GAME 1: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE vs. WESTERN CAROLINA CATAMOUNTS
September 1, 2007 -- Bryant-Denny Stadium (92,138) -- Tuscaloosa, Ala.
6:07 p.m. (CDT) -- CTSM Pay-Per-View
ALABAMA QUICK NOTES:
Alabama head coaches are 20-6 (.769) in their head coaching debuts. Coach Saban’s first game at LSU was also against Western Carolina. The Tigers won that game 58-0. Alabama won the only previous meeting with Western Carolina, posting a 52-0 win over the Catamounts on Sept. 18, 2004. Junior quarterback John Parker Wilson set seven school records last season as a sophomore. Senior wide receiver DJ Hall set three school records in 2006. Hall and Keith Brown combined for 1,646 yards last season to become the most prolific pass-catching duo in school history. Alabama is 88-21-3 (.799) all-time in season openers, including a five-game winning streak. The Alabama football roster contains 127 players. There are 68 players (53.5 percent) on this year’s opening day roster that have never played a game for the Crimson Tide.
ALABAMA OPENS THE NICK SABAN ERA
The University of Alabama football team kicks off the Nick Saban era with its 113th season of intercollegiate football Saturday, Sept. 1 when the Crimson Tide hosts the Western Carolina Catamounts at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis beginning at 6:07 p.m. (CDT). Coach Saban is the school’s 27th head football coach. He has compiled a 91-42-1 (.683) record in three previous collegiate head coaching stints, most recently at LSU (2000-04), where he compiled a 48-16 (.750) record and led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship in 2003 and two Southeastern Conference titles (2001 and 2003). The excitement surrounding the Crimson Tide’s season opener is at an all-time high since Saban came on board eight months ago. The Crimson Tide drew an NCAA record 92,138 fans for its annual A-Day football game on April 21, 2007 and Saban has already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (Aug. 27, 2007). Alabama is 88-21-3 (.799) in football season openers, including a five-game winning streak. Since 1977, Alabama is 26-4 (.867) in its last 30 season openers. Western Carolina will mark the 53rd different opening day opponent in school history. The 2007 opener will also mark the 50th season opener to be played in Tuscaloosa, with the Tide posting a 46-2-1 (.949) record.
THE HEAD COACHES
Alabama head football coach Nick Saban (Kent State, 1973) was named the school’s 27th head coach on Jan. 3, 2007. Saban has compiled a 91-42-1 (.683) record in his three previous collegiate head coaching stints at Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99) and LSU (2000-04). He led LSU to a 13-1 record and the BCS National Championship in 2003. He was 48-16 (.750) in his five years at LSU, including two SEC Championships. Overall, Saban has coached three conference championship teams (1990 Mid American, 2001 SEC and 2003 SEC) and eight of his 11 teams have played in post-season bowl games. Saban also has a wealth of coaching experience in the National Football League, serving as secondary coach (Houston, 1988-89), defensive coordinator (Cleveland, 1991-94) and head coach (Miami, 2005-06). Western Carolina head coach Kent Briggs (Western Carolina, 1979) begins his sixth season as head coach at his alma mater and has compiled a 21-33 (.389) overall record in his first head coaching job. A native of Asheville, N.C., Briggs was a four-year letterman at Western Carolina (1976-79) and was the school’s starting quarterback in 1976. Briggs spent nine seasons as an assistant at Western Carolina (1980-88), 12 years at North Carolina State (1989-2000) and one year at Connecticut (2001) before taking over the head coaching duties at his alma mater.
SABAN ERA BEGINS
*Alabama officially opens the Nick Saban era this weekend when the Crimson Tide meets the Western Carolina Catamounts at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
*Saban was named the school’s 27th head football coach on Jan. 4, 2007 and the fan excitement surrounding his arrival is at an all-time high.
*In just a few short weeks, Saban and his staff landed one of the nation’s top recruiting classes in Feb., 2007.
*The Crimson Tide drew an NCAA record 92,138 fans for its annual A-Day game on Saturday, April 21, 2007.
*The week of the season opener, Saban appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (Aug. 27, 2007).
*Alabama head coaches are 20-6 (.769) in their head coaching debuts at the Capstone.
*Alabama has posted an 88-21-3 (.799) record in season openers, including a five-game winning streak.
*Alabama has won 14 of its last 16 season openers, dating back to 1991.
*Since 1977, Alabama has posted a 26-4 (.867) record on opening day.
*Alabama is playing its eighth consecutive season opener against a non-SEC team.
