Saturday, August 31, 2002
*Alabama opened its 108th football season this afternoon with a 39-34 victory over Middle Tennessee. The Crimson Tide's all-time record stands at 745-281-43 (.717) through 1,069 games. This was the first-ever meeting between the Crimson Tide and Blue Raiders.
*Following its 39-34 win over Middle Tennessee, Alabama wins its season opener for the first time since the 1999 season. The Crimson Tide opened the 1999 season with a 28-17 win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 4 at Nashville. The win also snapped UA's two-game opening day losing streak. Alabama dropped the season opener in 2000 (35-24) and 2001 (20-17) to UCLA, marking the first time since 1975-76 the Crimson Tide had lost back-to-back season openers.
*Alabama is now 84-21-3 (.792) all-time in season openers. In addition, Alabama is 20-4-1 in season openers here at Legion Field. The Crimson Tide will also open the 2003 season here at Legion Field, hosting the South Florida Bulls on Saturday, Aug. 30.
*The win over Middle Tennessee also gives Alabama a five-game winning streak for the first time since the 1999 season.
*Alabama is now 4-0 all-time in the month of August after its 39-34 win over Middle Tennessee. The Crimson Tide's first game in the month of August was a 16-10 win over Ohio State on Aug. 27, 1986 at the Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands. Alabama also defeated Bowling Green (21-7) on Aug. 31, 1996 and Houston (42-17) on Aug. 30, 1997.
*Alabama's game captains for the Middle Tennessee game were Brooks Daniels, Ahmaad Galloway, Alonzo Ephraim and Theo Sanders.
*The Crimson Tide used 15 first-time players in today's win over Middle Tennessee. The list of first-time participants include Derrick Pope (MLB), Freddie Roach (MLB), Anthony Madison (RCB), Spencer Pennington (played on special teams), Shaud Williams (A-back), Charlie Peprah (RCB), DeMeco Ryans (MLB), Michael Ziifle (PK), Roman Harper (FS), Mark Anderson (ROV), Leslie Williams (DE), Zach Fletcher (WR), Clint Johnston (W), David Cavan (TE) and Ahmad Childress (DT).
*Among the Crimson Tide's starting lineup today were first-time starters David Cavan (TE), Triandos Luke (WR) and Freddie Roach (MLB).
*DeMeco Ryans is the only true freshman to see action today for Alabama, playing 12 snaps on defense and four on special teams against Middle Tennessee. Alabama played only one true freshman last year, with Todd Bates making his Crimson Tide debut against Arkansas during the third game of the season. Bates played in nine games last year as a true freshman, making one start.
*The Crimson Tide scored on its first possession of the 2002 season as tailback Santonio Beard capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a four-yard TD run to give Alabama a 7-0 lead.
*Alabama was penalized 16 times for 126 yards in the win over Middle Tennessee, matching the single-game record for most penalties. The Crimson Tide was also penalized 16 times in a 1995 win against Georgia. The 126 penalty yards against Middle Tennessee fell seven yards short of the single-game record of 133 penalty yards set against Vanderbilt in 1957.
*Alabama's 39 points today are the most in a season opener since a 42-17 win over Houston on Aug. 30, 1997 here at Legion Field. The 34 points allowed are the most since a 35-24 loss at UCLA on Sept. 1, 2000 at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.
*Wide receiver Triandos Luke made his first career start today for Alabama, finishing the game with nine receptions for 85 yards, to lead all UA receivers. Luke's previous best was three receptions for 33 yards last year. He had three catches against UCLA and UTEP last season and 33 yards against South Carolina.
*Senior w-back Theo Sanders had four rushing attempts for 13 yards and added two receptions for 43 yards in the win over Middle Tennessee. Prior to today, Sanders did not have a career rushing attempt for Alabama. In addition, Sanders' two receptions for 43 yards, both career highs.
*Following the Crimson Tide's second touchdown (Watts 35-yard pass to Sam Collins), Lane Bearden scooped up a fumbled snap and flipped the ball into the end zone to Dre Fulgham for the two-point conversion to give the Crimson Tide a 15-0 lead.
*Cavan, a redshirt sophomore from Tuscaloosa's American Christian Academy, hauled in a 15-yard TD reception from Tyler Watts for his first career touchdown reception. Cavan's TD reception with 23 seconds left in the first quarter gave Alabama a 22-0 lead. Cavan is second-generation Alabama player as his father, Pete, was a halfback for Coach Paul Bryant from 1975-77. The elder Cavan played on two SEC Championship teams in 1975 and 1977.
*Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Freddie Roach picked off an Andrico Hines pass, his first career interception, and returned the ball 41 yards for a touchdown. Roach's interception return gave Alabama a 39-27 lead with 2:56 left in the game.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE FOOTBALL
Middle Tennessee vs. Alabama Postgame Notes
August 31, 2002
Hines Starts ... at Receiver?: Andrico Hines made his first start as expected today against Alabama, but it wasn't under center. ReShard Lee took the first snap of the game as the quarterback with Hines lined up at wideout. After a keeper by Lee, Hines came back to his normal position.
