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Alabama takes it out on Western Carolina

The SportsXchange

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If it wasn't bad enough that Alabama was ranked fourth in the nation, Western Carolina also had the misfortune of visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium following a Crimson Tide loss.

The reigning national champions took it out on the Football Championship Subdivision team.

Junior running back Eddie Lacy ran for three touchdowns and freshman running back T.J. Yeldon had one as Alabama amassed 338 total yards in the first half en route to a 49-0 victory on Saturday.

"I was pleased with the way our guys competed in the game today," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I think we went out there and tried to play to a standard and executed fairly well. There are always things that you can clean up, no question.

"The Western Carolina guys played hard. They were a little bit out-manned. Our guys played the way we wanted to play. We improved as a team and had a good week of practice. Everything is ahead of us as a team."

About the only thing that went Western Carolina's way was Alabama sophomore Christion Jones fumbling a punt return in the final minute of the first half at his own 29.

However, when the Catamounts tried a play-action lateral to reserve quarterback Eddie Sullivan, he dropped it, with junior cornerback Deion Belue picking up the loose ball and returning it 57 yards for a touchdown.

"We tried a little trick play, hoping we could catch Alabama off guard, and get 10-12 yards to get a decent position to make a field goal," coach Mark Speir of Western Carolina said.

"It didn't work, and to Alabama's credit, they played sound discipline defense and created a big play."

Consequently, Alabama's final dress rehearsal for its annual rivalry game with Auburn had more of a scrimmage feel, especially with the empty seats in the half-full student section.

Not only was the Crimson Tide (10-1) coming off a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M, it was arguably playing its worst opponent since routing Delta State, 89-0, in 1951. The Division II school from Mississippi went 1-8 that season.

Western Carolina, which finished its season 1-10, has won 11 games since 2006, including a 52-6 loss to Alabama in Saban's first game at Alabama in 2007. The other meeting was a 52-0 Tide victory in 2004.

In the 121-team FCS, the Catamounts came in ranked 114th in pass-efficiency defense, 116th in scoring defense, 119th in total defense, and 120th in rushing defense.

Alabama didn't play its starters in the second half, and quarterback AJ McCarron took a seat midway through the second quarter after his 29-yard pass to Jones set the Crimson Tide season-season record for touchdown passes with 21.

Greg McElroy had the previous record of 20 in 2010.

"It means a lot with all the tradition and all the great quarterbacks that have played here," McCarron said. "Like I always say, none of that would be possible without my great offensive line and my great wide receivers that I have out there making plays for me."

McCarron completed all six of his passes for 133 yards. Lacy led all rushers with 99 yards on 10 carries, while freshman Amari Cooper topped the receivers with 50 yards on two catches, both on the initial drive.

"When you watch them on film they look big and fast, just like they are in real life," Western Carolina linebacker Rock Williams said. "We got to go head-up against them today, and they are a really strong team, especially their offensive line.

"I was really impressed with the overall strength and how much stronger they were than us. It's one thing you can't see on film. They definitely are a very strong team."

NOTES: Alabama's sellout streak, which went back to 2004 and lasted 56 games, was snapped, as the announced official paid attendance was 101,126, just short of 101,821 capacity. However, even with a generous estimate of 75,000 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the crowd was smaller than any A-Day spring game since coach Nick Saban's arrival in 2007. ... Alabama junior cornerback John Fulton (turf toe) did not dress, junior wide receiver Kevin Norwood (ankle) did not play, and freshman running back Kenyon Drake was suspended for violation of team rules. ... The Crimson Tide has scored two or more rushing touchdowns in six straight games. It was the third time Eddie Lacy scored at least three touchdowns in a game. ... Western Carolina defensive line coach Mark Rhea was a defensive lineman for Alabama coach Nick Saban at Toledo (1990). He was also a graduate assistant for him at Michigan State (1994-95). ... Dating to 1986, Western Carolina is 0-14 versus teams that are currently in the Southeastern Conference. ... It was Alabama's third shutout of the season. The last time Western Carolina was shut out was Sept. 5, 2009, by Vanderbilt, 45-0.
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