TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Strong special teams in the early going keyed a quick start for Alabama (2-0), providing the bulk of their scoring in a 20-6 victory over Tulane (0-1) before a sellout crowd of 92,138 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Javier Arenas compiled an Alabama-record 147 punt return yards, scored on an 87-yard return in the first quarter, and Chris Rogers scooped up a blocked punt and ran 17 yards for another score to highlight a quick start by the Tide.
The Crimson Tide needed that special teams production as the Alabama offense was bogged down for much of the game due to injuries. Leading 13-3 at halftime, Alabama withstood one Tulane scoring threat that ended in a missed field goal before freshman running back Mark Ingram keyed the Tide’s first sustained offensive drive of the game by rushing for 38 yards on five carries on a 77-yard scoring march. Ingram capped the drive by racing around left end for a 15-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter, running through one tackler on the play to give the Tide a commanding 20-3 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Forced out of New Orleans a week earlier by the threat of Hurricane Gustav, Tulane got a standing ovation from Alabama fans when the Green Wave took the field just prior to the opening kickoff. After a quick start by the Tide, Alabama (2-0) allowed four sacks of John Parker Wilson, fumbled once, missed two kicks and gained only 172 yards – just 38 in the first half. Tide head coach got his 100th collegiate career victory.
Tulane kept the Tide offense off balance but managed only field goals of 35 and 21 yards by Ross Thevenot, who missed two more. Arenas gave the Tide all the points it needed early. Tulane’s first drive stalled on the Alabama 46, and Darren deRochemont punted. Arenas caught the ball at his own 13, broke a tackle and cut down the left sideline while outrunning the Tulane punt coverage team.
Two drives later, deRochemont was forced to punt from the Green Wave 23, but Roy Upchurch made a diving block. Chris Rogers scooped up the ball and ran 17 yards for a score.
"I was able to get inside the wing and block it," Upchurch said. "It was a great feeling. It was almost like scoring a touchdown."
After that, Alabama’s offense sputtered. Tulane’s defense notched three quarterback sacks in the second quarter alone, and Crimson Tide freshman placekicker Corey Smith, in briefly for the injured Leigh Tiffin, missed a point-after kick and a 37-yard field goal. Alabama didn’t manage an offensive touchdown until the end of the third quarter, on Ingram’s 15-yard run.
With Alabama missing injured offensive line starters Andre Smith and Marlon Davis, Wilson was under pressure frequently. He completed just 11 of 23 passes for 73 yards but didn’t throw an interception. The yardage total was Wilson’s second-lowest in a start for the Tide.
Arenas, who set an Alabama record with 145 punt return yards, left injured in the third quarter after getting leveled by Jordan Ellis on a punt return. Tulane wasted two scoring opportunities in the third quarter as Thevenot was wide left on field goal attempts from 41 and 23 yards.
The victory was Alabama’s 10th straight in the series with Tulane. The Green Wave hasn’t beaten the Crimson Tide since 1958, and it hasn’t won in Tuscaloosa since 1900.