Hicks' Continues Record March: Senior tailback Dwone Hicks continued his assault on the MT record book with his performance against Alabama. The Huntsville, Ala., native scored his first touchdown of the season in the second quarter, putting him only one away from equaling the Middle Tennessee rushing touchdown record. He later reached paydirt in the fourth quarter to equal the all-time rushing TD mark with 44. Hicks already owns the all-time touchdowns record with 50.
Tailback Trio: One of the biggest strengths for the Blue Raiders coming into the season was the talented and deep backfield and it showed today against Alabama. All three of the Blue Raider tailbacks that saw action today found the endzone. Dwone Hicks scored in the second quarter while Don Calloway and ReShard Lee each scored in the fourth quarter. Lee also hit paydirt when he scored on a two-point conversion.
Hines Solid in Debut: Junior quarterback put together a very solid game in his first as the Blue Raider starter. Hines was 16-of-24 through the air for 165 yards and rushed for 47 yards on seven attempts.
Mr Versatility: Sophomore ReShard Lee put on an exhibition today for the Blue Raiders. The native of Brunswick, Ga., lined up at tailback and quarterback today along with returning every kickoff for the Blue Raiders in the game. Lee returned four kicks for 137 yards, setting a new personal high. His return effort today put him at third all-time on the single game list and his average of 34.3 yards is good enough for sixth all-time. As the team's tailback, Lee rushed for 56 yards on 11 carries. He also completed a 37-yard pass to Wardell Alsup late in the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown that would pull Middle Tennessee within five of the Crimson Tide with less than three minutes to go in the contest.
Kickin' Kelly: Junior kicker Brian Kelly continued his excellence in opening day contests by booting two field goals against Alabama. Kelly is now 5-of-6 on opening day. He has also now connected on seven of his last eight field goal attempts. Kelly's two field goals today gives him 19 in his career and ties him with Matt Crews for sixth all-time.
Legging it Out: Redshirt freshman Paul Wheeler made a big impact for the Blue Raider special teams today against Alabama. The Tullahoma, Tenn., native booted five kickoffs today with four going into the endzone and the other reaching the 3-yard line. With Wheeler's excellent work, the Blue Raiders kept Alabama's average drive start after a kickoff at the 19-yard line. He also attempted an onsides kick in the fourth quarter that was recovered by the Crimson Tide at the 50.
First Starts: Middle Tennessee players making their first start today were: Andrico Hines, ReShard Lee, Brandon Parker, Will Martin, and Tony Sutton.
First Games: Middle Tennessee players making their first appearance in a Blue Raider uniform today were: Devarick Scandrett, Jeff Littlejohn, Sean Waller, Will Martin, Tony Sutton, Andrico Hines, John Crawford, Fletcher Williams, Dennis Burke, Jonathan Bonner, Kenny Edwards, Chris Henry, Aaron Pitts, Dominic Jones, Doug Waller, Brett Trott, and Sam Williams.
Immediate Impact: Middle Tennessee's recruiting efforts continued to pay dividends on Saturday as five true freshmen saw action in today's contest. True freshmen Devarick Scandrett, Sean Waller, Sam Williams, Dennis Burke, and Jonathan Bonner each saw action against the Crimson Tide in their first collegiate game.
Bus Driver Relates to Blue Raiders: Eddie Hill usually drives the lead bus when he is a part of the Grayline Tours crew assigned to drive teams to games. This week, though, he made an exception and drove the second bus for Middle Tennessee which contained the team's defensive unit and his grandson, linebacker Alvin Fite.
Quick Hitters: Today marked the start of the 87th football season in Middle Tennessee history ... David Youell extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 23 ... Today's game marked the first ever meeting between MT and Alabama ... Next week's game will also be a first time matchup pitting MT against in-state rival Tennessee ... Senior Chris Johnson got the second half start at left corner in place of junior Tony Sutton ... Junior tailback Don Calloway scored his 10th career touchdown in the fourth quarter ... Sophomore Reshard Lee scored his fifth career rushing touchdown ... The Blue Raiders played in front of the largest opening day crowd in school history with 80,019 in attendance at Legion Field ...Redshirt freshman made his first career catch late in the fourth quarter to convert a third down. Alabama vs. Middle Tennessee State August 31, 2002
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE QUOTES
Alabama Head Coach -- Dennis Franchione Quotes
"I'll start off by saying I admire our kids. They hung in there. They found a way to win. I think we may have played two games in some ways, the first quarter and the rest of the game. Give Middle Tennessee credit, they played hard. We knew they were a good team and they played like it.
"The quarterback (Andrico Hines) got a lot of experience in the first quarter. He got going in the second quarter. We played about as good a first quarter as you can play. The play that hurt us and that hurt the momentum of the game was the roughing of the punter which cost us points.
