Saturday, September 17, 2005
By The Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Kenneth Darby rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Alabama ran through gaping holes and missed tackles for 338 yards of rushing offense in a 37-14 win over South Carolina on Saturday.
It was a rare road win for Alabama coach Mike Shula. Since he took over in 2003, the Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) had only beaten Mississippi State and Kentucky away from Tuscaloosa.
Alabama had 489 yards of total offense, its biggest total ever under Shula.
For first-year South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, it marked the first time he has started 0-2 in the SEC. In Spurrier's 12 years at Florida, he only lost more than two SEC games once (in 1992).
The Crimson Tide came into the game believing they'd use their new passing attack that averaged 271 yards in their first two games. But they quickly shifted gears once it became apparent the Gamecocks (1-2, 0-2) couldn't stop the run.
Alabama's ground game was so effective, any down became a running down. On third-and-11 in the second quarter, Brodie Croyle simply turned and handed it to Tyrone Prothro, who gained 41 easy yards. On the next drive, Croyle ran for 14 yards untouched on his own after spending a few seconds trying to find an open receiver on third-and-7.
Alabama gained 185 yards rushing in the first half, better than the Tide's totals in each of their first two games.
Croyle, whose absence because of injury played a big part in Alabama's 20-3 loss to the Gamecocks last year, was 12-of-21 for 115 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score on a 15-yard draw play, carrying the ball four times for 28 yards.
Keith Brown had 91 yards receiving, and two of his three catches went for touchdowns, including one from backup John Parker Wilson with just under 10 minutes to go -- the kind of trash-time touchdowns Spurrier's Gators used to rack up.
Glen Coffee ran for 75 yards on 15 carries for the Tide.
The Gamecocks' offense looked sharp at first on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a 1-yard fourth-down scoring run by Mike Davis. But then Spurrier's "Cock-n-Fire" offense started to misfire.
South Carolina gained just 21 yards and no first downs over the rest of the first half. The Gamecocks got past midfield just once in the third quarter, and that drive ended when backup quarterback Antonio Heffner was sacked on fourth-and-2 from the Alabama 36.
By then, shouts of "Roll Tide" could be heard across Williams-Brice Stadium after thousands of Gamecocks fans left early for the parking lots in a scene all too familiar to South Carolina fans.
It was the worst home loss in 15 years of college coaching for Spurrier (his previous biggest loss was a 35-16 defeat at Duke against Wake Forest in 1988), as a lack of a running game continued to put pressure on his young quarterbacks. South Carolina ran for just 71 yards, while starting quarterback Blake Mitchell went 20-of-38 for 173 yards with an interception and a touchdown.