Sept. 1, 2007
Tuscaloosa, Ala. - Crimson Tide running back Terry Grant rushed 18 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns as Alabama downed Western Carolina, 52-6, in front of a sell-out crowd of 92,138 at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night in the 2007 season opener for both teams.
Alabama (1-0) scored on its first play from scrimmage - a weaving, 47-yard scamper by Grant - en route to tallying double-digit points in each quarter, relegating Western (0-1) to its 10th-straight defeat dating back to last season. The Catamounts did manage to score against the Nick Saban-led Tide squad, notching a pair of Jonathan Parsons field goals to snap a five-quarter, 76-minute scoring drought.
"First of all, I was real pleased with the effort. We played hard from start to finish, came out with a purpose and we finished with pride," said WCU head coach Kent Briggs, who suffered just his second defeat as a head coach in a season-opener. "We did not tackle very well tonight. Our defense was not used to the speed of the game. (Terry) Grant was phenomenal. We need to tackle better and limit the number of penalties which hurt us tonight."
Senior running back Mike Malone accounted for 134 all-purpose yards, including 38 on 11 carries on the ground, two catches for 14 yards and five kickoff returns for 82 yards. Seeing his first career action, sophomore quarterback Adam Hearns rushed four times for 24 yards while also completing 5-of-7 passes for 81 yards.
"It is a great atmosphere to play in," said Spitzer on facing the Crimson Tide in front of over 92,000 fans. "They have loyal fans that care about their program. It's definitely a wonderful experience and I will hold it with me for the rest of my career."
Trailing 7-0 after the opening flurry from Alabama, Cohen nearly knotted the game on WCU's second possession. Spitzer found Cohen across the middle on third and long on a pass play that went for 67 yards and a score - however, a holding penalty negated the score, but did give WCU a first down in Tide territory, the first time they'd crossed midfield in the game. Yet, three-consecutive losses including a two-yard loss on a run, a six-yard sack and a one-yard tackle behind the line of scrimmage backed the Catamounts into their own territory and ended the drive.
On the ensuing possession, the Crimson Tide mimicked WCU and went to a no-huddle offense itself, driving 94 yards in 10 plays, including several for double-digit yardage, in 3:51 to push ahead by two scores, 14-0, just before the end of the first quarter.
The Catamounts opened the second quarter with a fourth-down conversion on a three-yard run by L.J. Davis, and kept the drive alive with a third-down strike from Spitzer to senior Michael Hines. Malone slipped through the Tide defense on a draw play, rumbling 18 yards to get the Catamounts into the red zone. Yet, three-straight incomplete passes stalled the drive and Parsons put WCU on the board with his successful 34-yard attempt, cutting the lead to 14-3.
Alabama responded with a quick score on the legs of Grant to go up 21-3, driving 36 yards in three plays capped off by 21-yard TD run, which gave him three for the day and over 100-yards on the ground. And then, just before the half, Alabama drove 69 yards in 17 plays, eating up 5:09 of second quarter clock, but were stymied by the WCU defense at the four-yard line, and were limited to a 22-yard field goal to push their halftime advantage to 21 points, 24-to-3.
At the outset of the second half, Alabama lengthened, again using a methodical drive to march down the field before a 1-yard TD dive by sophomore Glen Coffee to pull ahead, 31-3. The Tide rolled 73 yards in 10 plays in extending its advantage.
Western, which had been shutout in each of its last two previous meetings with SEC schools, added a second Parsons' field goal in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. On third and five from its own 21 yard line, Hearns found freshman tight end Travis Osborne for a 28-yard strike, followed by a 35 yard completion to Cohen to move inside the red zone at the Alabama 16 yard line. Yet, Western stalled and Parsons' was called on to cap the eight play, 72-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal.
Two late fumbles by Western aided the Tide's scoring efforts as Alabama pushed across two fourth quarter scores to provide the final margin, 52-6.
Junior Drew Walker - who had seven career tackles entering the night - led the Catamount defense with 11 tackles, including six solo stops, with sophomore Antoine George and senior Carlton Bailey each adding nine. Senior Darren Curtis tallied WCU's lone sack of the game with a two-yard loss.
Senior punter Stephen Brown averaged nearly 40 yards per punt on the night, including booting a career-long 47-yarder late in the first quarter.
Western will play its second of three-consecutive road games to open the 2007 season next Saturday, Sept. 8 as it travels to Richmond, Ky., to face Eastern Kentucky. Kickoff is set for 6:00 pm. Last year, WCU knocked off the No. 19 Colonels, 20-17, in Cullowhee.