"We were disappointed with our kicking game. I don't think there's anybody in America who works harder on their kicking game than we do. It broke down a few times today. And we had way too many penalties.
"In the second quarter they ran 26 plays and we ran five. So that was a very lame quarter for our defense."
"We have a lot to work on, no doubt about that in every aspect of the game. I'm proud of the way they kept playing. They played hard in every way. They kind of kept control of things most of the time. Lane Bearden really did some nice things, whether it was punting the ball or making the crazy two-point conversion or making a tackle.
"We had a number of first year players-I think we played 15 first-year players and a number of them came in and made big plays. A big touchdown catch for us (David Cavan's). (Michael) Ziifle, (Shaud) Williams and Freddie Roach-no bigger play then Freddie there at the end.
"We did a good job on (Dwone) Hicks. I think we held him to 42 yards. And I think both of those backs they have are good running backs. They would play well in this conference. We tip our hats to Middle the way they kept fighting. They stayed after it but we also admire ourselves for hanging in."
Alabama Player Quotes
"It (the interception) was alright. I got focused on the game and I had my teammates around me. They encouraged us to do stuff. We fought to win." On Dwone Hicks: "He's a good athlete. Our defense came together and played great. And that's what it takes to be successful. For the most part we feel pretty good. We still have a lot of improving to do. We're going to start Monday and get all that straightened out."
"It feels good. We could have easily folded. We stuck in there. Defense made plays. We converted for a first down and kept the chains moving. So it was good for both sides." On Alabama's next game, Oklahoma: "It's going to be a good ballgame. We've got to start preparing tomorrow. We've got to start preparing early. We can't ruin it tonight with a bad night of celebrating. We've got to get ready to play a (another) good team." "As far as coming together and hanging in there when times got tough, we're way ahead of where we were last season."
"We knew they had a good offense when we came into the game. We came out in the first quarter, ran the ball, threw the ball well. They got a little momentum in the second half, scored a couple of touchdowns but we came together as a team and pulled it through."
"We're way ahead of where we were last year. Everybody here-we're playing as a team. Everybody likes each other. We're together. Last year we would not have won this game. We went down to the last second with UCLA, we couldn't do it because we wouldn't play it as a team. This year is a total team effort. I might be out one play, another running back might be in another play. We are just all playing together as a team and that's why we won today."
"We jumped out on them early and really thought we were going to be able to close the deal there, but I tell you what, they kept fighting. They kept coming back. And a couple of costly mental mistakes on our part stopped some drives. We were unable to put the ball in the end zone. We kept fighting, we kept fighting. And there in the fourth quarter we were able to pull it out.
"Great defensive play on Freddie Roach's part and the rest of the defense. They stopped them when they had to and it gave us an opportunity to win the game."
"We just lost our focus I think (regarding penalties) and we started to gain it back. You're going to have a few holding (penalties), but that's a hustle mistake. But the jumping offsides and the lining up wrong, that's stuff you have to correct before the snap of the ball and that stuff will get corrected before we play Oklahoma next week."
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE QUOTES
Middle Tennessee State Head Coach Andy McCollum
"We didn't get into the rhythm offensively."
"I was very proud of our football team. We got beat by a very physical football team. They're going to win a lot of games this year."
"This is the point we wanted to get to, to get in the fourth quarter with Alabama at Legion Field and have a chance to win the ballgame. We want to find a way to finish this, and Alabama did a good job making sure we didn't.
"Alabama is a big, physical football team up front. I thought our kids hung in there and gave us a chance to win."
Middle Tennessee Player Quotes
#2 Michael Woods, LB- "You can't be proud of a loss. We know we played a good team today. We came out and played as hard as we could and it just wasn't enough."
"What makes their offense so good is they have a lot of power backs. Then they got us on our heels and got us with the three step drop."
"We knew we could hang with them. We know if we didn't give up those twenty-two points in the first quarter we could have won this game."
#27 Tyrone Calico, WR- "We came in at the half knowing that wasn't our offense. Once we got going in the second half it didn't matter who was on the field we were just going to keep going."
"Two years ago we had hardly any fan support. Now they know what we can do and they are proud of us."
#9 Andrico Hines, QB- "We just started to believe in ourselves and doing the things that we know how to do. Basically, we just took the things they gave us."
"You always want to come out with a win. We came out and gave it our all and just came up short. A couple of plays here and a couple of plays there and we can win the ball game."
(On Freddie Roach INT)- "I didn't even see him. It was a great play on his behalf. I think they started to anticipate what we were doing. That is a time you wish you had a string on the ball to bring it back. I can't take anything from him."
#4 Dwone Hicks, RB- "We came out and believed that we could win the game. We got rolling in the second half and believed we could win the game."
(On only two 1st quarter rushes)- "I really didn't know what to expect. We did a great job early getting everyone into the game and that is what we were trying to do."