The Crimson White

Alabama bounces back from slow start, beats Western Carolina 48-14

Deanne Winslett

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Alabama overcame a slow start, scoring 31 unanswered points and defeating Western Carolina 48-14 Saturday, clearing the way for the Crimson Tide’s annual Iron Bowl showdown with Auburn next week.

“We just didn’t have much energy in the beginning of the game and just didn’t have much energy and enthusiasm in pregame,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “As the game wore on, I thought our guys played better. I was proud of the way they competed throughout. [Western Carolina’s] players did a really good job in the game. They had a really good plan and did a really good job of executing it.”

It took more than a quarter for Alabama to find any rhythm on offense after an interception, a fumble and other miscues. 

Running back T.J. Yeldon, receiver DeAndrew White and placekicker Adam Griffith were held out of the game, and injuries during the contest to a flurry of other players, including wide receiver Amari Cooper, left tackle Cam Robinson, nose guard A’Shawn Robinson, tight end Brian Vogler and wide receiver ArDarius Stewart also plagued the team. Saban said after the game that most of the players injuries were relatively minor, though Vogler and Stewart are likely “the most questionable.”

Saban said Cooper has a bruised knee, Cam Robinson and A’Shawn Robinson have ankle sprains, but all three will be okay. Saban also said Yeldon and White “probably could have played,” but he held them out to be on the safe side.

Despite the slow start, Alabama totaled 612 yards to Western Carolina’s 213 that included negative yards (-8) rushing. But the Catamounts, a Football Championship Subdivision team, gave the Crimson Tide all it could handle at the start, rushing out to a 7-0 lead after a 75-yard, nine-play drive in the first quarter, and keeping it close even after Alabama took the lead for good at 17-7 early in the second quarter. 

The Catamounts responded, following a Derrick Henry fumble, with a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Troy Mitchell to wide receiver Spearman Robinson, pulling within three points of Alabama, at 17-14, with 10:41 left in the first half.

From then on, however, it was all Alabama. The Crimson Tide scored 31 unanswered points, beginning with a 10-play, 69-yard drive, capped by running back Tyren Jones’ seven-yard touchdown run. Backup placekicker Gunnar Raborn’s extra point made it 24-14, and the Crimson Tide never looked back.

”All the captains were just like, ‘Hey, let’s go. Let’s play the Alabama way, and let’s get this game done,’” quarterback Blake Sims said when asked about the mood in the locker room at halftime. “Coach Saban was very fired up. He knows the way we can play, and he just wanted to get the momentum going.”

Alabama entered the third quarter 38-14. Raborn knocked down a 28-yard field goal to push the lead to 41-14. A 12-yard pass from Jake Coker to Michael Nysewander led to a touchdown and a final score of 48-14.

Alabama was able to give reserve players time on the field in the second half.

“We played a lot of guys. Chris Black had some catches,” Saban said. “I thought Tyren Jones did a good job of running the ball when he had the opportunity. Altee [Tenpenny] did okay, too. I already mentioned Jake [Coker] as a guy that did a good job. Robert Foster got to play a little bit; he’s got ability, and he’s been making a lot of improvement. On the defensive side, we probably played more players all year long. It was good to get those guys some opportunities. I know a couple of those guys got sacks – No. 56 [Tim Williams] and No. 62 [Josh Frazier]. That was really good for them. I thought those guys did a pretty good job when they went in the game, in terms of the way they executed.”

Black had six catches for 101 yards, his first 100-yard game at Alabama. Jones rushed for 75 yards on 11 carries. Henry led all rushers with 92 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Henry finished with 101 all-purpose yards, including a nine-yard touchdown catch.

With the win, Alabama improved to 10-1. This is the seventh-straight 10-win season for Alabama, which extends a school record set by last year’s team.

The Crimson Tide will face rival Auburn (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Iron Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6:45 p.m. CT, and, the game will be broadcasted on ESPN.

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Alabama bounces back from slow start, beats Western Carolina 48-14