Alabama shuts down Hilltoppers
by W. Brian Hale
Sep 09, 2012 | 1553 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — Compared to the dazzling 41-14 victory against the Michigan Wolverines, Alabama’s 35-0 win over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday seemed both anti-climactic and unexciting.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide’s rushing attack barely produced over 100 yards, while the defense was kept off-balance by the shifty Hilltopper offense. The veteran offensive line also allowed an uncharacteristic six quarterback sacks on the day.

Nonetheless, ‘Bama’s A.J. McCarron would connect on 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns, that together with the defense forcing four Western Kentucky turnovers, allowed the Crimson Tide to cruise into next week’s SEC West showdown with No. 8 Arkansas undefeated.

“The game pretty much went as I expected to — though I’m sure many of our fans expected more, I was pleased that we were able to get a shutout,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I think the number of turnovers we were able to force played a key role in our ability to stop the big play. Western Kentucky has a very solid and efficient offense and turning the ball over is something that they don’t do often — so for us to get the takeaways that we did was an occurrence we’ll see more of this season. Additionally, I think I McCarron had a great day — Kevin Norwood had a number of good catches for him, along with Christion Jones.”

Saban also stated that the offensive line’s breakdown in pass protection is a source of concern moving into the critical game against the Razorbacks.

“Three or four of the sacks we gave up were just guys getting beat,” Saban said. “Quarterback pressures were not being picked up properly and it’s hard to get the level of execution we want to achieve to be successful if we don’t work hard to overcome these challenges.”

Alabama got on the scoreboard in the first two minutes of the game following a four-play, 72-yard drive, with McCarron finding Jones on a 14-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead following Jeremy Shelley’s extra point conversion.

Western Kentucky’s Marquis Sumler was stripped by Alabama’s Nico Johnson on the ensuing series, with Damion Square making the recovery.

One play later, McCarron connected with Norwood for a 33-yard touchdown strike to extend the lead to 14-0 following the Shelley extra point.

The Crimson Tide would add another score before halftime in the second quarter, set up by Xzavier Dickson’s quarterback sack and forced fumble of the Hilltoppers’ Kuwaun Jakes that was picked up by Vinnie Sunseri and returned for 7 yards.

McCarron would find Jones again on a 22-yard touchdown pass to cap off a seven-play, 68-yard drive to give Alabama the 21-0 lead at the half following Shelley’s successful conversion kick.

On Western Kentucky’s first series of the second half, Jakes would be intercepted by Alabama’s Deion Belue, who would return the ball 15 yards. Two plays later, McCarron connected with Norwood for his fourth touchdown of the game on a 12-yard strike to move ‘Bama further ahead, 28-0 after Shelley’s extra point kick.

Alabama added one last score in the fourth quarter, moving 81 yards in 12 plays. Kenyon Drake took a handoff and raced 32 yards into the endzone to help seal the 35-0 victory.

Norwood finished the game with 3 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, while Jones had 3 catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley led the Alabama defense with 11 tackles, a quarterback sack and a tackle for a loss.