By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. ?? The Alabama Football Team (1-0, 0-0) rolled up 575 total yards of offense Saturday night, including 313 on the ground, on the way to a 52-6 win over the Western Carolina Catamounts (0-1, 0-0) in the Alabama coaching debut for Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban.
Freshman running back Terry Grant carried the ball 18 times for 136 yards and scored three of Alabama’s six rushing touchdowns in his first career start. Sophomore Glen Coffee had nine rushes for 76 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Roy Upchurch had six carries for 58 yards and a score.
Alabama’s 575 yards of offense were the most since the Tide gained 588 total yards against UTEP in 2001. Alabama gained a school-record 35 first downs in Saturday’s game and averaged more than 30 yards per kickoff return.
“We showed we have a few playmakers,” senior receiver DJ Hall said. “Guys are just hustling all around. Offensive, defense, and special teams. There is so much talent on this team. There is not one guy to pinpoint that only makes the team better. That’s what we want to focus on.”
The Tide scored on the first play of the game, when Grant broke a 47-yard run for a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Alabama then orchestrated scoring drives of 94, 36 and 68 yards to take a 24-3 lead at the half.
“It was just a good sweep,” Grant said. “It was a big play and it just happened to be the first play of the game. It was a play to take the wind out of them. I try to take it to the house every time I carry it.”
Junior quarterback John Parker Wilson led Alabama on a 73-yard scoring drive on the Tide’s first drive of the second half that was capped by a one-yard Coffee score before freshman Greg McElroy took over the Crimson Tide offense, going 8-of-9 for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson was 17-of-25 for 189 yards.
“We really tried to dominate in the second half and for the most part I think we came in and did that,” Saban said. “There are still a lot of things we need to improve on, some things we were a little sloppy on, but we have the right attitude about trying to work on and improve on it.”
Hall caught four passes for 52 yards to lead Alabama’s receivers, and junior tight end Nick Walker caught five passes for 40 yards and a score. Freshman Earl Alexander also caught four passes for 40 yards.
The Alabama defense held the Western Carolina offense to 247 total yards on the night, allowing just 76 yards on the ground and forcing two fourth-quarter fumbles. Junior Rashad Johnson led the Alabama defense with eight total tackles, and both senior Darren Mustin and freshman Rolando McClain had seven in their first Alabama starts.
Mustin and fellow freshman Kareem Jackson became the eighth and ninth true freshmen to start a season opener at Alabama.
"I thought we did pretty well,” senior Wallace Gilberry said. “To be considered very young and inexperienced, I thought we got out there and gave great effort.”
Alabama travels to Nashville next week when the Tide takes on the Vanderbilt Commodores (1-0, 0-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and will be televised on Lincoln Financial Sports.