Alabama Crimson Tide: wku-bama-090812

Watch: TideNation recaps win over WKU

September, 8, 2012

TideNation reporters Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough recap Alabama’s 35-0 win over Western Kentucky.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Barrett Jones was not happy after his team beat Western Kentucky 35-0.

The starting center for the University of Alabama didn't like what he saw on the field Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. While fans saw AJ McCarron tie a career high with four touchdown passes and thought it was a good day for the offense, he noticed the six sacks from the defense. He saw a lack of execution from the offensive line and a number of missed opportunities because they couldn't keep the backfield protected.

"A lot of missed assignments," Jones said. "A few times we just got beat, poor technique. I'll have to look at the film, but again, just not really pleased with the execution."

Jones, who said McCarron might have set career marks had it not been for the poor play from the line, added that the offensive line, which is hailed as one of the best in the country, is just as capable of being mediocre as they are being great.

"We learned that anytime we don't bring our best we're pretty average," he said.

"I think we had a rough day."

Coach Nick Saban was in total agreement with Jones. While the energy was there, the final results were not. Western Kentucky ended the day with eight tackles for loss and forced a fumble with right tackle D.J. Fluker let the defensive end run by him and smack McCarron in the back, jarring the ball loose.

"We didn't do a very good job today in pass protection, having six sacks," Saban said. "Three or four of those guys just got beat. A couple of them were pressures we didn't pick up properly. That's something we definitely need to get better on."

Injuries mount for Alabama

September, 8, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama's 35-0 win over Western Kentucky will look good on paper -- that is, unless you scroll down to the injury and participation report.

[+] EnlargeChristion Jones, AJ McCarron
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAlabama had plenty to celebrate against WKU, but the injury bug bit again.
No. 1 Alabama didn't escape its home debut Saturday without a few players getting dinged up. Junior running back Jalston Fowler had a scare late in the fourth quarter, injuring his knee. The Tide's No. 2 tailback had to be helped off the field and sat in pain on the trainer's table for several minutes. Players crowded around him and offered their support after seeing how serious the injury looked.

After the game, coach Nick Saban had no update on Fowler's knee and said he would get an MRI in the morning. Fowler left the game on a stretcher, emotionally distraught.

"It's really tough when you see a player, no matter what it is or who it is, go down," said receiver Christion Jones. "But one thing you have to do, is figure out what you can do to get him back right."

Sophomore linebacker/H-back Brent Calloway had to leave the game after injuring his shoulder. True freshman linebacker Reggie Ragland didn't dress out after injuring himself during last Saturday's game against Michigan.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- One of the main question marks for this University of Alabama football team entering the season was who was going to rush the passer now that Courtney Upshaw and others departed for the NFL.

In the spring game, it looked like outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard would fill the void, but on Saturday, it was redshirt freshman Xzavier Dickson, playing opposite of Hubbard, who wreaked havoc in the backfield against Western Kentucky.

Dickson recorded just one tackle in the game, a sack that caused a fumble and resulted in a turnover, but he came close on a number of other plays, forcing the Hilltoppers’ quarterback to throw it sooner than he wanted.

“Xzavier Dickson has always been a good pass rusher,” Hubbard said. “It helps with me and him pass rushing on both sides because it’s kind of hard for them to double team when they want to.

“He has come along a lot. He’s learning the defense. I’m teaching him a lot more of what the older guys, Courtney [Upshaw], Jerrell [Harris] and Alex Watkins, taught me.”

For both Dickson and Hubbard, it’s been a slow start to the season.

Against Michigan, the gameplan was to control quarterback Denard Robinson rather than rush him every play. On Saturday, the two outside linebackers blitzed more, and it resulted in three sacks and four quarterback hurries.

Fellow linebacker Nico Johnson believes they have yet to be fully unleashed.

“They’re working hard,” he said. “Right now, they’re being patient, taking what’s given and ready to work whenever their name is called or their number is called. They’ll be ready.”

They might have to be ready next week as the Crimson Tide facest its toughest test to date next week, a road game at Arkansas.

Instant analysis: Alabama 35, WKU 0

September, 8, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t want his team taking Western Kentucky lightly, and although it might not have looked exciting, the Crimson Tide cruised to a 35-0 win as they get ready for Arkansas next week.

Quarterback AJ McCarron finished 14-of-19 for 219 yards and matched a career high with four touchdown passes. Freshman sensation T.J. Yeldon had just 25 yards rushing but caught four passes for 47 yards. Fellow freshman Kenyan Drake added a 32-yard touchdown run late in the game.

The defense gave up 224 yards to the Hilltoppers, but the unit forced four turnovers to keep the shutout intact. Junior college transfer Deion Belue made the first interception of his career at UA.

It was over when: You could make a case it was when Western Kentucky got off the bus, but the Hilltoppers made it closer than the experts predicted. Still, when McCarron connected with Christion Jones on a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 with 6:53 remaining in the first half, there was no coming back.

Game ball goes to: The easy choice would be to give it to McCarron, who tied a career high with four touchdowns, but wide receivers Christion Jones and Kevin Norwood each caught two scores and gave the Tide the big play ability they lacked a year ago. Now a junior, Norwood has emerged into a playmaker and one of McCarron’s favorite targets.

Stat of the game: Alabama committed just one penalty all game. This has to make Saban happy after the Tide committed seven penalties for 55 yards last week against Michigan.

Unsung hero: The Alabama pass rush looked to be more effective against the Hilltoppers and leading the way was redshirt freshman Xzavier Dickson. The outside linebacker seemed to be in the backfield all game. His biggest play came midway through the second quarter when he sacked the quarterback, forced a fumble and kept WKU off the board.

What it means for Alabama: Regardless of what head coach Nick Saban says, this was just a tune-up for next week’s showdown at Arkansas. Alabama’s offense looked efficient and McCarron keeps improving. The defense didn’t give up the big play, but WKU showed it could move the ball. Turnovers were key and will be key again next week.

What it means for WKU: Nobody expected the Hilltoppers to win or even keep it close for that matter. They didn’t look scared, though. This is a good football team who has the talent to compete in the Sun Belt this year. Playing in this type of environment can only help down the road.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted players, fans and the media to respect Western Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. The team he called the best in the Sun Belt didn't do much to earn the high praise, though, falling behind to No. 1 Alabama 21-0 in the first half.

Stat of the half: Saban demanded focus from his players against Western Kentucky, and he got just that in the first half. Alabama committed no penalties and did not turn the ball over.

Player of the half: AJ McCarron has been lethal at quarterback, completing 8 of 10 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaged more than 16 yards per pass attempt.

What's working for Alabama: The Alabama defense hasn't been a stone wall against WKU, but it's been opportunistic, forcing three fumbles. Two WKU turnovers led to Alabama touchdowns.

What's not working for Alabama: The offensive line is having no trouble getting push in the running game, but pass protection is another matter. D.J. Fluker was beat badly on the rush that caused McCarron's fumble in the first quarter.


Alabama Dismisses Jonathan Taylor
Alex Scarborough discusses the Crimson Tide's decision to dismiss defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.