ARLINGTON, Texas - An explosive Alabama offense that showed balance between the rushing and passing games, along with a tough defense that also showed an opportunistic side, decided the outcome early as the Crimson Tide raced to a 31-0 lead in the second quarter on the way to a decisive 41-14 victory over 8th-ranked Michigan Saturday night in the Cowboys Classic at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
AJ McCarron passed for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns, freshman running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 111 yards and a score, and linebacker C.J. Mosley returned an interception for another touchdown as Alabama dominated the Wolverines and put the game away early.
Alabama opened the scoring on their second possession of the night, marching 61 yards in 9 plays to score on a 2-yard pass from AJ McCarron to tight end Michael Williams with 4:22 left in the first quarter. The drive was keyed by a 19-yard pass from McCarron to wide receiver Kenny Bell that reached the Michigan 29-yard line and a 14-yard run to the Michigan 15 by Yeldon. Jeremy Shelley’s point-after gave Alabama a 7-0 lead.
The Tide quickly widened the margin to 14 on its next possession. After a Michigan punt, McCarron followed a play fake with a bomb to wide open DeAndrew White down the Michigan sideline. White hauled in the pass at the Wolverines’ 15-yard line and ran untouched into end zone for a 51-yard touchdown pass. Shelley’s conversion kick gave Alabama a 14-0 lead.
Michigan’s next possession ended on an interception by junior cornerback Dee Milliner at the Alabama 48-yard line. Milliner returned the theft 35 yards to the Michigan 17 with 2:15 left in the opening period. Three plays later, running back Eddie Lacy broke a tackle on a run off the left tackle and scored from 9 yards out. Shelley’s point-after kick gave Alabama a 21-0 lead with 1:24 left in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, a first down from Tide 34-yard line after a Michigan punt, Yeldon took a handoff around the left side and meandered for 40 yards to the Michigan 26. Three plays later on a second down needing 18 yards, Yeldon took a screen pass from McCarron for 26 yards and first down at the Michigan 8. Three plays netted three yards and Shelley entered to kick a 22-yard field goal for a 24-0 Alabama lead with 9:53 remaining in the second quarter.
The Tide defense victimized Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson again late in the second period as linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown with 4:31 left in the second period. Shelley’s kick made it 31-0 for Alabama. The touchdown was the third interception return for a score for Mosley in his Alabama career, tying Antonio Langham’s (1990-93) school record. Mosley had two touchdown returns in 2010.
Michigan responded on its next possession as Robinson connected with wide receiver Jeremy Gallon for a 71-yard pass play to the Alabama 1-yard line. After a penalty backed up the Wolverines to the Alabama 6, Robinson scored on a keeper for a 6-yard run to put Michigan on the board with 2:20 remaining. The extra point cut the Alabama lead to 31-7.
Placekicker Cade Foster added to the total in the third period with a career-long 51-yard field goal with 2:32 remaining in the period. Michigan responded with a 44-yard scoring pass from Robinson to Devin Gardner later in the third quarter to draw Michigan within 34-14. Yeldon added another touchdown to close out the scoring for Alabama, a 1-yard run with 5:32 left in the game, to run the final margin to 41-14. Along the way Yeldon became the first true freshman running back in Alabama history to eclipse 100 yards rushing in his debut, gaining 111 yards on only 10 carries to lead all rushers in the game.
The Alabama defense had a stellar night, limiting Michigan to 11 first downs and 269 total yards (69 rushing, 200 passing) while preventing Denard Robinson from breaking any long plays on the ground and bottling up the Michigan running for the balance of the night. Mosley led the Tide defense, racking up a team-best 6 tackles in addition to his game-breaking interception touchdown. Other defensive standouts included Milliner, who accumulated a career-high 4 pass breakups along with 4 tackles and his game-changing interception early in the contest.
The Tide defense totaled 5 tackles for losses totaling 16 yards and intercepted 3 Michigan passes on the night.