Bama Survives Second Game Blahs

For those who didn't want to see a repeat of last year's lackluster Alabama performance in a second game after a major first game victory…well, it may have been a little better this year. The Crimson Tide did manage a 40-14 win over Florida International Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but it was a trying game, not put away until the fourth quarter.

Final Stats:

Last year, Alabama opened the season with what was viewed as an upset win over Clemson in the season-opener, then was uninspired in a second game win over Tulane. This year the Crimson Tide was coming off a solid 34-24 win over seventh-ranked Virginia Tech. Florida International was in the game going to the fourth quarter.

So much for that theory about a team having its greatest improvement between the first and second games. It was the season-opener for FIU.

It needs to be noted, though, that Alabama was dominant statistically. A poor job on one kickoff and a couple of breakdowns on one FIU drive made it a struggle.

True freshman tailback Trent Richardson scored two second half touchdowns, including a game-clinching 35-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter, and had 15 carries for 119 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Greg McElroy had a very strong game, including a school record 14 consecutive pass completions. Mike McCoy, who had to pick up the slack for an injured Julio Jones, had five receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Alabama hosts another Sun Belt Conference team next week when the North Texas Mean Green visits Bryant-Denny Stadium. North Texas is coached by Todd Dodge, who was Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy's high school coach at Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas. Kickoff will be at 11:20 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage on the Southeastern Conference Network.

Alabama's problems with getting touchdowns when in the red zone continued on the Crimson Tide's first possession of the game Saturday night. Bama drove to a first and goal, but had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Leigh Tiffin. Tiffin kicked four field goals in Bama's season-opening 34-24 win over Virginia Tech a week earlier. After a short kickoff to start the game, Alabama wentg 55 yards in 13 plays and consumed 5:58 in taking a 3-0 lead.

Roy Upchurch started the gam at tailback and had some nice runs, but went out with an injury. Upchurch was replaced by Trent Richardson. Bama quarterback Greg McElroy completed two passes on the drive, but was unable to connect with Julio Jones for the touchdown on the opening drive.

Alabama got it into the end zone on its second possession. Bama drove 80 yards in seven plays with McElroy hitting senior wide receiver Mike McCoy on a crossing route for 24 yards and a 10-0 Alabama lead with 3:25 to play.

McElroy completed passes of seven and 14 yards to McCoy and also hit tight end Colin Peek on a 13-yard gain and tight end Preston Dial for 19 yards on the drive. Star wide receiver Julio Jones was out of the game with an apparent injury.

It didn't last long—18 seconds to be exact. For the second consecutive week, Alabama's kickoff coverage team was a sieve. Florida International star sophomore took the kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown. Dustin Rivest kicked the Panthers to within three points at 10-7 with 3:07 remaining in the first quarter.

Alabama drove deep into FIU territory as the first quarter came to an end, but Bama shot itself in the foot with penalties and settled for a 29-yard Tiffin field goal on the first play of the second quarter. Bama led 13-7.

McElroy completed passes of 20 yards to McCoy and 31 yards to Mark Ingram in the drive.

At the end of the first quarter, Alabama had dominated statistically, but had only a three-point lead. Bama had 11 first downs to one for FIU and the Tide had run 25 plays for 200 yards, the Panthers six plays for 35 yards. McElroy had completed 10 of 11 passes for 155 yards in the first quarter.

If anyone thought FIU was going away…wrong.

The Golden Panthers got a good start when Tiffin kicked off out of bounds. Overcoming a major penalty, FIU went 60 yards in eight plays with quarterback Paul McCall completing a nine-yard touchdown pass to split end Greg Ellington.

With 10:29 to play in the second quarter, the score flashed around the college football world was Florida International 14, fourth ranked Alabama 13.

Alabama regained the lead with a nice two-minute drill type drive (actually 2:09). From its 36, McElroy comp;leted a 35-yard pass to McCoy. Ingram ripped off a 21-yard gain to the 13. On second and eight, McElroy connected with Earl Alexander for a first and goal at the two. Ingram ran behind nose tackle Terrence Cody, who was in the game at fullback, for the touchdown. After a couple of penalties, Tiffin finally kicked the extra point for a 20-14 Bama lead.

That was the halftime score.

Alabama began to pull away in the third quarter and made it look something like what was expected in the fourth quarter.

Alabama made it 26-14 late in the third quarter. Javier Arenas had one of his several nice punt returns, a 20-yard effort to set Bama up at midfield. McElroy hit first down passes of 11 yards to Darius Hanks and 11 yards to Richardson to the FIU 22. Richardson then ran 13 yards to the nine and followed that up with a touchdown romp at left tackle. Bama's two-point conversion attempt, McElroy passing to tight end Colin Peek, was incomplete, but the Tide had a 26-14 lead.

Another fine Arenas punt return started the Tide to its next touchdown. Arenas returned a 54-yard punt 46 yards to the FIU 40. Richardson got five yards on first down as the third quarter came to an end. On the first snap of the fourth quarter he went over left tackle for 35 yards and a touchdown. Tiffin kicked it to 33-14.

Later in the quarter Grant replaced Richrdson at tailback and made an immediate impression. Grant blasted off left tackle for a 42-yard touchdown with 8:21 to play, which wrapped up the scoring.

Alabama dominated statistically with 26 first downs to 13 for FIU. Bama had 42 rushes for 275 yards, the Panthers 26 runs for one net yard. McElroy completed 18 of 24 passes for 241 yards, FIU was good on 18 of 38 passes for 213 yards. Total offense was Alabama 66 plays for 516 yards, Florida International 64 plays for 214 yards.

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