Alabama Shocked By Loss To ULM

Conventional wisdom had it that with Alabama hosting Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, fans would need a program to keep up with who was playing. Surely this would be the rout that would give playing time to down-the-line Crimson Tide players. As it turned out it was the same familiar faces playing the same familiar way it has been for the past few weeks.



The result was one of the most shocking Alabama losses of all time. ULM, one of the middle-of-the-pack teams in the Sun Belt Conference, dominated the line of scrimmage and took advantage of CrimsonTide mistakes for a 21-14 win over Bama in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.

Alabama, which became bowl eligible a month ago, is now bowl questionable with three straight losses and an uphill challenge in the final game of the season next week. Alabama will go to Auburn to end the season at 7 p.m. CST Saturday. ESPN will televise the game.

With the loss, Alabama's record fell to 6-5. Lousiana-Monroe, which had lost to the likes of Tulsa, Troy and North Texas, improved to 5-6.

The loss would be considered one of theworst for an Alabama football team in history. The last comparable loss came in the final year of Mike DuBose being head coach when the Tide was beaten by Central Florida, 40-38, in 2000.

ULM got its first touchdown when an Alabama pass was tipped into the hands of one of the Warhawks and run back to the Alabama one. A late Alabama chance to tie the game ended with a lost fumble inside the ULM 15-yard line with just under five minutes to play in the game.

Alabama would have two more chances to get touchdowns in the final moments, but turned the ball over on downs at the ULM 18 with just over two minutes to play. The Tide's last gasp ended with a pass tipped away incomplete on fourth down at the Bama 41 with 22 seconds to play.

There were some interesting things in the Alabama line-up. Star wide receiver D.J. Hall didn't play in the first half, held out for undisclosed reasons not related to injury or to the suspensions of other Alabama players for improper receipt of books. (There was also a pre-game announcement that those five would be reinstated to eligibility following the ULM game.)

Also notable in the lineup was Terry Grant not starting at tailback. He was inserted into the lineup on Bama's first possession of the second quarter.

Eligible for the Auburn game will be the five who had been suspended the past four games--starting offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, back-up tailback Glen Coffee, and back-up defensive backs Chris Rogers and Marquis Johnson.

Alabama looked the way Alabama is supposed to look against the University of Louisiana at Monroe on its first series. Jimmy Johns got his first start of the year at tailback and got Bama started with a six-yard run. Quarterback John Parker Wilson passed to Keith Brown, who got a terrific block from Andre Smith and gained 35 yards. Three plays later Wilson connected with Brown again, this time on a 17-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson Tide had opened the game with an impressive seven-play, 80-yard drive that took 3:44. Leigh Tiffin kicked it to 7-0.

Although Wilson has the interception in his statistics, the pick that allowed ULM to tie the game at 7-7 was not really his fault. The tying touchdown came on the first play of the second quarter when Calvin Dawson punched it in from a yard out. The score was set up by the 42-yard interception return to the one by Quintez Secks. Wilson's pass was intended for Will Oakley, and Oakley got his hands on it. But the ball got away from him and was picked off by Secks in front of the Bama bench. Cole Wilson kicked the extra point.

Grant's return to the lineup in the second quarter keyed Bama's go-ahead touchdown. Wilson had a one-yard rush and completed a 21-yard pass to tight end Preston Dial (Dial's first career reception), but the rest of the seven-play, 63-yard drive was Grant running. He finished the march with a 12-yard run around left end with left tackle Andre Smith making another big block. Bama led 14-7 with 12:42 to play in the second quarter.

ULM had no problem getting back even with the Tide. The Warhawks went 80 yards in 10 plays, the big play a 40-yard pass from quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster to Marty Humphrey on a third-and-10 from the ULM 20. On a second-and-six play from the Alabama 13, Frank Gooin rushed it in for the tying score.

Alabama was in field goal range in the final six minutes of the first half, a first down at the ULM 33. But three plays--two runs up the middle and a swing pass that lost six yards--took Bama out of Tiffin's range. The Tide ended up punting into the end zone.

Alabama forced a punt from ULM with just under 3:30 to play in the first half and the punt hit Simeon Castille, who was blocking on the return. It was recovered by the Warhawks at the Alabama 40. But Bama's defense--in part because of a nice pass break-up by Castille--held and forced another ULM punt with two minutes before intermission. Javier Arenas tried to return it and was injured. He did not return any more kickoffs or punts on the day.

Although Alabama had called a timeout before ULM's punt, the Tide did nothing on offense to suggest Bama wanted to try to score before the half. Four running plays and a short pass over the middle killed the clock leaving it 14-14 at halftime.

ULM's offensive line dominated the Alabama defensive front in the third quarter, and the Warhawks took the lead with 3:05 to play in the period. Monroe drove 65 yards in 10 plays. On a third-and-10 at the Alabama 11, the Tide defense got good pressure on Lancaster, but the Warhawks quarterback got the ball away to a wide open Humphrey for the touchdown and a 21-14 lead.

With its back to the wall, Alabama's offense got in gear. Wilson completed a 20-yard pass to Hall, then a 25-yard pass to Brown for a first down at the ULM 32. On third-and-eight Wilson did a good job to get the ball away to Hall, who fought for a first down at the Warhawks' 20. After two plays--a run for zero and a pass for one yard--Wilson overthrew Hall in the end zone and Bama had to settle for a 36-yard field goal attempt by Tiffin. Tiffin, who had made nine field goal kicks in a row coming into the game, had this one blocked by LaGregory Sapp as the third quarter ended.

Late in the fourth quarter Bama moved inside the ULM 20. On a second-and-one at the ULM 19, Johns had a nice gain, but fumbled the ball at the Monroe 13.

Alabama's defense had its biggest stand of the game by forcing a fourth-and-22 punt that Jonathan Lowe returned to the ULM 26. Two plays gained eight yards, but then Grant tried two runs at the middle and came up just short of the first down.

Alabama's defense held again and forced another punt, but this time Bama had a far more daunting task, starting at its own 37 with only 56 seconds to play. It wasn't to be.

Alabama came into the game as one of the league leaders in turnover margin, but Bama had four turnovers (two lost fumbles and two pass interceptions) and no takeaways.

Alabama had good numbers. The Tide had 23 first downs to 17 for ULM. Bama had 25 rushes for 163 yards and held Monroe to 44 runs for 121 yards. Wilson completed 21 of 32 passes for 246 yards while the Warhawks had 14 of 24 for 161 yards.

Total offense was Bama 66 plays for 409 yards, ULM 68 plays for 282 yards. Bama had only two penalties for 16 yards and ULM was flagged seven times for 65 yards.

Alabama was successful on six of 13 third down opportunities, ULM 7-16. But the Tide scored only two times in its five Red Zone chances, while ULM scored on all three of its opportunities in the Red Zone.

Monroe had a huge time of possession advantage, 34:41 to 25:19.

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