Alabama vs.Houston

  Date: 10/6/2007  
  Score: 30-24  
  Alabama vs. Houston

TUSCALOOSA – John Parker Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, but it took a big defensive play by Simeon Castille for Alabama to put away Houston, 30-24, on the final play. Wilson threw a pair of 23-yard touchdown passes to Nikita Stover and Mike McCoy and scored on a 1-yard sneak to give Alabama (4-2) a 23-0 lead after one quarter.

Houston’s unorthodox no-huddle offense finally broke through, and the Cougars (2-3) found themselves with a chance to tie the game on the final play. Brandon Brinkley picked off Wilson and the Cougars drove to the Alabama 15 with 5 seconds remaining. Facing fourth-and-3, Case Keenum scrambled away from pressure and threw a rainbow into a crowd on the left side of the end zone. Castille came down with the ball to preserve the win and was mobbed by teammates.

Glen Coffee led Alabama with 122 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. D.J. Hall caught three passes for 19 yards to become Alabama’s all-time receptions leader with 153, breaking the old mark set by Freddie Milons.

Houston made it a game despite early breakdowns on defense. Alabama did the bulk of its damage in the first quarter, orchestrating scoring drives of 80, 66 and 85 yards, with junior quarterback John Parker Wilson throwing a pair of 23-yard touchdown passes in the period and sneaking in a score from one yard out on the Tide’s opening drive. After taking a 7-0 lead, senior Wallace Gilberry sacked Houston quarterback Blake Joseph in the end zone on the ensuing Cougar possession for a safety to extend the Alabama lead to nine.

Alabama had 201 total yards in the first quarter alone and allowed Houston only four, controlling the ball for more than 12 of the first 15 minutes and grinding out 124 rushing yards in the period for the early 23-point lead.

"Anytime someone runs an offense like [Houston’s], you’re going to have the opportunity to come back in games and you’re never ahead far enough," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.

After three weeks of the Alabama offense orchestrating late-game scoring drives to keep the Tide in the game, this time it was the defense’s turn to prevent Houston from doing the same thing. After a first-half touchdown, the Cougars added a field goal and two more TDs in the second half while holding the Alabama offense to only 74 second half yards, drawing to within six with three minutes to go.

But the Alabama defense came up big on Houston’s last two offensive drives, picking off a pair of Case Keenum passes – one in the end zone as time expired by Simeon Castille – to preserve the win. After coming into the game last in the SEC in sacks with five, Alabama doubled that total with five against the Cougars. After recording a pair of sacks, Gilberry led the Alabama defense with 11 tackles and 4.5 tackles for losses.

In his first career start for Alabama, sophomore Glen Coffee ran for 121 yards on 30 carries, with a four-yard touchdown in the second half to extend Alabama’s lead to 30-10. Wilson finished the day 15-of-27 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. With three catches for 19 yards, Tide senior DJ Hall set the Alabama career receptions record, breaking Freddie Milons’ record for career receptions, with 153. Coffee had six catches for 30 yards and junior tight end Nick Walker had two catches for 43 yards.

After spotting Alabama three touchdowns and giving up a safety, Houston got on the board when Blake Joseph threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery. T.J. Lawrence added a 34-yard field goal.

Alabama built its lead to 30-10 on Coffee’s run, which was set up by a fumbled punt, but things got tight for the Tide after that. Keenum scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 75-yard, 12-play drive early in the fourth quarter, and Anthony Aldridge caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Keenum. The Cougars got the ball back on their own 39 with 2:56 remaining, but Castille’s interception killed the comeback.

Houston averaged better than 33 points a game coming in, but it was allowing more than 30 points. The numbers wound up working in favor of Alabama, even though Houston outgained Alabama 404 yards to 347.