Alabama vs.Western Carolina

  Date: 9/1/2007  
  Score: 52-6  
  Alabama vs. Western Carolina

TUSCALOOSA – Alabama (1-0, 0-0) rolled up 575 total yards of offense, including 313 on the ground, on the way to a 52-6 win over the Western Carolina Catamounts (0-1, 0-0) in the Alabama coaching debut of Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban.

Redshirt freshman running back Terry Grant rushed for 136 yards on 18 carries, scoring three of Alabama’s six rushing touchdowns in his first career start. Sophomore Glen Coffee had nine rushes for 76 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Roy Upchurch had six carries for 58 yards and a score. Alabama’s 575 yards of offense were the most since the Tide gained 588 total yards against UTEP in 2001. Alabama gained a school-record 35 first downs and averaged more than 30 yards per kickoff return.

"We showed we have a few playmakers," senior receiver DJ Hall said. "Guys are just hustling all around. Offense, defense, and special teams. There is so much talent on this team. There is not one guy to pinpoint that only makes the team better. That’s what we want to focus on."

The Tide scored on the first play of the game, when Grant broke a 47-yard run for a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Alabama then orchestrated scoring drives of 94, 36

and 68 yards to take a 24-3 lead at the half. "It was just a good sweep," Grant said. "It was a big play and it just happened to be the first play of the game. It was a play to take the wind out of them."

Junior quarterback John Parker Wilson, who completed 17 of 25 passes for 189 yards, led Alabama on a 73-yard scoring drive on the Tide’s first drive of the second half that was capped by a one-yard Coffee score before redshirt freshman Greg McElroy took over the Crimson Tide offense, going 8-of-9 for 73 yards and a touchdown.

"We really tried to dominate in the second half and for the most part I think we came in and did that," Saban said. "There are still a lot of things we need to improve on, some things we were a little sloppy on, but we have the right attitude about trying to work on and improve on it."

Hall caught four passes for 52 yards to lead Alabama’s receivers, and junior tight end Nick Walker caught five passes for 40 yards and a score. Freshman Earl Alexander

also caught four passes for 40 yards. The Alabama defense held the Western Carolina offense to 247 total yards on the night, allowing just 76 yards on the ground and forcing two fourth quarter fumbles. Junior Rashad Johnson led the

Alabama defense with eight total tackles, and both senior Darren Mustin and freshman Rolando McClain had seven in their first Alabama starts. Mustin and fellow freshman Kareem Jackson became the eighth and ninth true freshmen to start a season opener at Alabama.

Javier Arenas set up touchdowns with kick returns of 29 and 45 yards. Third-team tailback Glen Coffee rushed for a 1-yard touchdown and McElroy hit tight end Nick

Walker for a 1-yard scoring pass. Four Tide running backs rushed for touchdowns, and 12 players caught passes. The Catamounts did manage one big play against a Tide defense starting two former walk-ons and a freshman. But a 67-yard touchdown pass by Todd Spitzer in the first quarter was taken off the board by a holding play downfield. The Catamounts lost yardage on the next three plays. They managed just two Jonathan Parsons field goals.

"I thought we did pretty well," senior Wallace Gilberry said. "To be considered very young and inexperienced, I thought we got out there and gave great effort."

Alabama’s sixth consecutive season-opening victory, this one over a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team that won just two games last season, was just a baby step toward that bigger goal. Nobody was more aware of that than Saban.

"My thing with the team was it’s not really who you play," he said, "it’s how you play."

The perfectionist Saban could find plenty of fault, especially in an opener. The team gave the fans little to complain about, though. The easy win was welcomed by the Tide, which was playing without two suspended starters, receiver Keith Brown and linebacker Prince Hall, and lost nose guard Brian Motley to a broken left foot in practice during the week.

"It’s a great atmosphere to play in," Western Carolina quarterback Todd Spitzer said. "They’ve got loyal fans that care about this program. It’s definitely a wonderful experience, and I’ll hold it with me for the rest of my career."