*The last time UA opened eight straight seasons with non-conference games was 1966-75.
*Alabama has posted 49 opening day shutouts in its football history, including 16 consecutive opening day shutouts from 1904-20.
*From 1904-34, Alabama posted 29 opening day shutouts in a 30-year period. The lone exception was a 34-14 win over Howard (now Samford) in 1921.
*On the flip side, Alabama has been shutout on opening day just five times, with the last coming in 1957.
*Alabama’s longest opening day winning streak came from 1904-34, when the Crimson Tide posted 31 consecutive wins in season openers.
*From 1904-47, Alabama was an incredible 40-0-2 in season openers, which included a pair of ties with Howard (7-7, 1925) and LSU (27-27, 1944).
*Alabama’s 42-game unbeaten streak in season openers ended with a 21-14 loss at Tulane on Sept. 25, 1948.
*The Crimson Tide had a seven-game losing streak in season openers from 1953-59, the longest in school history.
*The Crimson Tide also suffered back-to-back opening day losses in 1975 (Missouri, 20-7) and 1976 (Ole Miss, 10-7), and 2000 (UCLA, 35-24) and 2001 (UCLA, 20-17).
*Prior to the loss to UCLA in 2000, Alabama had reeled off nine straight opening day wins, the longest winning streak in the modern era of UA football.
SEASON OPENERS BY SITE
*The Crimson Tide has played its season opener in 18 different cities in its 113-year history.
*The most common venue for an Alabama season opener is on the UA campus in Tuscaloosa.
*The 2007 season opener will mark the 50th time in school history Alabama has opened its football season in its campus stadium.
*Alabama is 46-2-1 (.949) in season openers here in Tuscaloosa.
*The Crimson Tide is 16-1-1 (.917) in season openers at Bryant-Denny Stadium (circa 1929).
*The Western Carolina game marks just the eighth season opener in Tuscaloosa since the 1941 season.
*Following Tuscaloosa, the city of Birmingham is next on the list, having played host to 29 season openers.
SEASON OPENERS BY OPPONENTS
*Western Carolina will represent the 53rd different opening day opponent for the Alabama football team.
*The Crimson Tide’s most common opening day opponent is Howard (now Samford).
*Alabama posted a 11-0-1 record in its school-record 12 opening day meetings with Howard.
*Alabama has also played five current SEC teams on opening day, compiling a 14-8-1 (.630) record against Ole Miss, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Florida and LSU on opening day.
MEMORABLE SEASON OPENERS
*Here is a look at some of the more memorable and significant season openers for the Crimson Tide since World War II.
1951 -- Alabama 89, Delta State 0
(Sept. 21, Montgomery, Ala.)
The Crimson Tide set school records for most points (89), most touchdowns (13), most extra points (11) in this blowout win over Delta State. All-American Bobby Marlow added 103 yards on the ground.
1958 -- LSU 13, Alabama 3
(Sept. 27, Mobile, Ala.)
The Alabama head coaching debut of Paul “Bear “ Bryant took place at Ladd Stadium in Mobile. Bryant inherited a team that posted a 2-7-1 record in 1957 and took that team to a 5-4-1 mark in his first season.
1960 -- Alabama 21, Georgia 6
(Sept. 17, 1960, Birmingham)
Alabama defeated Georgia 21-6 in the first college football game to be televised by ABC Sports.
1965 -- Georgia 18, Alabama 17
(Sept. 18, 1965, Athens)
After winning the national championship in 1964, Alabama was set to defend its title between the hedges in Athens, Ga. It was a spectacular pass-and-lateral play in the final two minutes that gave Georgia the 18-17 upset win, although television replays later revealed the Georgia player had one knee touching the ground before the lateral.
1967 -- Alabama 37, Florida State 37
(Sept. 23, Birmingham)
Alabama allowed only 37 points en route to its undefeated 1966 season. In the 1967 season opener, Florida State equalled that total with a 37-point outburst as the two teams battled to a tie at Legion Field.
1970 -- Southern Cal 42, Alabama 21
(Sept. 12, Birmingham)
Sam Cunningham’s dominating ground game handed the Crimson Tide its worst loss of the 1970 season. USC ran for 485 yards against Alabama and had 559 yards of total offense. Cunningham scored two first quarter touchdowns on runs of 22 and four yards.
