Tide Enjoys Romp For Homecoming

The lesson of Louisiana-Monroe paid dividends for Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Last year, it was Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference that crystalized what has been poor November play for the Tide in recent years. An Alabama team that has been very good had another Sun Belt team for homecoming Saturday and Bama defeated Arkansas State by a 35-0 score.

Much has been made of Alabama's poor play in November in recent years. For the most part, that play was by poor Crimson Tide teams. The win Saturday was Bama's first in November since a 2005 win over Mississippi State, 17-0. This year's Alabama is 9-0 and ranked second in the nation. Crimson Tide players said that preparation for the Arkansas State game included reminders of last year's 21-14 loss to Monroe.

Next Saturday comes a pivotal game for Bama. The Crimson Tide goes to Baton Rouge to take on defending national champion LSU. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. CST with national television coverage by CBS. If Alabama wins the game, the Crimson Tide will clinch the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship. The Crimson Tide leads the series 43-23-5, but the Tigers have won five straight.

Alabama seemed a bit sluggish starting out on defense, but the offense was hitting on all cylinders when it got a chance. Starting from its 11-yard line after Arkansas State punted, the Crimson Tide went 89 yards in 16 plays with Glen Coffee finishing things off with a nine-yard touchdown run off a draw play. The march took just over seven minutes and included Bama converting first downs on all four of its third down challenges.

Those third down plays included John Parker Wilson completing a nine-yard pass to Coffee on third and seven, Mark Ingram rushing for five yards on a third and one, Wilson completing a 15 yard pass to Mike McCoy on third and eight, and Wilson scrambling for three yards on a third and three to the Red Wolves nine. The drive might have gone a little quicker except usually sure-handed freshman wide receiver Julio Jones dropped a pass that would have been a big gainer.

Leigh Tiffin kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 with 4:23 remaining in the first quarter.

It looked like Bama might get another score before the end of the first quarter when the Tide drove to the ASU 13 yard line late in the period, but on the final play of the quarter Wilson's pass was picked off in the end zone by Arkansas State cornerback Dominique Williams and returned to the 23.

The defense got the second Alabama score. Facing third and seven at its own 22, Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard's pass was picked off by Tide senior safety Rashad Johnson and returned 32 yards for a touchdown. Tiffin's extra point with 8:54 left in the second quarter made it 14-0.

Bama missed a chance to extend its lead before halftime when Tiffin's 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.

Alabama had only a 14-0 lead at halftime despite dominating statistically. Bama had 12 first downs to three for Arkansas Strate. The Tide had 19 rushes for 94 yards, the Red Wolves 19 for 50. Bma's Wilson had completed 8-17 passes for 85 yards, ASU's Leonard just 1-4 for six yards. Alabama had total offense of 179 yards on 36 plays, Arkansas State 56 yards on 23 plays.

Alabama was far from electric in the first half. The Crimson Tide came out charged in the second half. After a short Wilson pass to Travis McCall, Ingram broke off runs of 30 and 12 yards. On the fourth play of the third quarter, Roy Upchurch went around left end for 22 yards and a touchdown. Tiffin's extra point made it 21-0. The 70-yard drive had taken just four plays and 1:23.

Coffee was held out of second half action with a shoulder injury.

Bama made it 28-0 with a short touchdown drive. Javier Arenas was making a fair catch when he was bumped, a personal foul penalty that started the Tide at the Red Wolves 48-yard line. Wilson hit Jones for a gains of 21 and eight yards. On a third-and-three Wilson found freshman tight end Brad Smelley for an 11-yard gain to the ASU nine. Ingram ran for four yards on first down and went over the middle for five yards and the touchdown to complete the seven-play, 48-yard drive that took just 3:38. Tiffin kicked the extra point.

Arkansas State had a first down at the Alabama 35 midway through the fourth quarter. Four plays later the red Wolves had lost a total of 20 yards and Bama took over at the ASU 45.

It may have been a bit of a surprise that most of the Alabama starters stayed in on offense when Bama took over with 7:40 to play. What happened was not a surprise. The Tide moved to a final touchdown in the 35-0 victory. Bama took only seven plays and 3:03 to go the distance with Ingram taking it over left tackle for the 22-yard touchdown run. Tiffin kicked the extra point.

Also as expected, Alabama dominated statistically.

In first downs it was Alabama 21, Arkansas State 11. Bama had 36 rushes for 205 yards, ASU 37 rushes for 91 yards. The Tide's Wilson finished 15-28-1 for 152 yards, while the Wolves' Leonard was 8-17-1 for 67 yards.

Total offense was Alabama 64 plays for 357 yards, Arkansas State 54 plays for 158 yards. Sometimes time of possession is not an important statistics. Arkansas State won that battle, 32 minutes to 28 minutes.

Alabama successfully converted eight of 13 third down opportunities, while Arkansas State was good on on two of 12. The Red Wolves also had two fourth down attempts that failed. Arkansas State never made it into the Red Zone (inside the Alabama 20). Bama was in the Red Zone five times and scored three (missing on an interception and on a missed field goal).

Ingram led Alabama in rushing with 12 carries for 113 yards with two touchdowns and a long run of 30. Coffee had nine carries for 56 yards and a touchdown and Upchurch five for 31 and a touchdown.

Jones was Bama's leading receiver with five catches for 62 yards. McCoy had three catches for 26 yards.

P.J. Fitzgerald had three punts for a 40.3 average.

Rashad Johnson led the Tide defensively with eight primary tackles and five assists, along with his interception return for a touchdown. Brandon Fanney ws in on seven tackles and Brandon Deaderick and Rolando McClain six each.

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