Defense smothers Commodores

No one would suggest that Alabama had the same intensity against Vanderbilt that the Crimson Tide had displayed a week earlier, but Bama's second consecutive week in the state of Tennessee resulted in another Alabama victory. The Crimson Tide ran its record to 7-2 with a 30-8 victory over the Commodores in Nashville Saturday.

There had been some concern in the Bama camp that Tide players would not be as emotionally ready to play Vandy as the Tide had been a week earlier in defeating Tennessee in Knoxville. But Bama won its third straight Southeastern Conference road game this year (and fourth in a row going back to last season) and is now 4-1 in Southeastern Conference games. That's the best record of any SEC Western Division team.

Alabama continues in SEC play next Saturday as the Crimson Tide hosts Mississippi State at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. CST and there will be no live telecast of any kind.

Alabama was inconsistent offensively, but played very well on defense until giving up ground and points in the fourth quarter after the Bama lead had grown to 30-0.

Alabama drove to a touchdown on its first possession with quarterback Tyler Watts capping the 11-play, 77-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run. Watts completed four passes to Triandos Luke in that first drive.

Kyle Robinson, who kicked the extra points after Bama's three touchdowns, kicked two of his three field goals in the second quarter – boots of 36 and 22 yards – to give Bama a 13-0 halftime lead. A year ago Alabama had only four field goals in a 12-9 win over the Commodores, which was Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione's first win at Alabama.

Alabama elected to go for it on a fourth-and-nine play in the third quarter and Watts scrambled to a first down. Three runs later Shaud Williams took it in from nine yards out and a 20-0 lead.

On the first play of the fourth quarter Robinson – a walk-on junior college transfer who took over the kicking chores midway through the season -- had the longest field goal of his brief Alabama career, a 42-yard effort to push Bama's advantage to 23-0.

Later in the fourth quarter Brodie Croyle took over at quarterback. Anyone expecting Alabama to begin running out the clock was disappointed. Starting at the Alabama 40, it took just two Croyle passes to Dre Fulgham – a 19-yard gain and then a 41-yard play – to get the final Bama score.

Vanderbilt had its most successful offensive series, a six-play, 78-yard drive that ended in a 10-yard Jay Cutler to Dan Stricker touchdown pass with 5:43 remaining in the game. The Commodores passed for a two-point conversion to finish the scoring in the game.

As would be expected, Alabama dominated statistically. The Tide had 24 first downs to Vanderbilt's nine. Bama had 45 rushes for 157 yards while holding the Commodores to 46 rushing yards on 29 attempts. Alabama completed 21 of 31 passes with no interceptions for 271 yards. Vanderbilt completed seven of 18 passes for 116 yards with Alabama's Waine Bacon turning in an interception. Bama had total offense of 76 plays for 428 yards and held Vandy to 162 yards on 47 plays. Vanderbilt fumbled four times and lost one, a recovery by Roman Harper. Alabama fumbled once but did not have a turnover on the day. Alabama had nearly a 13-minute time of possession advantage, 36:22 to 23:38.

Watts completed his first six passes of the game and finished with 15 completions in 21 attempts for 176 yards. Croyle completed five of nine passes for 94 yards. Luke had a career best nine receptions for 102 yards, the first time this year an Alabama receiver has had over 100 yards. Fulgham had five catches for 92 yards.

Watts was the leading Bama rusher with 14 carries for 55 yards, while Shaud Williams had 10 runs for 52 yards.

Alabama and Vanderbilt have met every year since 1952, but the series will now be interrupted until 2007 because of the new SEC rotating schedule. That new rotation is also the reason Alabama made a return trip to Nashville this year and that Mississippi State will play in Tuscaloosa for a second consecutive year.

Vandy has not defeated Bama since 1984 and the Crimson Tide now holds a 58-19-4 advantage. Bama has not lost in Nashville since 1969 and has a 41-2 mark against the Commodores since 1961.

Alabama has now won 11 of its last 13 games going back to last season.

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