1971 -- Alabama 17, USC 10
(Sept. 10, Los Angeles)
Perhaps the most significant season opener in Alabama football annals was the Tide’s win at USC. The Crimson Tide had installed the wishbone offense and kept it a secret throughout the summer and fall camp. The Tide unleashed its attack against the Trojans and built a 17-0 lead. All-America tailback Johnny Musso had the honor of scoring the first rushing touchdown in the wishbone era of Alabama football. The Crimson Tide would dominate the decade of the 1970s, winning 103 games. In addition, Alabama either won or played for the national championship six times in that 10-year period.
1973 -- Alabama 66, California 0
(Sept. 15, Birmingham)
Richard Todd ran for 106 yards in his Alabama debut as the Crimson Tide posted a 66-0 blowout win over Cal. The Bears were stocked with NFL talent, including Vince Ferragamo, Steve Bartkowski and Chuck Muncie, but managed little offense against the stingy Tide defense.
1978 -- Alabama 20, Nebraska 3
(Sept. 2, Birmingham)
No. 1 ranked Alabama dominated No. 10 Nebraska before a capacity crowd at Birmingham’s Legion Field. The Crimson Tide avenged a 31-24 loss to the Cornhuskers a year earlier. Alabama dominated the game on offense as evidenced by a 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive engineered by quarterback Jeff Rutledge. The 1978 season opener marked the only time in school history Alabama has been ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls. The Tide fell to No. 7 after a 24-14 loss to USC, but worked its way back to the top and secured the national championship with a 14-7 win over Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.
1983 -- Alabama 20, Georgia Tech 7
Sept. 10, Birmingham)
Playing its first game without college football’s all-time winningest coach, Alabama gave coach Ray Perkins a successful debut with a 20-7 win over Georgia Tech at Legion Field.
1984 -- Boston College 38, Alabama 31
(Sept. 8, Birmingham)
Kerry Goode electrified the Legion Field crowd and a national television audience with a 99-yard kickoff return to open the second half. The Alabama halfback accounted for 297 all-purpose yards before a season-ending knee injury occurred in the third quarter. Goode set the SEC single-game record with 197 yards in kickoff returns. Heisman Trophy candidate Doug Flutie rallied the Eagles to a 38-31 win in the season opener.
1986 -- Alabama 16, Ohio State 10
(Aug. 27, Meadowlands)
Fifth-ranked Alabama defeated No. 9 Ohio State in the Kickoff Classic at East Rutherford, N.J. The game marked the last time Alabama opened the season against a team ranked in the Top 25 until 2001 when meeting UCLA in Tuscaloosa.
1985 -- Alabama 20, Georgia 16
(Sept. 2, Athens)
Junior quarterback Mike Shula fired a 17-yard TD pass to Al Bell with 15 seconds remaining to cap a thrilling game-winning drive in the final minute to beat Georgia between the hedges. A Labor Day night crowd burst into excitement as Georgia blocked an Alabama punt and covered it in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of play.
The calm and confident Shula directed the Crimson Tide down the field for the game-winner, giving ABC Sports a thrilling season opener in 1985.
1998 -- Alabama 38, BYU 31
(Sept. 5, Tuscaloosa)
Shaun Alexander rushed for an Alabama single-game record five touchdowns, leading the Crimson Tide to a 38-31 win over BYU in the newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium. A record crowd of 83,318 fans watched as Alexander scored on runs of 5, 37, 1, 28 and 2 yards to lead the Crimson Tide to victory.
WESTERN CAROLINA SERIES
*Alabama posted a 52-0 win over Western Carolina in the only previous meeting between the two schools on Sept. 18, 2004.
*The game was played in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, a category 3 storm that hit the Alabama gulf coast at 2 a.m. (CDT) on Thursday, Aug. 16. Ivan maintained hurricane status until it reached central Alabama before gradually weakening.
*After consulting with local authorities, UA officials agreed the game would be played as scheduled.
*Junior quarterback Brodie Croyle, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, suffered a season-ending knee injury (ACL) in the third quarter.
*Five different Alabama players scored in the win, including linebacker Marcel Stamps (Brantley, Ala.), who returned a block punt 29 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. He also added two tackles.
*Wide receiver Matt Caddell (McCalla, Ala.) had a 41-yard touchdown reception to give Alabama 31-0 lead with 25 seconds left in the first half. Caddell had two catches for 57 yards in the win.
*Linebacker Demarcus Waldrop (Pinson, Ala.) had a busy night on defense, with four tackles, two TFLs (-14), two pressures, one sack (-13), one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
*Defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry (Bay Minette, Ala.) had three tackles and one sack (-9) in his Crimson Tide debut.
*Western Carolina strength and conditioning coordinator Myles Christian is a 2001 Alabama graduate and former Crimson Tide walkon.
