Notes From Opener Vs. Western Carolina

Alabama's offense racked up a school record 35 first downs in Saturday night's 52-6 win over Western Carolina. The previous record was 34 set in a 34-28 loss to Penn State in 1983. Other notes from the first game in the Nick Saban Era as Bama's head football coach:

The 52 points scored by Alabama in its win over Western Carolina was the most by the Crimson Tide in a season-opening game since the 66-0 win over California at Legion Field in Birmingham to open the 1973 season. The 46-point margin of victory was also the greatest since that opener against Cal.

The 575 yards of total offense by Bama was the greatest since Alabama got 588 yards in a 56-3 win over UTEP in 2001. The 313 rushing yards were most since the Tide rushed fror 338 in a win at South Carolina in 2005.

Talk about your impressive beginnings. Alabama's first play from scrimmage in the Nick Saban Era was a 47-yard touchdown run by freshman tailback Terry Grant. After Leigh Tiffin's extra point, Alabama had a 7-0 lead with only 22 seconds gone in the game.

It was the first time Alabama had opened a game with a score since an 87-yard pass from Brodie Croyle to Tyrone Prothro against Florida in 2005. Other notable game-starting scoring plays include an 80-yard run by Shaud Williams against Arkansas in 2002 and an 80-yard pass from Gary Rutledge to Wayne Wheeler against Tennessee in 1973.

With the change in rules that have kickoffs starting from the 30-yard line (five yards deeper than the recent past), when Alabama won the opening toss the Crimson Tide elected to receive. The "pooch" kickoff went to Javier Arenas at the Alabama 23 and was returned to the Western Carolina 48.

Leigh Tiffin was the Alabama kickoff man. His first kick from the 30 was hit high (though not a pooch kick) and taken at the 18 and returned seven yards to the 25. His second was a true pooch, going to the 20 and being returned to the 33. Alabama Coach Nick Saban had suggested the possibility of "alternate kicks" with the new rule. Alternate kicks include the pooch kick, the squib kick, the ons-sides kick, and directional kicks -- aimed at the corners.

It was known that Rolando McClain was going to be a true freshman starter for Alabama at middle linebacker. Bama opened the game defensively with a nickel back and that meant another true freshman was in the starting lineup -- Kareem Jackson. Jackson had gone through spring practice.

Other first-time starters for Bama included running back Terry Grant, receiver Mike McCoy, offensive tackle Michael Johnson, nose guard Lorenzo Washington, and linebacker Darren Mustin.

Captains for Alabama were wide receiver Matt Caddell, jack linebacker Keith Saunders, and defensive end Wallace Gilberry. Alabama will have weekly captains and choose permanent captains at the end of the season.

Honorary game captains Saturday were former Alabama players Paul Ott Carruth, Murry Hill and Bobby Humphrey. In a change in pre-game ceremony they did not bring out the game ball, but did ride with the team to Bryant-Denny Stadium and make the Walk of Champions. Afterwards Humphrey said, "Man, I'm ready to suit up." They joined Tide captains for the coin toss.

Alabama's first reception of the year was by redshirt freshman Earl Alexander. Obviously, it was Alexander's first career reception. The first quarter play went for 13 yards and a first down at the Western Carolina 25. Two plays later Alexander had another reception, a 12-yard gain to a first down at the eight. The drive stalled(in part because of an illegal formation penalty) and Bama settled for a 27-yard Tiffin field goal, which missed wide right.

Western Carolina is a no-huddle offense. Late in the first quarter after back-to-back John Parker Wilson to D.J. Hall pass completions, the Crimson Tide went with no huddle, completing a 94-yard drive in 10 plays, ending with a one-yard Grant touchdown.

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