TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Jim McElwain used to like coming to Bryant-Denny Stadium, but so much this time.
Nick Saban's former offensive coordinator returned to Alabama on Saturday night with Colorado State, only to find out how tough it can really be on the other sideline. Aided by a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown, the opportunistic Crimson Tide shrugged off the potential hangover from the previous week's showdown at Texas A&M, while suffocating the Rams 31-6.
Senior quarterback AJ McCarron completed 20-of-26 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown pass, while junior wide receiver Christion Jones topped all receivers with nine receptions for 90 yards.
But it was the defense and special teams that led the win. Colorado State (1-3) did manage a pair of third-quarter field goals, one off a rare McCarron interception, but never got a sniff of the end zone.
Sophomore running back Kenyan Drake's second-quarter blocked punt was recovered and returned for a 15-yard touchdown by linebacker Dillon Lee, for Alabama's fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season (three games).
Meanwhile, after tallying 568 total yards at A&M last week, Alabama's offense seemed to go back into its shell like in its opener against Virginia Tech. With wide receiver Amari Cooper (full game) and running back T.J. Yeldon (one quarter) serving suspensions, it failed to convert any third-down opportunities.
Alabama (3-0) did get a break from the defense, though, early in the fourth quarter after replays showed that Colorado State quarterback Garret Grayson fumbled at the Alabama 30, with linebacker Trey DePriest credited with both the force and recovery.
On the subsequent play, Alabama looked to the end zone, where McCarron found DeAndrew White to essentially put the game away. It added a late touchdown, a 14-yard reception by Chris Black on his first career catch, from reserve quarterback Blake Sims.
Alabama hosts SEC West rival Ole Miss next Saturday -- likely its only game against a ranked opponent until facing LSU on Nov 9.
NOTES: Alabama had a number of different starters due to injuries, suspensions and the coaching staff trying to different players at cornerback. Running back Jalston Fowler, wide receiver Kenny Bell, guard Kellen Williams, and cornerbacks Eddie Jackson and Brandon Sylve were all inserted for running back T.J. Yeldon (suspended), wide receiver Amari Cooper (toe) and guard Anthony Steen (head), who appeared to take a couple of snaps during warm-ups and was subsequently pulled. ... Saturday was the first meeting between the two schools, but wasn't on either team's initial schedule. When Alabama had its original opponent pull out, the Tide paid Colorado Stats $1.5 million to change its schedule and make the trip. ... The last time Alabama held its home opener this late into the calendar was 1982, when it began the season with wins at Georgia Tech and Ole Miss (at Jackson, Miss.), and then hosted Vanderbilt on Sept. 25. The Crimson Tide defeated the Commodores, but the game wasn't a sellout (60,210). The only later home opener during the past 40 years was 1979 (Sept. 22). The only other home opener to be later than Sept. 21 during the past 40 years was 1979 (Sept. 22). Before 1970, the season usually didn't start until the third weekend of September.