*For the second time in his head coaching career, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban will make his coaching debut against Western Carolina.
*Saban will make his Alabama coaching debut Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007 against the Catamounts at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
*Saban also made his LSU coaching debut against Western Carolina during the 2000 season. The Tigers won the game 58-0 on Sept. 2, 2000 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.
2007 ALABAMA ROSTER BREAKDOWN
*Here is a breakdown by class of the 2007 Alabama football roster.
2007 Alabama Roster By Class
Redshirt Freshmen 19
2007 ALABAMA ROSTER NOTES
*Alabama has 127 total players, including walk-ons, on its 2007 football roster.
*Coach Saban announced at his preseason press conference that four players have been placed on medical scholarship for the 2007 season. The list includes senior wide receiver Tyrone Prothro (Heflin, Ala.), junior wide receiver Aaron McDainel (Ft. Payne, Ala.), sophomore defensive lineman Byron Walton (Autaugaville, Ala.) and redshirt freshman running back Jake Jones (Mountain Brook, Ala.).
*Of the 127 players on the 2007 UA football roster, there are 68 players (53.5 percent) that have never played in a game at Alabama. The list includes 32 true freshmen, 19 redshirt freshmen and 17 upperclassmen.
*The list of 17 upperclassmen who have never played a game at Alabama includes seniors Joshua Curry and Morgan Garner, juniors Jonathan Lowe, Courtney Moore and Layne Rinks, and sophomores Tyrone King, Scott Deaton, Adam Hill, Daniel Wood, Tucker Callahan, Juan Garnier, Rajv Lundy, Joel Nix, Chris Pugh, Joe Robinson, Justen Santana and Heath Thomas.
*A total of 59 current players have played at least one game for the Crimson Tide.
*Alabama returns 20 lettermen and nine starters on offense from last year’s team.
*The Crimson Tide’s 20 offensive lettermen have combined for 212 starts.
*Senior wide receiver DJ Hall (Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.) has logged more starts (29) than any other current Alabama player.
*The Crimson Tide offense returns a record-setting quarterback and two of the most prolific pass catchers in school history.
*Junior quarterback John Parker Wilson (Hoover, Ala.) set Alabama single-season records in 2006 for most plays, total offense, pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns.
*In 13 games last season, Wilson completed 216 of 379 passes (57 percent) for 2,707 yards and 17 touchdowns.
*He is one of seven quarterbacks in school history to throw for 2,000 or more yards in a season.
*Wilson also owns the single-season record for most plays (461) and total offense (2,790 yards).
*He is one of eight quarterbacks in Alabama history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in total offense.
*Wilson set Alabama single-season records for most 200-yard passing games and consecutive 200-yard games.
*Wilson has nine 200-yard games last season, breaking the previous record of eight set by Gary Hollingsworth in 1989.
*He opened the season by throwing for 200 yards in his first seven games to eclipse the record for most consecutive 200-yard games.
*The previous record was five consecutive 200-yard games by Gary Hollingsworth in 1989-90.
*Wilson is currently tied for third place all-time with Scott Hunter (1969-70) and Gary Hollingsworth (1989-90) with nine career 200-yard games.
*The UA career record is 14, 200-yard games by Brodie Croyle (2002-2005) and Andrew Zow (1998-2001).
*Hall enters the 2007 season just 153 yards shy of becoming the school’s all-time leader. Former All-American and NFL Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome (1974-77) holds the all-time record with 2,070 career yards.
*In 35 games, Hall has 127 catches for 1,918 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last year as a junior, he caught 62 passes for a school-record 1,062 yards and five touchdowns. David Palmer held the previous record with 1,000 yards during the 1993 season.
*He finished the regular season with an Alabama single-season record seven, 100-yard games. The previous record was four, 100-yard receiving games held by former Alabama All-American and NFL Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome in 1977.
*Hall also owns the Alabama career record with 10, 100-yard games. The previous record was six, 100-yard games held by Newsome from 1974-77.
*Alabama receivers had nine, 100-yard games last season. In addition to Hall’s school record seven, 100-yard games, Brown and sophomore Nikita Stover (Hartselle) had one each.
*Hall and fellow senior wide receiver Keith Brown (Pensacola, Fla.) combined to catch 106 passes for 1,646 yards and eight touchdowns. Hall and Brown (44-590-3) established themselves as the most prolific pass-catching duo in Crimson Tide lore.
*The Crimson Tide returns all five offensive lineman, including a pair of All-American candidates.
