By Scott Latta,
UA Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.--Alabama forced four Vanderbilt turnovers, including an interception as time expired, en route to a 13-10 win Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
For the second consecutive week, it was up to the Alabama defense to hold late to preserve a lead, and for the second straight week, it responded. Senior Juwan Simpson intercepted a Chris Nickson pass at the Alabama 25-yard line as time expired to preserve the win, Alabama's first conference victory of 2006.
"Well we had another win. We are 2-0," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said. "We look at the positives from it. We were down 10-3 at the half and we had to find out about our football team, our young football team. They responded right away."
Junior Simeon Castille recorded his fifth and sixth career interceptions on the day, picking off passes from Nickson in the second and fourth quarters.
"Well, it's kind of funny," Castille said. "I keep a notebook and I write notes that Coach (Chris) Ball gives during the week. I had a goal of two interceptions. It blows my mind to be able to set a goal and the Lord allows me to reach it."
Castille's second pick happened with just under 13 minutes left in the game, giving Alabama the ball at its own 21-yard line. The Tide then drove 49 yards in 12 plays, capped by a career-long 47-yard field goal from freshman Leigh Tiffin to give Alabama the 13-10 lead with 7:34 left in the game. A 36-yard completion from sophomore John Parker Wilson to sophomore Nikita Stover kept the drive going on third-and-18.
"I think we just came together better as a unit, and John Parker kept his poise and so did the offensive line, and everybody just played hard the whole entire second half," junior Keith Brown said.
Wilson was 18-of-29 on the day for 207 yards with a touchdown and interception. Brown led the Alabama receiving corps with eight catches for 99 yards. DJ Hall had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
"It was great to see DJ Hall back on the field after missing two games," Shula said. "I think it gives the quarterback more confidence to have two go-to guys on the field. John Parker is doing pretty well. He made some tough plays."
"We found some way to win, that says something about our guys," Wilson said. "We've got some fight in us. We dug down deep in the fourth quarter and found a way to win."
Alabama opened the second half with a seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive capped by a 31-yard Wilson touchdown pass to Hall. Tiffin's extra point knotted the score at 10-10 with 11:23 left in the third quarter. Wilson was 5-for-5 for 73 yards on the drive.
Though Alabama recorded four turnovers on the day, it also turned the ball over three times, each in Vanderbilt territory. The Commodores took a 10-3 lead to the locker room at the half, with all 10 points coming on Alabama turnovers.
"We had opportunities but we didn't capitalize on several of them that we had," Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said. "We allowed them to make a few key first downs and keep the ball. It made it a little tough on our offense but these are the things we need to do to win. I'm proud of our team for fighting hard and scrapping hard, never giving up."
The first touchdown of the game came on a six-yard Nickson pass to Earl Bennett following a Tim Castille fumble on the Commodores' 13-yard line. Vanderbilt drove 87 yards in just under four minutes to take the 10-3 lead with 14 seconds left in the half.
An interception earlier in the second quarter set up a six-play, 29-yard drive for the Commodores that culminated with a 42-yard Bryan Hahnfeldt kick to pull Vanderbilt even at 3-3.
"We didn't come out fast," Wilson said. "We came out slow, dragging around, and they were able to score a touchdown and a field goal."
Alabama got on the board first with a 37-yard Tiffin field goal with 53 seconds left in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.
The Tide was led on the ground by senior Ken Darby, who carried the ball 21 times for 65 yards, with sophomore Jimmy Johns adding 37 yards and Castille with 19.
"(The running game) is getting better. I still think it's getting better," Darby said. "It's gradually starting to get better each snap and each start. I wasn't really surprised but I know it's going to be alright.
"We've got what, 10 games left? And we're going to have 10 more spectacular games coming up."