Countdown to Kickoff
Alabama Beats Arkansas State, 35-0 to Win Homecoming

John Parker Wilson

Nov. 1, 2008

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by Scott Latta, UA Media Relations

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Behind a strong running attack that rolled up 205 yards and four touchdowns, No. 2 Alabama beat the Arkansas State Red Wolves Saturday, 35-0 on homecoming at a sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The win takes Alabama to 9-0 on the year, with a 5-0 mark in SEC play. Arkansas State drops to 4-4.

"Offensively, we certainly moved the ball," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We probably didn't pass it as well as we'd like at times; we made some plays in the passing game, but we didn't have the consistency and didn't seem to be in sync like we'd like to be and like we have been. We need to continue to work and develop that."

As has been the case for much of the year, Alabama relied on strong rushing to put up points against the Red Wolves. Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch both chipped in a rushing TD while freshman Mark Ingram, who finished a career game with 12 carries for 113 yards, added a pair of scores on the ground. It was the first time in Ingram's Alabama career that he crossed the 100-yard mark in a single game.

Coffee carried the ball nine times for 56 yards, and Upchurch added five carries for 32 yards.

"They had a pretty good defensive front," said tight end Travis McCall. "They tried to slant towards Andre (Smith) a bit but we were able to get around that. Running the ball has been a focus for us all season long and we were able to build off of that."

Alabama scored on its opening drive of the game, taking the ball 89 yards in 16 plays and gaining six first downs on its way to the end zone. The drive was capped by a 9-yard run by Coffee to give Alabama an early 7-0 lead. In the first quarter this season, Alabama has now outscored its opponents 108 to six.

After Alabama's next two offensive drives ended with an interception and a punt, senior defensive back Rashad Johnson provided a spark for the Crimson Tide, picking off Corey Leonard's pass in the right flat and returning it 32 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

The score was Alabama's fourth defensive touchdown of the season. Johnson finished the game with 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.

"It was a good play call," Johnson said. "The coaches decided to bring pressure and keep the guy in the pocket because we knew he was a shorter guy and couldn't see over the linemen. I did a good job with my technique. I saw the ball and just put my hands up and got it. When I got it, I was determined to get in the end zone.

"We've been doing a great job all year. It's been a lot of focus everyday at practice about doing the little things right and I think it's carrying over to the games. We are doing a great job of communicating and when the ball turns over everyone is on the same page and that's the most important thing for us."

The Alabama defense turned in an all-around stifling effort, keeping an Arkansas State offense that was 22nd in the nation in total offense and 12th in rushing offense off the board the entire game. The Wolves, who scored 83 points earlier this season in a win over Texas Southern and upset Texas A&M in College Station, managed only 67 passing yards and 158 total yards in the game. The Tide's defense recorded four sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss in the effort, holding Arkansas State to a 2-for-12 mark on third downs.

In addition to Johnson's 13-tackle performance, junior Brandon Fanney finished with seven tackles, and junior Brandon Deaderick had one of his best games to date, totaling six tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. Rolando McClain had six tackles as well, with 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack.

"It's obviously great for your defense any time that you can shut them out," Saban said. "I think it says a lot about Kirby (Smart) and Kevin (Steele) and the entire defensive staff and the job that they did in terms of this zone offense, because they were a pretty good offensive football team with a pretty good quarterback.

"We're going to get challenged by some pretty good teams with some pretty good skill players coming up. We've done some good things at times, we stopped the run pretty well and played pretty good scoring defense, and we've been hard to score on."

Alabama extended its 14-0 halftime lead in just four plays to open the third quarter, taking the ball 70 yards. After a six-yard pass from senior quarterback John Parker Wilson to McCall, Alabama rattled off three big running plays--after Ingram broke a run of 30 yards and a run for 12 yards, Upchurch scampered 22 yards for a touchdown to extend Alabama's lead to 21-0.

Alabama's final two scoring drives on the afternoon were each capped with a touchdown run from Ingram. A 5-yard score in the third quarter gave Alabama a 28-0 lead, and a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter built Alabama's lead to 35-0. Ingram's two touchdowns give him eight on the season, a mark that ties him with sophomore Terry Grant for most single-season touchdowns by a freshman.

"He's a great runner and a really smart kid," Wilson said. "He understands the game really well. He doesn't let anything get to him. For the next three years he is going to be great."

The Tide's 205 rushing yards were accompanied by a 15-for-28, 152-yard passing performance from Wilson. Wilson tied the Alabama record for consecutive completions with his first pass of the game, which Mike McCoy caught for six yards. Wilson finished last Saturday's game against Tennessee with 11 consecutive completions, a mark that was extended to 12 on Saturday. Wilson's 12 completions ties Andrew Zow, who completed 12 straight against Ole Miss in 2000, for first in the Alabama record books.

In addition, Wilson's performance against Arkansas State gives him 7,063 career passing yards, making him the first Alabama quarterback to cross the 7,000-yard mark. His top target on the afternoon was freshman Julio Jones, who caught five passes for 62 yards. McCoy finished with three catches for 26 yards.

Alabama travels to Baton Rouge, La. next Saturday, Nov. 8, to face No. 19 LSU (5-2, 3-2) at Tiger Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 and the game will be televised on CBS.