*Junior center Antoine Caldwell (Montgomery, Ala.), who has made 25 consecutive starts, is a 2007 Rimington Trophy candidate and preseason All-SEC honoree.
*Sophomore left tackle Andre Smith (Birmingham, Ala.) started all 13 games last season en route to Freshman All-American and All-SEC honors. Smith, who scored the game-tying touchdown against Oklahoma State (2-yard lateral) in the PetroSun Independence Bowl, is on the 2007 Outland Trophy watch list.
*The Crimson Tide’s offensive line has combined for 99 career starts, which ranks second among SEC teams entering the 2007 season.
*Alabama will be looking to replace the school’s leading rusher (Kenneth Darby) and top two fullbacks (Le’Ron McClain and Tim Castille) off last year’s squad.
*Darby finished third on the school’s all-time rushing list with 3,329 career rushing yards.
*Castille had 161 career rushing attempts for 533 yards and 21 touchdowns. Castille led UA with six rushing touchdowns last season.
*McClain, a devastating blocker, wrapped up his career with 10 career touchdowns, including eight TD receptions.
*Redshirt freshman Terry Grant (Lumberton, Miss.), who played three games last season before a season-ending injury, is the leading candidate to replace Darby in the backfield.
*Alabama four returning running backs -- Grant, Jimmy Johns (Brookhaven, Miss.), Glen Coffee (Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.) and Roy Upchurch (Tallahassee, Fla.) -- have combined for 166 rushing attempts for 733 yards and two touchdowns.
*The Crimson Tide returns 24 lettermen and only five starters off last year’s squad.
*The 24 lettermen have combined for 92 career starts.
*Gilberry leads all UA defenders with 37 career games and 25 starts.
*Gilberry and fellow senior Keith Saunders (Willingboro, N.J.) return to anchor the defensive line. Gilberry and Saunders have combined for 67 games with 139 tackles and 33 1/2 tackles for loss.
*Sophomore Prince Hall (Riverside, Calif.) is the lone returning starting linebacker. Hall, who earned Freshman All-American honors in 2006, had 77 tackles and led the Tide with 10 1/2 tackles for loss.
*A pair of seniors will anchor the Alabama secondary this season. Simeon Castille (Birmingham, Ala.) and Marcus Carter (Ft. Payne, Ala.) have 26 of 32 career starts among the defensive backs. Castille has 16 career starts and Carter has 10 starts.
*Castille has 10 career interceptions in 35 games at Alabama. He was a First-Team All-SEC selection last season and a preseason First-Team All-SEC honoree this year.
*Carter has 33 career games under his belt, including nine starts in 2006, and has 33 career tackles.
ALABAMA SPECIAL TEAMS
*Alabama returns all but one of its specialists from last season.
*Sophomore Leigh Tiffin (Muscle Shoals, Ala.) is scheduled to handle all place-kicking duites this season.
*Tiffin appeared in five games last season and hit 8 of 13 field goals and 12 of 13 extra point attempts. His father, Van (1983-86), was an All-American kicker at Alabama in 1986 and set the UA record with 135 consecutive career extra points.
*Senior Jamie Christensen (Norcross, Ga.), who has also handled kickoffs the last three years, has hit 29 of 42 career field goal attempts and 40 of 42 career extra points.
*He also has three-game winning field goals to his credit, beating Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas Tech during the 2006 season.
*Sophomore punter P.J. Fitzgerald (Coral Springs, Fla.) is back for his second year as the Crimson Tide’s punter and holder. He punted 57 times for a 38.2-yard average (2,176 yards) last year.
*Sophomore Javier Arenas (Tampa, Fla.) is the team’s top return specialist. Arenas had 31 punts returns for 286 yards (9.2 average) and two touchdowns last season.
*He had a 56-yard punt return against Florida International and a school-record 86-yard punt return against Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl.
*Hall and Arenas are also slated to return kickoffs this season.
*Arenas also had 19 kickoff returns for 344 yards (19.1 average) en route to Freshman All-SEC and All-American honors.
*The Crimson Tide will break in its third long snapper in as many years this season as they replace last year’s snapper Luke Spaulding.
*Junior Brian Selman (Vestavia Hills, Ala.) is set to open the year as the Tide’s snapper. Selman played in one game last season as Spaulding’s backup.
Alabama will open the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule on Saturday, Sept. 8 when the Crimson Tide travels to Nashville, Tenn., to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. The game will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports with an 11:45 a.m. (CDT) kickoff from Vanderbilt Stadium.