TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- No. 4 Alabama (3-0) dominated North Texas (1-2) on both sides of the ball en route to a 53-7 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Tide rushed for five touchdowns by four different players, while the defense held the Mean Green to just seven first downs.
Alabama showcased a balanced attack on offense, throwing for 264 yards and grinding out 260 yards on the ground to surpass the 500 total yard mark for the second straight game. North Texas finished with 181 yards of total offense with 61 rushing yards. Through three games, the Tide defense has allowed only 126 yards (42.0 ypg) on the ground.
“We challenged our players to go out there for 60 minutes and try to dominate somebody for 60 minutes in a game,” head coach Nick Saban said. “I felt like they responded to that. They had better intensity and energy today from start to finish.”
After a turnover on its first possession, the Alabama offense asserted itself with four straight touchdown drives. Junior Greg McElroy got the scoring started with a two-yard scramble that capped a 13 play, 95-yard drive to put the Tide up 7-0.
McElroy went to the air for the Tide’s second score, finding sophomore Marquis Maze for a 34-yard strike. Alabama’s next drive belonged to freshman Trent Richardson who busted a 38-yard run to put the Tide in scoring position then finished the drive off with a one-yard dive giving Alabama a 21-0 lead.
Sophomore Mark Ingram gained 108 yards from scrimmage in the first frame including a 29-yard reception for the Crimson Tide’s final touchdown of the half.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Star Jackson saw his first significant game action on the final possession of the first half and led the Tide down the field for a 35-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal that gave Alabama a 30-0 lead at the break. Jackson completed 5-of-6 passes on the drive for 30 yards.
Alabama piled up 353 yards of total offense before intermission compared to 62 yards for the Mean Green.
McElroy came out for one possession in the second half and it turned out to be a short possession as the Tide punched in another touchdown on a three-play drive that took less than a minute. Ingram found the end zone on a five-yard run to conclude the quick march.
In a little more than a half, McElroy turned in another outstanding performance, completing 13-of-15 pass attempts for 177 yards and two scores. His 86.7 completion percentage ties Walter Lewis (1983 vs. Mississippi) and Danny Woodson (1991 vs. Vanderbilt) for the highest single-game completion percentage for a player with at least 10 completions.
“We’ve always said that Greg (McElroy) is very smart,” Saban said. “He’s very instinctive. He takes what the defense gives him. He doesn’t have a big ego trying to force balls in places that he shouldn’t, and we probably made as many yards throwing it down to the check-down as throwing it to anybody else. Greg has really done a good job in his decision making, his accuracy.”
After McElroy’s exit, Jackson kept the offense ticking, leading the Tide down the field on three more scoring drives. Junior Terry Grant cashed in two of those drives with one-yard and nine-yard touchdown runs respectively. Jackson finished the game 9-of-13 for 88 yards.
“I think for Star Jackson to get to play as much as he did today was probably a real asset for us relative to the future, especially playing with our first unit rather than just out there at the end of the game trying to get the game over,” Saban said.
The Alabama backfield shared the wealth as Ingram, Richardson and Grant each rushed for more than 75 yards and at least one score. 11 Tide players made receptions in the game led by Maze with four catches for 49 yards and a score.
North Texas scored its touchdown on a 34-yard pass to Lance Dunbar late in the third quarter with Alabama leading 44-0.
Sophomore linebacker Chris Jordan led the team with six tackles, while five other players had five tackles. Sophomore safety Mark Barron had five tackles including one for a 10-yard loss and two pass breakups in the secondary.
“Today we came out, and we wanted to start early,” sophomore linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “We haven’t been doing it the past couple games so we had to this game. We’re not just a finish team, we’re a start and finish team. We came out with the right mentality and right focus and we were obviously communicating very well. I think that was the key for us today.”
Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play at home next week when Arkansas visits Bryant-Denny Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 26. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Central Time, and CBS will televise the game.