Oct. 3, 2011
|Game #6 | No. 2/3 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC ) vs. Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1 SEC)
||Saturday, Oct. 8 | 6 p.m. CT
||Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
||ESPNU | Clay Matvick, Brian Griese & Allison Williams
||Crimson Tide Sports Network | Listen Live
| Live Stats
| Game Notes
||Alabama Notes | Opponent Notes
| All-Time Series
||Alabama Leads 58-19-4
HEAD COACH Nick Saban: Alabama head coach Nick Saban (Kent State, 1973) is in his fifth season with the Crimson Tide. Named the school’s 27th head coach on Jan. 3, 2007, Saban has compiled a 43-11 record (48-11 before five vacated wins in 2007) at Alabama while leading the Tide to two SEC Western Division championships, one conference title and one national championship. Saban holds a career record of 134-53-1 (139-53-1) as a collegiate head coach, while also serving at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU. Saban won his first national championship as head coach of the LSU Tigers in 2003, guiding the Tigers to a 13-1 record that season. Overall, Saban has coached four conference championship teams (1990 Mid-American, 2001 SEC, 2003 SEC and 2009 SEC) and 11 of his 14 teams have played in postseason bowl games with the Tide appearing in a bowl game each year under Saban’s direction. Saban is also the only active coach to win two BCS National Championships and the first to accomplish the feat at two different schools.
NEXT GAME: Alabama travels to Oxford to take on Mississippi on Saturday, October 15, at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels are currently 2-3 overall and 0-2 in SEC play. Last time out, Mississippi stepped out of conference play and headed west to take on Fresno State where the Rebels came out with a 38-28 victory. The Crimson Tide leads the series against Mississippi 44-9-2 (48-8-2 before forfeited and vacated games). This will be the 59th meeting between the teams, but only the 10th time Alabama has played the Rebels in Oxford. Of the previous nine meetings at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Alabama has won seven times (three of the seven wins were taken away after NCAA forfeit and vacation rulings).
ALABAMA UNDER SABAN IN OCTOBER: Alabama has been very successful in the second month of the season under head coach Nick Saban. Now in his fifth season at Alabama, the Crimson Tide sports a 14-1 record in October. Over that span the Crimson Tide has outscored its opponents 376-208 and is 5-1 against ranked opponents. The only October loss under Saban was at No. 19 South Carolina on Oct. 9, 2010. The loss against the Gamecocks broke an 11-game winning streak. Alabama has won its last three games in October since that loss.
FINISHING IN THE FOURTH QUARTER: After letting three games slip away in the fourth quarter last season, Alabama put an emphasis on finishing strong in 2011. That emphasis has paid dividends so far with an impressive edge in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide has outscored its five opponents – including three top-25 teams – by a margin of 45-8 in the fourth quarter while outgaining its opposition 639 yards to just 59 yards on the ground, a difference of 580 yards.
DISCIPLINE SHOWS: Alabama’s disciplined approach to football not only shows with its execution of the offense and defense, but in its ability to play a clean football game. The Crimson Tide ranks second nationally in fewest penalties per game, being flagged an average of just three times per game. The Tide also ranks fifth in fewest penalty yards in the country, averaging 29.6 per contest. UA leads the SEC in fewest penalties per game (3.0) and ranks second behind Kentucky in penalty yards per game.
Maze Nominated for GEICO Play of the Year: Senior Marquis Maze’s 83-yard punt return against Arkansas on September 24, is nominated for the GEICO Play of the Year. The punt return for a touchdown is the first of his career and the longest return of his career. The punt return was the first for a touchdown for Alabama since Javier Arenas found the end zone against Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2009. The return also marked the 10th longest return for a touchdown in Alabama history.
VLACHOS, RICHARDSON AND UPSHAW HONORED BY THE SEC: Alabama senior center William Vlachos was honored by the SEC as its Offensive Lineman of the Week following the Crimson Tide’s 38-10 victory at Florida on October 1. Vlachos received the highest grade on the line and did not allow a sack or a pressure, making critical line calls in pass protection. In addition to Vlachos, junior running back Trent Richardson and senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw made the Other Outstanding Performances list as Richardson tallied a career-best 181 rushing yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns, while Upshaw recorded four tackles, three for losses including a sack, and returned an interception for a touchdown against the Gators.
