Tide JV team takes it on the chin, 33-10

There is a big difference between a junior varsity team and a junior college team. That difference showed Thursday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium as Georgia Military College defeated the Alabama junior varsity, 33-10.

The junior varsity squad spends weeks and weeks working on various offensive and defensive schemes in order to help the varsity get ready for games. A junior college team works throughout the season to hone its own game. The result when a junior varsity team plays a junior college team is that the junior varsity players get rare game experience and the junior college team usually gets a win.

It was the first junior varsity game for Alabama in 20 years. It was Georgia Military's sixth win in as many games this season and the 18th consecutive win for the Bulldogs going back to last year's national champoionship season. GMC was billed as the nation's number one ranked junior college team coming into the game and is not likely to suffer in the rankings after Thursday's convincing win.

Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione, who watched the contest from the press box, was not surprised at the outcome and appeared to be not disappointed. He complimented Georgia Military as a well-coached team of great athletes. But he was primarily interested in giving experience to inexperienced Crimson Tide players. "It was the first game action for a lot of young guys and it could be the only game action some older players ever get," he said. "Now our coaches have a videotape to evaluate players and the players will have a chance to see where they are."

The Tide head coach said he thought that quarterback Spencer Pennington did some things well. "He handled the pressure pretty well, stayed in the pocket, made good decisions, and made some good throws under pressure," Franchione said. "It's something for him to build on." "This is the first time I've been in a game," Pennington said. "At first, I was pressing really bad. I threw two picks. At halftime, I talked with the offensive line and I calmed down. The offensive line did a great job. I think it was a great experience for all of us."

Franchione thought it was important work for young offensive linemen. Scholarshipped offensive linemen playing in the game included J.B. Closner, Von Ewing, Mark Sanders, Matt Lomax and Danny Martz. He noted that Thurman Ward made some nice catches "which represents what he has been doing in practice."

Franchione was "not committing today," but indicated he can see a junior varsity game being valuable in future seasons.

The big story was Georgia Military tailback Andre Hall, who ran 28 times for 161 yards and all five touchdowns for the Bulldogs. GMC scored on its first possession, led 6-0 after Bart Raulston blocked the extra point kick, and never trailed. Hall scored in the first quarter on runs of 12 and five yards, in the second quarter on a four-yard run, and in the fourth quarter on runs of 22 and three.

Alabama appeared to be back in the game as the fourth quarter started. The Tide, trailing 20-10, had first and goal at the Georgia Military nine-yard line and on first down Raulston, a 6-9, 358-pound nose tackle, ran from the fullback position to the Bulldogs' five.

"The coaches told me in practice this week that I was going to carry the ball," Raulston said. "But I wasn't counting on it. All I was thinking when I got the ball was don't fumble it."

But after Raulston's run, on second down tailback Josh Smith was separated from the ball. Georgia Military recovered the fumble and returned it 58 yards to the Alabama 37. Bama was also guilty of a personal foul on the play, which gave Georgia Military the ball at Alabama's 22. On the first play Hall went up the middle for his fourth touchdown of the game.

Bama had a nice first quarter drive, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Mike McLaughlin. The Tide pulled to within 20-10 in the third quarter when Joel Babb made an excellent touchdown catch of a 34-yard pass on a third-and-16 play. Alex Fox kicked the extra point.

Alabama actually had a little bit better of it statistically except for turnovers. Bama had 13 first downs to 12 for the Bulldogs. The Tide had 29 rushes, though only net yardage of 48 because of 77 lost yards. GMC had 41 carries for 183 yards. But Pennington hit 16 of 35 passes for 210 yards, while the Bulldogs completed only one pass in seven tries for 34 yards. Alabama had 64 plays for 2 yards (4.0 yards per play), Georgia Military 48 plays for 217 yards (4.5 per play). But Alabama fumbled five times and lost two and the Tide suffered two interceptions. Georgia Military lost one fumble.

Smith was Bama's leading rusher with nine carries for 52 yards. Ezzie Rawls had nine runs for 36 yards. Babb had seven receptions for 114 yards (but dropped a pass that would have been a touchdown). Ward had four catches for 53 yards, Tarry Givens four receptions for 31 yards.

Will Fountain was a particularly nice surprise, kicking five times for a 44.4-yard average with a long kick of 50 yards.

Safety Matt Grice led the Tide defensively with seven tackles. Strong safety Eric Moore, linebacker Brandon Dean, and Raulston had four tackles each.

Weather was not good for the game, which was played in a near-constant drizzle. Alabama Media Relations Director Larry White estimated the attendance at 2002 (coincidentally, the year) and added "Zero paid."

The cheerleaders and even the Alabama dance team, Crimson Cabaret (which usually performs at halftime of Bama basketball games), showed up, and the mascot, Big Al, was there for a few minutes early in the game. But the Million Dollar Band, which makes a big deal about its importance to football games, particularly road games to exciting locales, was not to be seen or heard.

Varsity players had limited work this week, an open week for the Crimson Tide. The big news from that arena was that Tyler Watts was back working at quarterback. Watts has missed the last two games -- a win against Arkansas and a loss to Georgia -- after being injured early in the Tide's third game of the year against Southern Miss. The senior quarterback is expected to be ready to play in Alabama's homecoming game against Ole Miss on October 19. The Tide will get back on its game-week schedule Sunday. Alabama and Mississippi will be televised by ABC with kickoff shortly after 2:30 p.m. central time next Saturday.

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