TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WCBI Sports/Alabama Athletics) – Top-ranked Alabama (3-0 overall; 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference) grinded out a methodical 31-6 victory over Colorado State (1-3) on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Tide quarterback AJ McCarron completed 20 of 26 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown with one interception, connecting 9 times for 90 yards with wide receiver Christion Jones and twice for 65 yards to receiver DeAndrew White for 65 yards, including a crucial 30-yard touchdown. Alabama also scored on a blocked punt return in the first half. Linebacker C.J. Mosley led the Alabama defense with 9 tackles.
The teams exchanged punts in the early going. Alabama’s opening possession showed promise as the Crimson Tide marched 46 yards in 7 plays to the CSU 25 before Cade Foster missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.
Later in the quarter, the Alabama offense cranked up an 8-play, 84-yard touchdown march. The drive started with McCarron passing to tight end Brian Vogler for five yards on first down before connecting with wide receiver DeAndrew White for a 35-yard bomb down the right sideline to the CSU 39. On the next play, McCarron passed to receiver Christion Jones on another deep ball for 28 yards to the CSU 11. Jalston Fowler rushed for 3 yards on first down before being stopped for no gain on second down. On third-and-7 from the CSU 8, McCarron hit receiver Kenny Bell on a crossing pattern for 5 yards to the CSU 3 to set up fourth-and-1. The Tide sent in two tight ends for the fourth down play and Kenyan Drake took a handoff from McCarron and bulled up the middle for three yards and a touchdown. Cade Foster’s kick gave the Tide a 7-0 lead with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Alabama special teams extended the Crimson Tide lead at the end of the next CSU possession. The Rams started the possession with an 18-yard pass play from quarterback Garret Grayson to wide receiver Rashard Higgins to the CSU 36. Another pass to wide receiver Thomas Coffman gained 2 to the CSU 38 before a penalty erased a 13-yard pass play, instead moving the Rams back to their 33. From there a run by Chris Nwoke gained a yard before an incompletion forced a punt. On the punt from the CSU 34, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake broke through blocking and blocked Hayden Hunt’s kick and Dillon Lee scooped up the ball at the CSU 15 and ran for a touchdown. Foster’s kick gave Alabama a 14-0 lead with 12:41 left in the second quarter.
After a 13-yard CSU punt, Alabama started its next possession from its own 42 and moved 29 yards in 5 plays to a field goal. On first down, McCarron passes to White for 11 yards to the CSU 47 but the play was negated by a holding penalty that moved the ball to a first-and-20 at the Tide 32. From there, T.J. Yeldon took his first rushing attempt of the night for 38 yards to the CSU 30. After an incompletion on first down, Yeldon gained one on a rush over right end. On third-and-9 at the CSU 29, McCarron’s pass to Christion Jones went for no gain. That set up a 46-yard field goal attempt by Foster. His kick was true, clearing the crossbar by about two feet, and the Tide had a 17-0 lead with 5:39 left in the second half.
After forcing a CSU punt on the opening possession of the third quarter, the Alabama offense went to the air and marched 46 yards in three plays, all passes from McCarron to Christion Jones for gains of 23, 12 and 11 yards. On the fourth play of the drive, McCarron was pressured as he threw and lobbed a pass toward the right sideline where CSU cornerback Bernard Blake intercepted at the CSU 18 with 11:42 left in the third quarter.
The Rams responded to the break with their best drive of the game to that point, moving 55 yards in 9 plays to a field goal. Running back Kapri Bush started the drive with a 9-yard run over right guard. Grayson then passed to wide receiver Joe Hansley for 13 yards to the CSU 40. Another pass to Hansley gained 5 yards, and then Grayson gained a yard on a keeper to set up third-and-4 at the CSU 46. Grayson completed a pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore on a wheel route for 24 yards to a first down at the Tide 30. A rush by running back Chris Nwoke gained two yards before an incompletion and a 1-yard run by Nwoke set up a 45-yard field goal by Jared Roberts that narrowed the Tide lead to 17-3 with 7:40 left in the third period.
The Tide offense failed to gain a first down on the next possession, punting after three plays to set up the Rams at their own 23 with 5:25 left in the third period. The Rams moved 63 yards in 12 plays, consuming 5:20 of clock, to move within 17-6 on a 31-yard field goal by Jared Roberts with 5 seconds left in the third quarter. Passes to Higgins for 12, Kapri Bibbs for 12, Higgins for 13 and Hansley for 14 keyed the march.
The Rams had the momentum and the Tide offense was unable to muster a drive on the ensuing possession, again going three plays before punting. Cody Mandell’s 43-yard punt went out of bounds at the CSU 26 with 12:41 left in the fourth period. The next play turned out to be the most important of the game as Grayson kept for three yards around right end and fumbled when Tide linebacker Trey Depriest forced the ball loose with Depriest recovering the fumble at the CSU 30.
On the first play after the fumble, McCarron hit White on a post pattern for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Tide a 24-6 lead following Foster’s kick with 11:47 left in the fourth quarter.
Late in the game, Alabama closed out the scoring with an 8-play, 65-yard scoring drive. A 22-yard pass from McCarron to Kenyan Drake to the CSU 20 keyed the drive that was capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Blake Sims to wide receiver Chris Black with 1:13 left in the game.