RICHARDSON/INGRAM COMPARISON: Junior running back Trent Richardson has gotten off to a solid start running the ball in the 2011 season collecting 622 yards on the ground through five games. At this point during Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy winning season in 2009, he had 487 rushing yards. In addition, Richardson has had 96 carries for 10 touchdowns, while Ingram had 83 carries and six touchdowns after five games.
TIDE AT HOME SINCE 2008: Alabama is 23-1 in its last 24 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, dating back to the start of the 2008 season. During that stretch the Crimson Tide has been extremely stingy on defense and very effective on offense. Some of the most impressive numbers include 55 rushing touchdowns for the Alabama offense, while the Crimson Tide defense has surrendered just two rushing touchdowns at home since the beginning of the 2008 season. UA has averaged 190.8 yards of total offense more than its opponents while rushing for 130.9 more yards per game. Alabama is also outscoring its opponents by 25.2 points per game (33.6 points per game [807 points] to 8.4 points per game ). Below is a look at the numbers for the Crimson Tide during its last 24 games at home:
NEWCOMERS CONTRIBUTE IN 2011: The Crimson Tide has seen 18 of its newcomers – nine redshirt freshmen, seven true freshmen and two junior college transfers – make appearance thus far in the 2011 season. Among the nine redshirt freshmen were TE Harrison Jones, LB Adrian Hubbard, DL Brandon Ivory, OL Chad Lindsay, OL Austin Shepherd, QB Phillip Sims, RB Blake Sims, TE Brian Vogler and WR DeAndrew White. Alabama’s seven true freshmen included S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, LB Trey Depriest, LB Xzavier Dickson, WR Christion Jones, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, DL Jeoffrey Pagan and DB Vinnie Sunseri. DL Quinton Dial and DL Jesse Williams, who are both junior college transfers, have also contributed for Alabama this season.
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS: The Crimson Tide has had eight players earn preseason All-America accolades from various publications leading up to the start of the 2011 campaign. The list includes Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower, Barrett Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw and William Vlachos. Barron was a first-team selection by Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Lindy’s, Sporting News and Playboy, while Hightower earned first-team honors from Lindy’s, second-team recognition from Phil Steele and third-team distinction from Athlon Sports. Jones was a first-team choice from Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Sporting News. Kirkpatrick joined Hightower on the Athlon Sports Third-Team, while Lester made his way to the second team of Phil Steele and Lindy’s. Richardson was a first-team pick on Phil Steele and Playboy and a second-team choice by Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Sporting News. Upshaw was named to Phil Steele’s Third-Team list as was Vlachos, who also earned third-team recognition from Athlon Sports.
TIDE PLAYERS EARN EARLY ACCOLADES: Twelve Alabama players have been named to 14 different preseason awards watch lists heading into the 2011 season. The players have been recognized before the start of the 2011 season as potentially the top players at their position nationally. Trent Richardson leads the way for the Tide appearing on five of the 14 lists, while Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw were named to four of the lists. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Marquis Maze and William Vlachos appeared on three difference lists, and Darius Hanks and Barrett Jones on two. Rounding out the preseason watch nods were Nico Johnson and Michael Williams, making one list apiece. Barron, Hightower, Kirkpatrick and Upshaw are all on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) and are joined by Lester on the Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player of the year) list. Richardson has been named to many of the overall player and running back award watch list that have been announced, including the Doak Walker Award (best running back), the Maxwell Award (most outstanding player) and the Walter Camp Award (player of the year). Lester also appears on the Walter Camp Award list with Richardson. For a complete listing of the preseason watch lists, refer to the chart on page 4.
TWO TIDE PLAYERS NAMED PLAYBOY ALL-AMERICANS: Alabama landed two players on the 2011 Playboy Magazine annual preseason College Football All-America Team. Mark Barron was selected at safety and Trent Richardson at running back. Alabama has had eight Playboy All-Americans in the last four years after Andre Smith was chosen in 2008, Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas were selected in 2009 and Julio Jones and Mark Ingram in 2010.
