Alabama defeated South Florida 40-17 in front of 76,780 fans here at Legion Field, making for a successful head-coaching debut for Alabama head coach Mike Shula. Coach Shula is the 19th head coach to win his debut with the Crimson Tide.
Mike Shula's Head Coaching Debut -- Saturday, August 30, 2003
After falling behind 17-7 with 1:32 left in the second quarter,
Alabama closed out the game by scoring 33 unanswered points en route
to the win over South Florida.
Alabama coaches are 19-6 in their coaching debuts since 1892.
Alabama also improves to 85-21-3 in season openers since 1892. In
addition, Alabama has won 23 of its last 27 openers dating back to
1977, losing back-to-back season openers in 2000 and 2001.
Alabama is now 24-4-1 in season openers here in Birmingham, including
a 22-4-1 record in season openers at Legion Field.
The Crimson Tide has won seven straight season openers here at Legion
Field, dating back to a 27-24 loss to Southern Miss in 1990. Since
losing the first game in the Gene Stallings era, Alabama has reeled
off seven straight wins in season openers here at Legion Field against
Temple (1991), Tulane (1993), Chattanooga (1994), Bowling Green
(1996), Houston (1997) and Middle Tennessee (2002).
The 40 points scored today are the most scored by Alabama in a season
opener since a 42-17 win over Houston here at Legion Field on Aug. 30,
1997. The win over UH was the head coaching debut of former Tide head
coach Mike DuBose.
The Alabama game captains were free safety Charles Jones (Waynesboro,
Ga,), flanker Trianods Luke (Phenix City) and running back Shaud
Williams (Andrews, Texas).
Alexander is the most experienced of the first-time starters, playing
35 career games in his three-year career at Alabama, all as a backup
offensive lineman. Fletcher played in all 13 games last year a junior
for the Crimson Tide. Closner played 48 total snaps in six games last
year as redshirt freshman. Clark was redshirted last year and made
his debut Saturday against USF, while Castille is a true freshman this
season and played in his first college game against the Bulls.
The 2003 season opener also marked the debut for 10 Crimson Tide
players, including red shirt freshman punter Jeff Aul (Daleville), red
shirt freshman cornerback Ramzee Robinson (Huntsville), senior holder
Gabe Giardina (Centre Hall, Penn.), junior punter Bo Freelend (Eutaw),
true freshman fullback Tim Castille (Birmingham), true freshman
special teams player Le'Ron McLain, redshirt freshman running back
Kenneth Darby, redshirt freshman linebacker Juwan Garth (Decatur),
true freshman linebacker Terrence Jones (Tuscaloosa) and redshirt
freshman defensive lineman Jeremy Clark.
On the flip side, senior linebacker Cornelius Wortham did not play in
the win over South Florida; marking the first time in his career he
has not played a game for Alabama. The Calhoun City, Miss., native
had played in 36 consecutive games for Alabama prior to today's game
Alabama scored a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the
Mike Shula era, only to have the play nullified by a penalty.
Sophomore quarterback Brodie Croyle threw an 80-yard TD pass to senior
split end Zach Fletcher, but the play was called by for an illegal
forward pass (Croyle was over the line of scrimmage).
The Crimson Tide's first official touchdown of the season came on a
51-yard interception return by sophomore left corner back Charlie
Peprah (Plano, Texas). The 51-yard interception return was Peprah's
second career touchdown for the Crimson Tide. He had a 35-yard return
last year in a loss to Georgia (Oct. 5) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
In his 14-game career at Alabama, Peprah has five career
interceptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Peprah's two career
interception returns leaves him one shy of the Alabama all-time record
set by Antonio Langham (1990-93). Peprah is the fifth UA player with
two career TDs, joining Hootie Ingram (1952-54), Bobby Johns (1965-
67), Steve Higginbotham (1969-71) and Reggie Myles (1998-2001).
Senior running back Shaud Williams gave the Crimson Tide a 27-17 lead
with 9:51 left in the third quarter with a 73-yard punt return, aided
by two key blocks from David Scott and Ramzee Robinson. The 73-yard
return was the first career TD by Williams as a punt returner.
The last time Alabama returned a punt for a touchdown was in 2000
season opener at UCLA when Freddie Milons took the first punt of the
game and scored on a 71-yard return for Alabama.
Williams also eclipsed the 3,000-yard all-purpose yard mark in his
career today against South Florida. The senior accounted for 32
plays, 177 yards and three TDs in the win over South Florida.
Williams ran a career-high 28 times for 98 yards and two TDs and
caught two passes for five yards in addition to his two punt returns
for 74 yards and one TD.
In his four-year career, Williams has accounted for 3,053 yards at
Texas Tech and Alabama. In 14 games with the Crimson Tide, Williams
has 1,763 all-purpose yards.
With 98 rushing yards today, Williams became the 44th player in
Alabama history to rush for 1,000 career yards. In 14 career games,
Williams has 158 rushing attempts for 1,019 yards and seven TDs.
In his four-year career, Williams has 325 career rushing attempts for
1,903 yards and 13 TDs. Williams needs 97 yards to break the 2,000-
yard rushing mark in his career at Texas Tech and Alabama.
Williams' 28 rushing attempts are a career high for Williams,
breaking his previous high of 24 rushing attempts set against North
Texas during the 1999 season at Texas Tech.
Williams' two rushing TDs matches his career high previously set
against Colorado during the 1999 season at Texas Tech.
Williams recorded his first career three touchdown game in today's
win over South Florida.
The Crimson Tide offense had two scoring drives against South Florida
of 90 yards or more. In the third quarter, Williams' three-yard TD
runs capped an 11-play, 97 yard drive to give UA a 33-17 lead. In the
fourth quarter, Williams' one-yard TD run capped a15-play, 90-yard
drive as UA took a 40-17 lead with just over seven minutes to play.
Sophomore quarterback Brodie Croyle completed 14 of 27 passes for 203
yards and one TD in the win over USF. He completed passes to seven
Junior place kicker Brian Bostick (Cullman) booted a career-long 40-
yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter, sending UA
into the dressing room with a 17-17 tie with South Florida.
Senior split end Lance Taylor recorded his first career reception for
Alabama, hauling in a 15-yard reception from Croyle on a third-and-10
play from USF 30-yard line in the third quarter.