Aug. 30, 2008
Final Stats | Notes | Photo Gallery | Final Book | Gameday Central
By Scott Latta, UA Media Relations
ATLANTA, Ga. - Alabama opened the 2008 season with a 34-10 win over Clemson Saturday night in front of a crowd of 70,097 at the Georgia Dome in the 2008 Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff.
Alabama never trailed in the game, and took a 23-3 lead to the half. The Crimson Tide rolled up 419 yards of offense, including 239 yards on the ground, while holding Clemson to just 188 yards overall. Alabama dominated the time of possession on the night, holding the ball for more than 41 minutes of the game.
The Alabama defense held Clemson to zero net rushing yards on the night.
"I'm obviously very proud of our team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Finishing the game has been our motto for the season. The game tonight epitomized that."
Alabama did most of its damage on offense in the first half, scoring on four of its five possessions in the first two quarters. Alabama got on the board first on its opening drive of the game with a 54-yard field goal from junior Leigh Tiffin, the longest of his career and third-longest in school history.
After a second Tiffin kick gave Alabama an early 6-0 lead, a 1-yard sneak from senior quarterback John Parker Wilson extended Alabama's first-quarter lead to 13-0.
Following a Clemson field goal, Alabama answered with an 83-yard touchdown drive, with Wilson capping it off with a 4-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Nick Walker.
Walker finished the night as Alabama's leading receiver, with seven catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.
"(Walker) did a very good job," Saban said. "Him and Travis McCall both. If you are going to have a good running game you've got to have good tight ends."
With Clemson driving near the end of the first half, junior defensive back Marquis Johnson picked off Tiger quarterback Cullen Harper at the Clemson 35. The pick led to a 48-yard drive that Alabama was able to cap with a 34-yard Tiffin field goal, his third of the half, as time expired.
"We came out with a different mindset, really," Wilson said, "really wanting to take care of the ball. Making good decisions was the big focus today. I think we did that today, took care of the ball. We didn't put ourselves in any bad situations, and the way our defense is running that's all we had to do."
Clemson scored its only touchdown of the night on a 96-yard kickoff return by junior tailback C.J. Spiller to open the second half. The return brought the score to 23-10, but it was as close as the Tigers would get in the game.
Alabama answered later in the third period with a methodical 14-play touchdown drive that Wilson capped with a 4-yard touchdown pass to freshman Julio Jones. Freshman tailback Mark Ingram converted the 2-point try for the Tide to extend the lead to 31-10. A fourth-quarter field goal of 26 yards from Tiffin capped Alabama's scoring on the night.
"The way we came out today, the way we started, the way we maintained, in the second half they got that long kickoff and we could have folded but we came back and finished the game," Wilson said. " I think that says a lot about our guys."
Wilson finished 22-of-30 in the game for 180 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to Walker's performance, sophomore Roy Upchurch caught four passes for 30 yards, and Jones caught four passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, Alabama attempted 50 rushes on the night to Clemson's 14. Ingram finished with 17 carries for 97 yards and junior Glen Coffee finished with 17 carries for 90 yards.
Twenty-one players recorded a tackle for Alabama on defense, led by six from sophomore Kareem Jackson. Alabama forced two turnovers on the night; in addition to Johnson's interception, the Tide forced and recovered a Clemson fumble in the first quarter that led to Alabama's second field goal.
"Coach has been stressing that he wants us to finish games and he wants to have a dominating mentality," said Alabama senior safety Rashad Johnson. "And I think everyone took that attitude when we went out on the field. That's what we tried to display. We want to dominate our opponent, and I think we did a great job of doing that."
Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next week to face Tulane. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.