Tide Rolls Over Mean Green

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has been talking about wanting his team to "start fast and finish strong." It wasn't a real fast start for the Crimson Tide Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but Tiger Woods can knock his first drive out of bounds and Roger Federer can double fault.

Alabama's first play against North Texas was Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy being hit just as he was preparing to pass, a fumble that was recovered by the Mean Green. But the Tide was the team that made the nice recovery, rolling to a 53-7 victory in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.

The Crimson Tide, ranked fourth in the nation, is now 3-0. North Texas fell to 1-2.

Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play next Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Arkansas. CBS will televise the game with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CDT in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama's first team players were excellent. McElroy was effective passing with two touchdowns and also ran for a score. Mark Ingram scored one rushing touchdown and had a pass reception for another. Back-up tailback Terry Grant had two running touchdowns.

Alabama's start against North Texas was far from fast. Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy was blind-sided just before he could pass and the ball was fumbled to North Texas around midfield. After the Mean Green punted Bama back to its five, Alabama got that fast start going on the do-over. Bama went 95 yards in 13 plays, a drive that took almost six minutes and ended with McElroy scrambling in from two yards out. Leigh Tiffin kicked it to 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

Mark Ingram nearly made it a one-play drive, breaking off right tackle on first down and being wrestled down by the last Mean Green defender after a 22-yard gain. McElroy completed seven consecutive passes in the drive, the last a 20-yard toss to Mike McCoy for a first down at the North Texas four. Two plays later McElroy scrambled in for the touchdown.

McElroy would make it 14-0 less than three minutes later with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Maze. The six-play, 67-yard drive had to overcome a holding penalty that wiped out a long Ingram run. Ingram had started the drive with an 18-yard run

Trent Richardson's 38-yard run got the next Tide drive started well. On second down, McElroy connected with Darius Hanks for a 20-yard gain and a North Texas defender connected with McElroy after the pass for a first down at the 12. Richardson ran for 10 and a first and goal at the two. On second down, Richardson took it in for the touchdown. The five-play, 82-yard drive took just 2:10 and Bama had a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Ingram started and finished the next Bama drive. He opened it with a nine-yard run and also had a 17-yard run for a first down at the North Texas 34. On a third-and-five play Ingram was the safety valve receiver for McElroy. Ingram took the pass over the middle, turned down the right side, and accelerated into the end zone for a 29-yard receiving touchdown. Tiffin missed the extra point to leave the score at 27-0.

Star Jackson took over at quarterback for Alabama in the final two minutes of the half and seemed to have the Tide headed for the end zone. But a miscommunication, center William Vlachos snap coming before Jackson was ready, resulted in a 13-yard loss in the final minute. Facing fourth and 10 from the North Texas 28 with four seconds until intermission. Tiffin's 35-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half gave Alabama a 30-0 halftime lead.

Tiffin had another field goal in the second half, no surprise, but surprisingly also missed a second extra point.

Jackson had a good first possession (other than the mop-up duty a week earlier against Florida International). He completed five of six passes for 30 yards. He would play most of the second half and finish the game with nine completions in 13 attempts for 87 yards.

Somewhat oddly, the game had no pass interceptions and no quarterback sacks. (On the first play of the game, North Texas defensive end Sam Osusu-Herneng would have had a sack, but McElroy's fumble went beyond the line of scrimmage.)

Alabama had scored on every possession save the first one with four touchdowns and one field goal. Bama did not punt in the first half and would have only one punt on the day.

It was a punt that got Alabama off to a fast start in the second half. Javier Arenas returned the North Texas punt 36 yards to the Mean Green 39 yard line. On first down, McElroy hit tight end Colin Peek for 19 yards. Ingram followed with runs of 15 yards to the five and then into the end zone for his third touchdown of the day. The drive had taken just 54 seconds and Alabama had a 37-0 lead.

McElroy, who had played high school football for North Texas Coach Todd Dodge, had finished his day. He completed 13 of 15 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns and run three times for 16 yards (his fumble was credited as a seven-yard rushing gain) and one touchdown.

Alabama's only punt of the day came with 9:42 to play in the third quarter, a 49-yard kick by P.J. Fitzgerald. Not to worry. North Texas was soon punting back to Arenas, who had a 33-yard return to the North Texas 33.

Terry Grant had runs of eight and six yards for a first down at the 19 and then Jackson connected with Grant on a swing pass for a 12-yard gain and first-and-goal at the seven. Grant took three runs at it, but got the touchdown with 4:29 remaining in the third quarter. Alabama led 44-0.

North Texas got its first first down of the second half with just over three minutes remaining in the quarter when Mean Green quarterback Nathan Tune saved a third-and-long play with a nice loft to Michael Outlaw for 32 yards to the Alabama 39. Two plays later Bama lost the shutout when Tune found tailback Lance Dunbar uncovered down the left side for a 34-yard touchdown pass. The Mean Green had gone 78 yards in just five plays. The extra point kick by Jeremy Knott's extra point cut the Alabama lead to 44-37.

Arenas, who had a fabulous third quarter returning kicks, brought the kickoff back 61 yards to the North Texas 39. Bama ran a lot of plays, and particularly a lot of Terry Grant plays, but when a third down pass was incomplete from the two, Tiffin came in to kick a field goal with 11:42 remaining in the game. Bama had a 47-7 lead.

Alabama's final score came with just under six minutes to play. Grant went in from nine yards out to complete a eight-play, 56-yard drive. Tiffin's extra point kick was off the mark, but it was Alabama 53, North Texas 7.

Arenas returned two punts for 69 yards and a kickoff for 61 yards in the third quarter.

Starters were pretty much done for the day in the second half. Ingram had finished with eight rushes for 91 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. Richardson had 11 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. Bama's third back, Grant, had 19 carries for 79 yards. Maze had four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, Mike McCoy three catches for 38 yards.

Team statistics were as lopsided as the score would indicate. Alabama had 28 first downs to seven for North Texas. Bama had 45 rushes for 260 yards, the Mean Green 26 runs for 61 yards. Tide quarterbacks completed 22 of 28 passes for 263 yards, North Texas 16 of 23 for 126 yards. Total offense was Alabama 73 plays for 523 yards, North Texas 49 plays for 187 yards. Both teams had 14 third down opportunities. Alabama converted on 10 of those, North Texas only four. North Texas did not have a Red Zone opportunity (inside the opponent 20). Alabama had seven Red Zone opportunities and scored on all seven, five touchdowns and two field goals.

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