Cleaning The Coop

Almost no one would have predicted Alabama's runaway victory over South Carolina in Columbia Saturday. The win broke a short losing streak for the Crimson Tide. Here are some notes from that game.

Alabama has an 11-2 record against South Carolina, but the Crimson Tide had lost two straight games to the Gamecocks before Saturday's 37-14 victory. Bama is now 3-1 in Columbia.

It was late in the fourth quarter before the field was shaded, and the Alabama sideline on the East side of the stadium never got into the shade. At gametime the temperature was in the 90s and the heat index over 100, but Alabama had practiced many days in high heat. The Tide team was hydrated before the contest.

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier decided to have his team wear its white jerseys, which are usually road game jerseys, and so Bama was in its crimson jerseys. Although the change was not revealed until late last week, the request from South Carolina to Alabama was made last summer. Alabama usually wears its crimson jerseys to one road game every other year, to LSU where the Bengal Tigers wear white at home.

Hard as it is to believe since he once coached at Duke, the 37-14 Alabama win was the worst home loss Spurrier has ever suffered as a head coach.

Alabama became just the second team to post three straight victories over college teams coached by Spurrier. Alabama defeated third-ranked Florida in Gainesville in overtime, 40-39, in a regular season game in 1999, then romped over the Gators 34-7, in the SEC Championship Game rematch at the end of that season. FSU also has three consecutive wins over Spurrier-coached teams.

The replay officials stopped play to review only one play Saturday, over-turning a pass ruled incomplete for South Carolina near the Alabama goalline. It was the third time this year Alabama has had plays stopped for review. In all three cases the replay officials got it right, twice correcting on-the-field officials and once affirming the call.

Alabama did not suffer a penalty (other than the technical penalty of an out-of-bounds kickoff) until late in the fourth quarter when freshman defensive end Bobby Greenwood was called for unnecessary roughness. On the next play, Simeon Castille was flagged for an inadvertant face mask penalty. Those were the only penalties against Bama. South Carolina was penalized only four times for 25 yards.

Alabama has now won 14 consecutive Southeastern Conference season-opening games. Bama has not lost its first SEC game of the year since falling to Spurrier's Florida team, 35-0, in Gainesville to start the 1991 season. In the 14-year winning streak are 10 games against Vanderbilt and one each against Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and South Carolina.

Tyrone Prothro, the all-purpose yardage magician of the Southern Miss game, was virtually shut out of his two specialties Saturday. South Carolina made sure to punt away from Prothro and the Gamecocks' kickoffs were all deep into or over the end zone. And Prothro wasn't returning punts in the second half after suffering a bit of a foot injury. And as a receiver, Prothro had one catch for minus four yards. But the junior lined up in the backfield and had three rushes for a career-best 61 yards, including a long of 41 yards. He kept his streak of at least one pass reception going, now up to 21 games.

When Simeon Castille intercepted a South Carolina pass it marked the 20th straight game the Alabama defense has forced a turnover. Bama did not have a turnover against the Gamecocks.

Kenneth Darby had his first 100-yard rushing game of the year, picking up 145 yards. It was his fifth career 100-yard rushing game.

Alabama had 52 rushes for 338 yards, the most rushing yards ever by a Mike Shula-coached Crimson Tide. Bama had only 273 total rushing yards in its first two games, wins over Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss.

With a 3-0 start, Alabama has now had 53 seasons in which the Crimson Tide began the year with at least three victories.

Although senior Brandon Brooks has handled the football a number of times as a punt and kickoff return man, when he made a catch against South Carolina Saturday it was his first pass reception.

Freshman quarterback John Parker Wilson recorded his first touchdown pass with a fourth quarter bomb to Keith Brown.

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