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Special Teams Sparks No. 13 Alabama Over Tulane, 20-6

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Chris Rogers scores Alabama's second touchdown off a blocked punt by Roy Upchurch in the second quarter of Alabama's 20-6 win over Tulane.
Chris Rogers scores Alabama's second touchdown off a blocked punt by Roy Upchurch in the second quarter of Alabama's 20-6 win over Tulane.

Sept. 6, 2008

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By Scott Latta, UA Media Relations

Tuscaloosa, Ala. - One week after the Alabama offense rolled up 419 yards and 34 points against Clemson, it was the Crimson Tide's special teams that led the way Saturday night in a 20-6 win against Tulane in front of a capacity crowd in the Tide's 2008 Bryant-Denny Stadium opener.

Alabama's special teams provided all of its first-half scoring, first an 87-yard punt return for touchdown by junior Javier Arenas, then a 17-yard blocked punt return by junior Chris Rogers. Junior Roy Upchurch was the only Tide player rushing the punter on the play, and slipped through the Tulane line to smother the kick.

Arenas finished the game with 147 punt return yards, including 141 in the first half, breaking Harry Gilmer's previous school record of 122 yards, set in 1947. His first-quarter punt return was the fourth return touchdown of his career and the fifth-longest in Alabama history.

"(Arenas) has a unique knack of making big plays, especially in space," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "He has an ability to make people miss, and that was a fantastic run."

Alabama led from start to finish in the game, despite being outgained by Tulane 318 to 172 in total offense. After taking a 13-3 lead to the half, the Alabama offense found its rhythm in the third quarter during a 12-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by freshman Mark Ingram. The score put Alabama up 20-3 to end the third quarter.

Ingram finished as Alabama's lead rusher on the night with 11 carries for 63 yards and a score. Junior Glen Coffee added nine carries for 55 yards.

"Mark has been, probably consistently, our best guy with the ball in his hand. Hopefully he can continue to improve," Saban said. "He certainly made some outstanding runs when there wasn't much there."

Ingram carried the ball five times for 38 yards on the scoring drive.

"We finally got some momentum going, got a third down conversion, picked it up, started running the ball on the drive," said quarterback John Parker Wilson, who finished the game 11-of-23 for 73 yards. "We did what we wanted to do, just didn't do it the whole game."

The Alabama defense allowed 232 passing yards in Saturday's game but kept the Green Wave out of the end zone on each of its drives, holding Tulane to just two field goals on four attempts. Sophomore Rolando McClain finished the game with 15 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss, with a pass breakup. Freshman Dont'a Hightower recorded 10 tackles and forced a fumble, and junior Cory Reamer finished with seven tackles and a sack.

"(Defensively) we played extremely well in the red zone," Saban said. "They missed two field goals and we held them to two field goals. You have to give the defense a lot of credit from that standpoint."

"We had to step up," Reamer said. "We weren't clicking as well on offense as we were last week. You have to expect that sometimes. We just had to be there when we were called. I think that's what we did. We made the plays that we needed to make."

Alabama (2-0, 0-0) returns to action next week, Sept. 13, as the Crimson Tide hosts Western Kentucky (1-1, 0-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. and the game is available on a pay-per-view basis.