Sept. 12, 2009
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No. 4 Alabama Defeats Florida International in Home Opener, 40-14
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama used a balanced attack to rack up more than 500 yards of total offense on its way to defeating Florida International, 40-14, in front of a sellout crowd in the home opener at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"I think we did a good job the entire game offensively and I think we controlled the line of scrimmage and ran the ball effectively," head coach Nick Saban said. "(Quarterback) Greg (McElroy) did a very good job of taking what they gave him. He was accurate and made good decisions. Eighteen of 24 is pretty good and 13 in a row, or whatever he did at one point, is outstanding."
After being held to a 23-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal on its first drive, the Tide reached the end zone on its second possession when McElroy found receiver Mike McCoy for a 24-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, FIU's T.Y. Hilton returned it 96 yards for a score to bring the Golden Panthers within three points at 10-7.
"Two weeks in a row where you give up a kickoff return for a touchdown, and then we do the alternative kicks and give up field position so that's something that we need to improve on," Saban said.
Tiffin added a second field goal on the first play of the second quarter to extend the Tide lead to 13-7 and tie his father, Van Tiffin, for third place on the career field goals list at Alabama with 59. FIU answered with an eight-play, 60-yard drive capped by a nine-yard touchdown catch by Greg Ellingson to take the lead, 14-13.
Alabama came back quickly, driving 64 yards in five plays on a drive concluded by a two-yard Mark Ingram touchdown plunge to regain the lead at 20-14. The Tide took that lead to the locker room at halftime. McElroy completed 13-of-14 attempts for 203 yards and a score in the first half, and McCoy snatched five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown before intermission.
"There were some guys that stepped up today," Saban said. "Mike McCoy had a 100 yards-plus day after Julio (Jones) went down (with an injury). Most of what he caught was what we had planned to go to No. 8 (Jones), but he did an outstanding job."
While McElroy and the passing game did most of the damage in the first half, the second half belonged to the Crimson Tide rushing attack.
Freshman Trent Richardson made his debut at Bryant-Denny Stadium a memorable one with two rushing touchdowns in the second half. Richardson's first score came on a nine-yard carry to take the Tide lead to 26-14 late in the third quarter. Then, following a 49-yard Javier Arenas punt return, Richardson struck again with a 35-yard burst to extend the lead to 33-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Terry Grant tacked on another touchdown with a 42-yard scamper for Alabama's final score. In total, the Crimson Tide ran for 275 yards, 203 of which came in the second half. Richardson finished with 118 yards on 15 carries to lead the team.
McElroy finished the game 18-of-24 passing for 241 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. McCoy led the team in receiving with five catches for 100 yards. Nine players caught at least one pass for the Tide. The Alabama offense wound up with 516 total yards.
"It was a struggle getting points actually on the scoreboard tonight, but the yardage was there and we just grinded it out," senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson said.
The defense stiffened in the second half, shutting out the Golden Panthers while holding them to 95 yards of total offense. For the game, Florida International managed only one rushing yard. Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain led the team with 10 tackles, and defensive lineman Marcel Dareus had two of the team's five quarterback sacks. Strong safety Mark Barron came up with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
"We're big and we're physical and I think stopping the run is really important in controlling the line of scrimmage, and we've done a really good job of that up to this point," Saban said. "I think it's important that we do that so that we can create the right down-and-distance situations and hopefully we'll be able to continue and improve in that area."