Alabama freshman tailback Terry Grant scored on his first touch of the season, then added to his yardage and touchdown totals in leading the Crimson Tide to victory over Western Carolina and make it a successful debut for new Coach Nick Saban.
As expected, the team winning the opening toss wanted to receive the football. A new rule this year has the kickoff from the 30. Bama kick return specialist Javier Arenas got the season-opening kick at the Alabama 23 and returned it 30 yards to the Western Carolina. On first down, Grant took the ball off right tackle, cut back to the left and went the distance. The game was just 22 seconds old, and after Leight Tiffin's extra point kick, Bama had a 7-0 lead.
Bama had to work quite a bit harder for its -- and Grant's -- second touchdown. Western Carolina punted Bama back to its six-yard line. Bama got out of the hole with a John Parker Wilson to D.J. Hall pass for 13 yards, then went with a no-huddle offense. Wilson connected with Jimmy Johns for 20 yards, Hall for 19, and Grant for nine. Johns ran for 12 and Wilson scrambled for 15 to the Western Carolina seven. Johns got six and then Grant made it 14-0 with a one-yard run. The Tide had completed a 10-play, 94-yard drive.
Western Carolina started the second quarter with a mildly risky play, rushing on fourth and one from the WCU 42 yard line. From there the Catamounts got a 15 yard pass completion from Todd Spitzer to Michael Hines and an 18-yard run on a draw play by Mike Malone, leading to a 34-yard field goal by Jonathan Parsons.
Alabama extended the lead to 21-3 on Grant's third touchdown, another quickie. The WCU kickoff went to Arenas at the 19, and the swift sophomore returned it 45 yards to the Catamounts 36. It took Grant three runs -- six yards to the 30, nine yards to the 21, and the final 21 to the end zone to make it 21-3.
Five seconds before intermission, Tiffin kicked Alabama to a 24-3 halftime lead with a 21-yard field goal. Earlier he had missed on a 27-yard effort.
Alabama expanded its lead to 31-3 with its first possession of the second half. It wasn't beautiful, but Wilson hit a few key passes and Glen Coffee got his first action on offense, running six yards to the one and then taking it in. The Tide drove 73 yards in 10 plays.
Bama closed out the quarter with McElroy taking the Tide 60 yards in 10 plays and completing the march with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Walker. Bama went to the fourth quarter leading 38-3.
Western Carolina finished its scoring with a field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Catamounts had driven to the Bama six-yard line, but on fourth down decided to settle for three points on Parsons' 29-yarder.
Alabama's second offensive unit was in the game for the duration, and didn't disappoint. Starting at its own 14-yard line because of a penalty on the kickoff return, the Tide took only five plays to go 86 yards. Coffee started the drive with a 20-yard run and WCU suffered a 15-yard face mask penalty on the end of the run. Coffee than went 14 yards and took a screen pass from McElroy for a 32-yard gain to the five. Johns then took over at tailback and on his second run went in from a yard out to push the margin to 45-6.
A WCU fumble led to Bama's final points. Milton Talbert recovered the fumble at the visitors' 38-yard line. Roy Upchurch got the call as the Tide's fourth tailback and ran for seven yards, six yards, and then the final 25 yards and a touchdown that made it 52-6 with 3:23 to play.
Alabama had an incredible offensive night against Western Carolina, highlighted by 35 first downs, 44 rushes for 313 yards, and completed 25 of 34 passes for 262 yards. That's 78 plays for 575 yards. The Tide did not have a fumble or a turnover.
This was one of those games when time of possessions was a meaningless statistic. WCU had the ball for 31:49, Alabama 28:11.
WCU had 15 first downs on 39 rushes for 76 net yards and 14 of 27 passing for 171 yards. The Catamounts had five fumbles and lost two. The visitors had 66 plays for 247 yards.
Alabama was penalized five times for 42 yards, WCU six times for 65 yards.
BAMA INDIVIDUAL LEADERS:
Terry Grant had 18 rushes for 134 net yards (7.4 average) with three touchdowns and a long run of 47 yards. Glen Coffee had nine carries for 76 yards (8.4 average) for one touchdown and a long run of 20 yards. Roy Upchurch had six carries for 55 yards (9.22 average) with one touchdown and a long run of 25 yards. Jimmy Johns had eight rushes for 31 yards (3.9 average), one touchdown, and a long of 12.
John Parker Wilson completed 17 of 25 passes for 189 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns. He had a long pass of 20 yards. Greg McElroy completed eight of nine passes with no interceptions and one touchdown with a long pass of 32 yards.
Tight end Nick Walker was Bama's leading receiver with five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. D.J. Hall had four catches for 52 yards, Earl Alexander four for 40, and Jimmy Johns two for 28.
Javier Arenas had two kiickoff returns for 75 yards and two punt returns for 13 yards. Jonathan Lowe had one punt return for 23 yards and a kickoff return that is officially only 17 yards because of a penalty on the runback.