Although it was not a well-played game, Alabama gets 38-10 victory

Alabama may have been looking back at USC or ahead to Ole Miss

Was Alabama looking back to Southern Cal or ahead to Ole Miss? Surely there was something that had the Crimson Tide out of sync in its home opener at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. A week after becoming almost the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation with a rout of USC, and a week before the critical Southeastern Conference opener at Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide was a team that couldn’t seem to get out of its own way before finally subduing Western Kentucky, 38-10.

Alabama, which had its share of errors that were overlooked in Bama’s 52-6 rout of Southern Cal a week earlier, was plagued by penalties much of the day and a costly mistake (particularly for those who had wagered that the Crimson Tide would win by the 29 ½ points by which it was favored) late in the game that led to the visitors only touchdown.

The Crimson Tide, number one in the nation last week in both major polls, improved to 2-0. Western Kentucky fell to 1-1.

Alabama opens SEC play next week as the Crimson Tide goes to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. From time-to-time next week you will probably hear that Ole Miss has a two-game winning streak against the Crimson Tide.

Bama Coach Nick Saban had said prior to the game that he might do “something different” with the quarterbacks in this second week, and he did. He started freshman Jalen Hurts and gave redshirt freshman Blake Barnett – who had started against USC – only a brief opportunity until mop-up work late in the game.

Although the Tide had its share of mistakes, Alabama also made good use of two interceptions in the game, including a 55-yard runback for a touchdown by Eddie Jackson. Ronnie Harrison also had an interception, which led to Bama’s first TD.

Hurts had touchdown passes of 4 yards to Calvin Ridley and 8 yards to ArDarius Stewart around the pick six by Jackson. Bo Scarbrough and B.J. Emmons had fourth quarter touchdown runs. Adam Griffith was good on a 36-yard field goal and all five of his extra point kicks.

The Hilltoppers got a 25-yard field goal by Ryan Nuss in the first quarter and a 24-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Drew Eckels to Lucky Jackson with 46 seconds remaining in the game.

Hurts completed 23 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns, had a pass completion for a 70-yard gain to Stewart nullified by a holding penalty, and had at least two passes for touchdowns dropped. Hurts’s long pass was for 51 yards to Ridley. Barnett completed 2-6 for 64 yards with a long of 52 to Stewart.

Ridley had 9 receptions for 129 yards, Stewart 5-90, and Gehrig Dieter 2-56.

Bama didn’t do much damage in the running game. Starting tailback Damien Harris had 11 carries for 45 yards, Emmons 6-41, Scarbrough 5-19, and Hurts 11-19.

Mike White, who passed for over 500 yards for Western Kentucky opening week, completed 10-24 for 135 yards. He had one interception, picked off by Jackson at Bama’s 45 and run back for the touchdown. The other WKU pick was thrown by wide receiver Nacaerius Fant on a trick play. Taywan Taylor was top receiver for the Hilltoppers with 9 receptions for 121 yards. Anthony Wales ran l1 times for 44 yards.

JK Scott had another nice day punting, 5 for a 46.4 average, including three inside the 20.

Alabama had 23 first downs to WKU’s 12. Bama had 39 rushes for 124 yards, Western Kentucky 22 runs for 23 net yards. The Tide was 25-42 passing with no interceptions and 351 yards, the Hilltoppers 19-38 for 216 yards 

In total offense, Alabama had 81 plays for 475 yards, 5.9 per play, and WKU 60 plays for 239 yards, 4.0 per play. Bama had some 11 minutes more than Western Kentucky in time of possession, 35:44 to 24:16.

Alabama was penalized 12 times for 84 yards, WKU twice for 16 yards.

The Alabama defense was led by linebacker Reuben Foster with 5 primary stops and 1 assist. Dakota Ball had 3 primarily, 2 assists and was in on a sack. Minkah Fitzpatrick also had 3-2 on tackles and caused a fumble and broke up a pass. Eddie Jackson and Shaun Dion Hamilton were both in on four tackles; Ronnie Harrison, Rashaan Evans, Da’Ron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ryan Anderson, and Jonathan Allen three each. Tomlinson, Allen, and Anderson were all in on sacks, and Allen blocked a field goal attempt and had three quarterback pressures.

Alabama’s first possession ended with a missed 48-yard field goal by Griffith, one of several Tide drives plagued by penalty. Griffith nailed his 36-yard effort on Bama’s second possession of the game, a nice drive highlighted by an excellent adjustment and catch by Ridley on a 51-yard pass from Hurts that took Alabama from its 23 to Western Kentucky’s 26.

The Hilltoppers used a flea flicker play – the running back tossing the ball back to White, who connected with Taylor deep down the middle. Marlon Humphrey stripped the ball from Taylor, but Jackson was unable to corral the fumble and WKU was set up at Bama’s 9-yard line. Three plays gained only a yard and Nuss kicked a 25-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

Alabama went ahead for good on its last possession of the first quarter, set up by Harrison’s interception. Alabama moved into Western Kentucky territory as Hurts completed an 11-yard pass to Ridley, an 18-yard pass to Stewart, and got an 11-yard end-around gain from Stewart. On a third-and-10 from the Hilltoppers 24, Hurts connected on a crossing pattern with tight end O.J. Howard for a first-and-goal at the WKU 4. On the next play, the final play of the first quarter, Hurts passed to Ridley in the right flat, and Ridley took it in for a 10-3 lead.

Midway through the second quarter, White passed over the middle and Bama safety Eddie Jackson grabbed it at his 45 and took it to the end zone, finishing with a nifty stiff arm on the last Hilltopper. The Tide took that 17-3 lead to halftime.

Alabama’s first possession of the second half moved into Western Kentucky territory, but a couple of penalties stalled the drive. Scott punted the Hilltoppers into a hole at the four and Bama got the ball back at midfield. The Tide took seven plays to get to first-and-goal at the 8 and then had a well-designed scoring play. Stewart went in motion, left to right, then went back left and took a pass in the flat from Hurts and went in for the touchdown. Bama was up 24-3 going to the fourth quarter.

Alabama was in a drive when the third quarter ended, having moved to near midfield. A pass to Dieter gained 40 yards to a first-and-goal at the 7. Harris ran it to the 2 and then Scarbrough went over left guard untouched for the touchdown. The best drive of the day went 76 yards in 10 plays and gave the Tide a 31-3 lead.

The Tide’s defense rose up and stopped the Hilltoppers on a fourth-and-2 at the Alabama 26. Dakota Ball and Jonathan Allen combined on a sack that cost WKU 15 yards. From there Alabama had another nice march, going 59 yards in 11 plays. A big play was the first penalty of the game called against Western Kentucky, a pass interference that gave the Ti,de a first down at the WKU 33. B.J. Emmons had a 13-yard run to set the Tide up with a first-and-goal at the 9. Emmons got three yards on first down and took it the final six on his second carry to make it Alabama 38, WKU 3.

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When Bama’s defense forced a Western Kentucky punt with 2:20 to play, almost everyone expected the scoring was finished. Bama was at its 29 with Barnett at quarterback and subs at all positions. On second down an odd turnover gave the ball back to the Hilltoppers. Robert Foster was in motion between the center and the quarterback and the snapped ball hit Foster, a fumble, and it was recovered by WKU. On a third-and-8 from the Tide 24, Eckels connected with Jackson for the final touchdown of the game and a final score of 38-10.

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