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Alabama's new defense much like old, routs Michigan 41-14

The SportsXchange

By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange

ARLINGTON, Texas - Look out America, Alabama is back for more.

The No. 2 -ranked Crimson Tide turned a showdown with No. 8 Michigan into yet another showcase for the most dominant college football program in the land. Alabama's 41-14 win Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium has last year's BSC champions off and running in 2012.

"This team had a challenge of trying to create an identity for themselves in terms of how they competed and how they played," Alabama coach Nick Saban said, "and I think they took a step in that direction."

While the premier game of college football's opening weekend and in the short history of the Cowboys Classic lacked drama, it did leave the 90,413 fans in attendance in awe.

Saban's squad didn't need long to dismantle the team many believe is the best in the Big Ten.

"We're on the short end of the measuring stick right now," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Despite its storied status, Michigan wanted to prove it belongs back among the game's elite and as part of the national championship conversation. Denard Robinson was seen as the Wolverines' key to a possible upset, but the star quarterback never found his rhythm against the relentless Alabama defense.

"I didn't make the throws that I should have made today and I feel I didn't play as the Michigan quarterback today," said Robinson, who was 11 of 26 for 200 yards. "I've got to step it up and be more accountable."

After last season, the Crimson Tide lost seven starters off a defense many considered among the best in the history of college football. The new unit began its own legacy, intercepting Robinson twice and held Michigan to less than 300 total yards.

Alabama true freshman running back T.J. Yeldon led an opportunistic 'Bama attack with 111 yards rushing and a touchdown, while quarterback AJ McCarron threw for an efficient 199 yards and two scores.

"I personally don't think we were trying to send any type of message," McCarron said. "We were just trying to do what Coach Saban preaches, and that's to go out and play our game."

Alabama took a commanding 31-7 lead into halftime, flexing its muscle in a dominating display that left the Wolverines dazed and bruised going into the locker room. The Crimson Tide bottled up Robinson while the game was in any sort of reasonable doubt.

The Tide had the game in hand before the first 15 minutes were played. Alabama scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, showing off its patience, its quick-strike ability and, of course, its signature defense.

The Crimson Tide got something going on their second drive, a methodical nine plays covering 61 yards. Eddie Lacy and Yeldon picked up about half of that total on the ground, with McCarron picking his spots through the air.

"I thought our offensive line sort of dominated the line of scrimmage and we ran the ball effectively," Saban said. "I thought AJ did a good job of getting us in the right place and also making a few effective throws."

McCarron's 2-yard toss to a wide-open Michael Williams streaking to the corner midway through the quarter put 'Bama on the board. The rout was on.

After the Wolverines went three-and-out on their ensuing possession, McCarron didn't need long to double the lead. Tide receiver DeAndrew White easily got behind the Michigan secondary and hauled in a perfectly lofted ball from McCarron for a 51-yard score.

The Wolverines went from stunned to punched in the gut not long after. Robinson, in the midst of an awful first quarter, fell victim to a busted route that was intercepted by Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner, whose 35-yard return set up a Lacy touchdown.

Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley picked off Robinson in the second quarter, taking it back 16 yards for an easy score and a 31-0 lead.

Robinson scored shortly before the half on a 6-yard keeper set up by his 71-yard completion to Jeremy Gallon. But, by then, is was too little, too late.

"We didn't play Michigan football," Hoke said, "and that is something that bothers our team, bothers the coaches."

NOTES: Running back T.J. Yeldon is the first true freshman to run for 100 yards in his Alabama debut. ... Michigan was without starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and reserve defensive end Frank Clark, both suspended by coach Brady Hoke. Toussaint pled guilty to drunken driving earlier this week, while Clark faces a second-degree felony home-invasion charge. ... Nick Saban is 19-6 against Top 25 teams while at Alabama, and 11-4 against the Top 10. ... Michigan played a season opener at the neutral site for the first time in its history. ... The all-time series between Alabama and Michigan is now tied 2-2.
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