Preliminaries Over

The preliminaries are over. Anyone looking at Alabama's 2006 football schedule saw three relative lightweights to start the season, then a trip to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas in a game that could prove pivotal for both the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks.

No one would suggest that Alabama was impressive in its Bryant-Denny Stadium troika to open the season. Saturday night's 41-7 win over Louisiana Monroe was decisive, but obviously against an out-manned opponent.

Louisiana Monroe, like Hawaii and Vanderbilt—Bama's first two opponents—was unconventional on offense, the third consecutive team to have Alabama playing out of its base defense and in a nickel package as its primary scheme. That gave the Tide occasional problems, but not much in the grand scheme of Saturday night's game.

Alabama returns to Southeastern Conference play next week. The Tide, 1-0 in SEC games, will be at Arkansas for a 2:30 p.m. CDT (CBS-TV) game against the Razorbacks. Arkansas is 2-1 overall and 1-0 in SEC play after slipping by Vanderbilt, 21-19, Saturday. It will be Bama's first road game of the season.

There were familiar names scoring for the Tide—fullbacks Le'Ron McClain and Tim Castille and wide receiver D.J. Hall and placekicker Leigh Tiffin. But the fourth quarter was given over the second and third team players, many playing for the first time at Alabama, and Roy Upchurch had two touchdown runs.

With a large number of the 108 who dressed for the game seeing playing time, attention was focused on three who did not.

Three Alabama players did not see action in the game. Senior linebacker Juwan Simpson, sophomore halfback Jimmy Johns, and sophomore cornerback Lionel Mitchell were held out.

Upchurch got his first offensive action of the year at halfback as back-up to Darby. Demarcus Waldrop started at weakside linebacker in place of Simpson. Mitchell had started in Bama's second game in the five-man secondary. Rashad Johnson, who had been the starting nickel back in Bama's opener, resumed that role vs. ULM.

After a terrible first series, the Tide got the scoring started with an 8-play, 80-yard drive. Kenneth Darby had a 13-yard run and John Parker Wilson completed a pass to Keith Brown that went for 26 yards with the Louisiana Monroe cornerback fell down. From the 17, Wilson hit fullback Le'Ron McClain on McClain's first reception of the year and the senior fullback broke tackles en route to the end zone. (He has six career touchdown pass receptions.)

Alabama's second score was set up when Keith Saunders caused and recovered a Warhawks fumble at the Louisiana Monroe 24. Bama failed to move the ball and settled for a 34-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal.

The Warhawks didn't roll over. Louisiana Monroe came back with a 83-yard, 11-play drive with quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster sneaking over from two yards out on a third-and-one play. The drive took 5:39.

Wilson started Bama's next drive off with a 33-yard pass completion to Brown at the ULM 32. Brown then took a reverse to the Warhawks 12. On third down at the three, the Tide's jumbo package came in and Tim Castille took it in for the 17-7 lead. It ook only 1:58 for the 6-play, 65-yard drive and ended first half scoring. Castille has 17 career touchdowns, the most of any current Tider.

In what probably would be ranked as a horrible series, Alabama turned an almost sure touchdown into a field goal. The Tide had first and goal at the three and tried three passes—all incomplete. Tiffin did kick a 25-yard field goal to make it 20-7. It seemed an unsatisfactory ending to a 13-play, 43-yard drive.

Bama didn't risk that short yardage shortfall on its next opportunity. The Tide went 81 yards in five plays, a 43-yard pass from Wilson to D.J. Hall getting the touchdown to make it 27-7 as the third quarter ended. The drive took only 2:43. Darby had a 20-yard run and a 12-yard pass reception in the series.

Early in the fourth quarter, ULM gambled on a fourth and one play and failed to make it, giving Bama the ball at the Warhawks' 29-yard line. Alabama's second offense, with Marc Guillon at quarterback, took over. Roy Upchurch, who was Bama's second halfback, got all the runs, including the one-yard touchdown that made it 34-7.

Alabama's second offense got another nice opportunity when Jeffrey Dukes intercepted a USM pass at the Warhawks' 38. Guillon completed his first pass of the year, a 10-yarder to Will Oakley. Freshman halfback Terry Grant got his first run of the year, a 19-yard jaunt to the nine. Guillon hit Nikita Stover for five yards, then Grant ran it to the one. Upchurch took it in for his second touchdown and a 41-7 margin.

TIDE NOTES: Jamie Christensen, who missed the first two games of the year with a groin injury, didn't kick extra poins and field goals, but did make his first appearance of the year as Bama's kickoff man.

A number of young players made their first appearances of the season for Alabama.

Terry Grant, the freshman halfback who has been back on kickoff returns but who was injured mid-week and pronounced as no better than questionable, was back in the lineup Saturday.

Fredshman Javier Arenas, who has been returning kickoffs, took over for Simeon Castille as Bama's punt return man against ULM.

Cory Reamer, Tide safety who reinjured a knee that knocked him out of the final half of 2005, was on the sidelines in sweats, as was wide receiver Tyrone Prothro.

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