ALABAMA HAS RECORD NUMBER OF PRESEASON ALL-SEC SELECTIONS: The Tide placed a total of 16 players on the Preseason All-SEC team, which is the most in any year in the league. In addition, Alabama’s nine first-team selections is the highest for any team in a single season beating out the previous high of eight that was set by Alabama in 2010 and Florida in 2009.
11th Annual Herbie Awards: ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit unveiled his annual “Herbie Awards” prior to the start of the 2011 season. Alabama was well represented, garnering six different accolades. Junior Trent Richardson was named as one of the best running backs while the Tide linebackers were mentioned as one of the best position units in college football. Sophomore linebacker C.J. Mosley was mentioned as a “Name You’ll Know by October” while head coach Nick Saban was named as one of the best defensive minds in the sport. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart made the list of “See You Next Year: College Head Coaches in 2012”. Senior safety Mark Barron was named to the All-Uni Team. Herbstreit also predicted that Alabama will defeat South Carolina to earn the SEC Championship.
NFL DRAFT: The Crimson Tide saw five UA players selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, including first-round picks Marcell Dareus (third overall to the Buffalo Bills), Julio Jones (sixth overall to the Atlanta Falcons), James Carpenter (25th overall to the Seattle Seahawks) and Mark Ingram (28th overall to the New Orleans Saints). Greg McElroy rounded out the Alabama draft picks by being selected in the seventh round (208th overall) by the New York Jets.
NFL IMPACT: Alabama has been a feeder-system for the National Football League in recent years and the start of the 2011 NFL campaign proved no different. All four Crimson Tide first round picks (Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and James Carpenter) earned the start in week one for their respective teams. The four rookie starters were second among all schools as Wisconsin had five former players start in their pro debuts. In all, 12 rookies earned the start in their first game from the Southeastern Conference.
TOUGH SLATE: Alabama boasts one of the most difficult schedules in the nation with four games against teams ranked in the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll top 25. The Tide has already faced then-No. 20 Penn State, where Alabama came out with a 27-11 win, then-No. 12 Arkansas, winning 38-14 and then-No. 12 Florida, taking home the 38-10 victory. The Tide will also take on No. 2 LSU (Nov. 5) and No. 23 Auburn (Nov. 26). In addition, one more of Alabama’s opponents are receiving votes in the poll (Tennessee).
BEATING THE BEST: Alabama is 17-5 against the Associated Press Top 25 over the past three seasons and 9-3 against AP top 10 teams. UA had reeled off nine straight wins against top 25 teams until the loss at South Carolina. The Crimson Tide’s 31-6 win over No. 7 Florida on October 2, was the Tide’s second straight win over a top 10 team and third top 25 victory in a four-week span. Alabama went 5-3 against the AP Top 25 last season.
ALABAMA HAS SECOND MOST WINS SINCE 2008: Alabama has won 41 games dating back to the start of the 2008 season, which is the second most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Crimson Tide won 12 games in 2008, followed that with a perfect 14-0 record in 2009 and a 10-3 mark in 2010. Alabama is one win back of Boise State, with 42 wins. The Tide has the most victories of any team that plays in a BCS conference.
ALABAMA RANKED 54 STRAIGHT WEEKS BY AP: Alabama has been ranked in 54-straight Associated Press polls, which is the longest streak in the nation. The streak began with the first poll of the 2008 season. Boise State holds the next longest streaks with 50 straight mentions.
ALABAMA DEGREES: Alabama’s success on the field over the past three seasons under the direction of head coach Nick Saban has also coincided with the Crimson Tide’s success in the classroom. The 2011 Crimson Tide begins the season with 11 players that already have degrees in hand, including Hardie Buck (Aug. 2011), Josh Chapman (May 2011), Nick Gentry (Dec. 2010), Brandon Gibson (Dec. 2010), Barrett Jones (Aug. 2011), Phelon Jones (May 2011), Alfred McCullough (May 2011), Morgan Ogilvie (Aug. 2011), Chris Underwood (May 2011), William Vlachos (May 2011) and Alex Watkins (Dec. 2010). Over the past four seasons (2008-11) the Crimson Tide has seen 42 players compete for the Crimson Tide after having already graduated.
