Alabama vs.Louisiana-Monroe

 
  Date: 11/17/2007  
  Score: 14-21  
  Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monroe

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Before the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban used recent basketball upsets as cautionary tales for his team.

"I talked to them about Grand Valley beating Michigan State, Gardner-Webb beating Kentucky," he said. "I ran the gamut on everything that I could talk about relative to respecting your opponent and getting ready to go out and dominate the people that you play. I failed in that, obviously."

Louisiana-Monroe cornerback Quintez Secka had two interceptions and ULM (5-6) forced four turnovers, blocked a field goal and turned Alabama (6-5) away three times on promising drives in the fourth quarter. The result was the Tide’s third consecutive defeat, and it’s most stunning on field setback in several seasons.

"I’m certainly not pleased the way we represented that tradition today," Saban said. "We did all the things in this football game that get you beat regardless of who you play. We just did a lot of things today that is not winning football. I think we’re all responsible for it. It starts with me. I don’t think we had a very good week of preparation."

The Warhawks had nothing to apologize for in a rare win over a Southeastern Conference team for their school and their league, both of whom have been bullied by Southeastern Conference teams in the past.

"This win means everything to our program right now," tailback Frank Goodin said. "It’s the biggest win as far as I know for this program."

It was the Warhawks’ first victory over an SEC team since beating Mississippi State in 1995 and their third in 33 tries, improving their record to 3-29-1. The Sun Belt had been 0-11 against the SEC this season. Louisiana-Monroe held firm every time Alabama appeared poised to tie the game.

The Tide had a third-and-2 at the Louisiana-Monroe 18-yard line, but Terry Grant was stuffed for no gain on back-to-back runs. The drive began at the Louisiana-Monroe 26 after a 19-yard punt return by Jonathan Lowe. It wasn’t over quite yet even after that blown opportunity. Louisiana-Monroe failed to get a first down and had to punt, giving Alabama one final shot from its own 37 with 56 seconds left and no timeouts.

John Parker Wilson missed an open Keith Brown down the right sideline, had to run out of bounds for a short gain, and then threw an incompletion under pressure on third down. James Truxillo batted away his final attempt, drawing a cascade of boos from Alabama fans that had been mostly quiet except for scattered expressions of displeasure. Chants of "U-L-M" rose from the tiny section of Louisiana- Monroe faithful.

Junior running back Jimmy Johns, making his first career start, lost a fumble at the ULM 13-yard line with 4:41 left in the game, yet another missed chance for Alabama,

which also had Leigh Tiffin’s 36-yard field goal attempt blocked on the final play of the third quarter.

"I think it was pretty embarrassing," said Wilson, who threw for 246 yards but had two first-half interceptions. "We let a lot of people down. We shouldn’t have lost. We’re Alabama. We’re supposed to win, and we’re not doing it right now. You can’t score 14 points and expect to win the game."

Alabama outgained ULM in total offense by a margin of 409 to 282, but the Tide lost five turnovers to the Warhawks, who did not lose a turnover during the game. A

total of 92,138 tickets were sold, making the game officially a sellout, but a less-than-capacity crowd actually watched the game.

"This is the number one win since I’ve been here in the last five years," Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "We come in trying to win. We don’t play to keep it close. We felt we had a chance if we stayed close in the ballgame to win in the fourth quarter."

Calvin Dawson rushed 33 times for 91 yards and a touchdown for Louisiana-Monroe, while Kinsmon Lancaster passed for 161 yards. Secka returned his second interception 38 yards to the Tide 1, setting up Dawson’s TD run. The Tide had been 15-0 against current Sun Belt teams and was expected to use the game as a tune-up for the Iron Bowl. Nobody told the Warhawks, who forced three first half turnovers to forge a 14-14 tie then shut Alabama out in the second half.

The SEC’s leading receiver, DJ Hall, was suspended for a violation of team rules but played in the second half with Alabama desperately needing a spark. Dangerous punt returner Javier Arenas left with a high ankle sprain late in the game.