Tide Wins Homecoming

It may be difficult to judge progress of a football team in a game like Alabama's 35-3 homecoming victory over Utah State Saturday, but there were good things. And there could be progress in the national polls.

Alabama is now 8-0. With previously fourth-ranked Georgia's loss to Florida, the Crimson Tide could move into fourth place in the nation this week. Bama had been ranked fifth prior to this week's games.

Alabama returns to Southeastern Conference play next week. Bama, 5-0 and leading the SEC Western Division, will be at Mississippi State to take on the Bulldogs of Coach Sylvester Croom at 2:30 p.m. CBS will televise the game.

It looked like Utah State (2-5) would be the perfect homecoming opponent as Bama opened the game with back-to-back four-play touchdown drives. Brodie Croyle was three-for-three passing on both of those first two drives and his six completions were good for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Alabama had a 21-0 lead at halftime, saw Utah State cut it to 21-3 in the third quarter, then pulled away at the end.

Bama's game-opening drive went 65 yards in four plays with Kenneth Darby picking up 36 yards on a run and Croyle completing passes of six and 14 yards to D.J. Hall before passing to Ezekial Knight for a nine-yard touchdown.

Bama's second possession started at the Alabama 46. After Darby rushed for seven yards, Croyle hit passes of 19 yards to Hall and 27 yards to Knight to set up a first down at the Utah State one-yard line. Bama went to the Jumbo Package, and almost everyone expected Tim Castille to run behind Le'Ron McClain for the touchdown. Instead, McClain slipped out of the backfield and caught Croyle's short pass for the score.

When Jamie Christensen kicked the extra point it ws 14-0 and barely five minutes had elapsed. The Tide had only 3:19 in time of possession on the two drives–the first taking 1:37, the second 1:44.

Utah State had an outside chance at scoring with a 43-yard field goal attempt midway through the second quarter, but the kick was wide right. Alabama responded with an eight-play, 74-yard drive with Croyle hitting Hall for the 13-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead. The march took 3:33.

Bama's Jamie Christensen missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

Alabama's season-long third quarter shutout came to an end against the Aggies. Utah State opened the second half with a drive to the Bama seven, from where Justin Hamblin kicked a 24-yard field goal. The three-pointer cut Alabama's lead to 21-3.

Additionally, an unusual play cost Alabama a chance to score on its first possession of the second half. Hall, who became the first player in Alabama history to have back-to-back double-digit receptions, had made his 11th reception, seemingly a 55-yard gain to the one or a 56-yard touchdown, early in the second half. But in reviewing the play, it was determined Hall had attempted to stretch the ball across the goalline and had fumbled. The ball went out of the end zone for a touchback, giving the ball to Utah State.

Alabama did score on its second possession of the third quarter. Darby went around right end, then cut back for 38 yards on a third-and-five play to make it Bama 28, Utah State 3. The eight-play drive covered 76 yards in four minutes.

Freshman quarterback John Parker Wilson had his first career touchdown pass with just under 10 minutes to play when he connected with Glen Coffee on a third-down play for nine yards. The two-minutes, six-play, 23-yard drive followed a nice punt return by Simeon Castille and wrapped up the scoring, Bama 35, Utah State 3.

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