatement. "I don't know what it is, but they always play us tough" was the frequent refrain afterwards. In the photo, athletes from the two squads mingle at midfield after the final gun.

Dennis Franchione laughs ruefully during his post-game press conference. The 12-9 score marked Franchione's first victory at Alabama, but the veteran coach clearly understood how much work there is left to be done. "Does Alabama still need to improve?" was the question. "Oh, God, yes!" was his quick reply.

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