Houston Was A Problem

For the fourth consecutive week, the outcome of an Alabama football game came down to the final moments. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, Bama was able to even its record in such games.

With a 30-24 win over Houston in Saturday's homecoming game at Tuscaloosa, the Alabama record in the past month is now:

Two heart-stoppers for, two heart-breakers against.

Alabama had to get two interceptions, including one on the final play of the game, to preserve victory in what had begun as a rout. Alabama scored 23 first half points, but at the end of the game Houston was passing from the Alabama 15 with a chance at victory.

Simeon Castille picked off the pass from Houston quarterback Case Keenum in the end zone on the final play of the game.

Alabama is now 4-2 on the season while Houston dropped to 2-3.

Alabama returns to Southeastern Conference action next week. Bama, 2-1 in SEC games, will be at Ole Miss. The Tide and Rebels kick off at 11:30 a.m. CDT at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium in Oxford with regional television coverage by the SEC's Lincoln Financial network.

Alabama seemed to have wrapped up the victory despite an offensive meltdown in the final three quarters. With just under four and a half minutes to play, Bama safety Rashad Johnson picked off a Keenum pass at the Alabama 30 and returned it to the Houston 42.

Alabama did not take advantage of the situation. Two runs got five yards and then Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson was intercepted on a play in which he was just trying to make something happen -- a desperation shovel pass that bounced to a defender.

That set things up for the final, desperate moments.

The game certainly did not begin as though it was going to be a nail-biter.

It's hard to improve on perfection, but in the first quarter Alabama averaged more than a touchdown per possession. Bama had the ball for three possessions and scored 23 points--three touchdowns and a safety as the Crimson Tide built a 23-0 lead.

Alabama had drives of 4:39, 5:03, and 2:27 in the first quarter, maintaining possession of just over 12 of the 15 minutes. Quarterback John Parker Wilson had a one-yard quarterback snaek for the first Bama touchdown and added two 23-yard touchdown passes.

Glenn Coff was a surprise starter at tailback and had eight carries for 54 yards in Bama's opening drive, an 80-yard march in 13 plays. There was one incomplete pass and the other 12 plays were all on the ground with Wilson sneaking it in from just outside the end zone on a third down play. Leigh Tiffin kicked it to 7-0.

On Houston's first possession the Cougars were in reverse. Houston started with a penalty on the kickoff return that put the gball at the Houston 14. On first down Brandon Deaderick caught Cougars quarterback Blake Joseph for a seven-yard loss. After a half the distance penalty against the Cougars, Wallace Gilberry put pressure on Joseph, who was called for intentional grounding from the end zone, which is a safety, making it 9-0 for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama was using offensive imagination against the Cougars as Wilson completed four screen passes -- two to Coffee for 15 yards, one to D.J. Hall for 10 yards, and one to Terry Grant for six yards. From the 23, Wilson made a nice play action fake and hit a wide open Nikita Stover for a 16-0 Bama lead.

Bama's third tailback, Roy Upchurch, got in on the offensive action on the Tide's third possession as Alabama started at its own 15 with only 2:27 remaining in the first quarter. Upchurch had a 22-yard gain. But big plays in the drives were penalties against the Cougars, a pass interference for a first down at the Houston 44 and a personal foul after a Wilson run that made it first down at the Cougars' 25. After Upchurch got two yards, Wilson found Mike McCoy for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter.

Alabama had built its 23-0 first quarter lead in dominating fashion. Alabama had 13 first downs to one for Houston. The Tide had 21 rushes for 124 yard, Houston five runs for four yards. Wilson had completed four of six passes for 77 yards for Alabama while the Cougars were 0-2 passing.

Alabama's offense went into something of a shell in the second quarter. Houston had been billed as explosive on offense and the Cougars showed it after an Alabama punt to the Houston 31. After a short run, Joseph connected with an unguarded Donnie Avery, who out-raced Tide defenders to the end zone on a 68-yard touchdown play. T.J. Lawrence kicked the extra point and Bama's lead was down to 23-7, which is what it would be at halftime.

Houston drew first blood in the second half, going 63 yards in 14 plays to a 34-yard field goal by Lawrence. That pulled the Cougars to within two touchdowns and extra points of taking the lead. Somewhat surprisingly, Houston had gambled on a fourth down play in the previous series when the Cougars were in Lawrence's range. Houston got the first down, but had to kick on the next series.

Alabama got a momentum-changer moments later. The Tide offense had a terrible series, losing five yards on three plays. Bama punted and Houston fumbled. Marquis Johnson recovered for the Tide at the Houston 43.

Alabama took quick advantage of the opportunity--six plays and two minutes. Wilson hit tight end Nick Walker for 15 yards, Coffee had two rushes for another first down, Wilson connected with D.J. Hall for nine yards, and to plays later Coffee got the touchdown with a four-yard run. It was 30-10 going to the fourth quarter.

The Cougars didn't let adversity put them down. Facing second and long at their own 15, Houston completed a 75-yard, 11-play drive with quarterback Case Keenum sneaking in for the touchdown from three yards out, pulling Houston to within 30-17.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Cougars made it a six-point game when Keenum connected with running back Anthony Alridge and what turned into a 30-yard touchdown play.

Needing to run the clock, the Alabama offense did nothing and gave the ball back to Houston with 5:39 to play. Jimmy Johns of the punt coverage team was guilty of a personal foul, so the Cougars started at the Houston 42 instead of 27.

On third down, Keenum's pass was intercepted by Johnson and returned 28 yards to the Houston 42 with 4:28 to play.

Not only did the offense not pick up a first down and burn most of the clock, on third and five Wilson tried a desperation shovel pass to an unsuspecting Coffee. The ball bounced up and was intercepted by Houston safety Brandon Brinkley at the Houston 39.

Houston got off to a good start when Bama was flagged for pass interference. The Cougars got a four-yard run from Alridge on a third-and-three for a first down at the Alabama 35. Keenum then conneted with Jeron Harvey to the 13 to the 22. Three plays ate up all but five seconds of the game and seven yards, setting up the final play to decide the game.

Alabama blitzed, forcing a quick pass, and Castille ended the game with his first interception of the year.

Final Stats:

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