RETURNING SUCCESS: Alabama returns 19 starters and 51 lettermen from its 2010 squad that went 10-3, finishing the season ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the USA TODAY Coaches’ poll. Much of last year’s preseason talk was about the Tide’s offense, whereas this year it has been much about the defense. Highlighting the list of returnees in the defensive backfield is senior All-American Mark Barron and junior All-American Robert Lester. Barron was the team’s leader in total tackles with 75, while Lester led Alabama in interceptions with eight. Among the Tide’s returnees up front is senior Courtney Upshaw and junior Dont’a Hightower, who combined for 121 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, seven sacks and five pass breakups. Upshaw was first on the team in tackles for loss with 14.5 and ranked fifth in the SEC with his seven sacks. As a unit, Alabama’s defense finished the 2010 season ranked third nationally in scoring defense (13.54 ppg), fifth in total defense (286.38) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (103.54).
SABAN AMONG THE BEST: Head coach Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa led to the Crimson Tide’s rapid rise up the national rankings. That success in such a short period of time impacted the Tide’s record book. Saban produced the largest win increase from year one to year two in school history as Alabama went from seven wins in 2007 to 12 wins in 2008. He is one of two coaches (with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops) in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to have coached 10 years and never suffered through a losing season. Saban achieved more firsts in 2009 with back-to-back 10-win seasons and his first undefeated campaign. He followed that up with another 10-win season in 2011. Saban ranks sixth in winning percentage (71.5 percent) among active coaches who have coached at least 10 years of FBS football. He is also the only active coach, and one of only two coaches (with former Florida head coach Urban Meyer) to win two BCS National Championships and the first to accomplish the feat at two different schools.
NEW HIRES: The Alabama football staff features three new assistants in 2011 with the addition of Mike Groh (wide receivers and recruiting coordinator), Chris Rumph (defensive line) and Jeff Stoutland (offensive line). Groh, a former quarterback at Virginia, joins the Crimson Tide after most recently serving as quarterbacks coach at Louisville. Rumph, a four-year letterman at South Carolina, spent the last five seasons as the defensive ends coach at Clemson, while Stoutland served as Miami’s offensive line coach from 2007-10.
SUNSERI FAMILY OF FOOTBALL: Alabama assistant head coach Sal Sunseri is joined this season by his youngest son Vinnie, who has thrice been named one of the Specialists of the Week by the coaching staff. The Sunseri family tree now spans to two major college football programs as his eldest son, Tino, enters his junior season at Pittsburgh. Tino will once again take the reins of the Panther offense as he enters his second season as the starting quarterback and was named a team captain. Sal left his mark on the field as well, earning consensus All-American honors as a senior team captain at Pittsburgh in 1981. In addition, he anchored a Panther defense that led the NCAA in total defense in 1980 and 1981.
Helmet Decals: The Alabama football team is sporting more than just crimson on its helmets in 2011. The Crimson Tide wears a houndstooth pattern decal and a number 77 decal on all of its helmets this season. The houndstooth decal represents the memory of the devastation created by the tornado that hit the Tuscaloosa community on April 27 and the 77 decal is in memory of the late Aaron Douglas, a Tide offensive lineman who passed away in May.
DEFENSE MAKES A STATEMENT: Alabama’s defense entered the season as one of the more impressive units on paper in the country, and Kirby Smart’s bunch quickly proved they know how to make it translate to the field. Through five games, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to an average of 191.6 total yards of offense, ranking Alabama third in the nation in total defense. The Tide also ranks in the top three in the remaining defensive categories, including pass efficiency (second - 83.34 passer efficiency rating), scoring defense (first - 8.40 ppg), rushing defense (first - 39.60 ypg) and pass defense (fifth - 152.00 ypg). Those marks lead the SEC in each category.
NON-OFFENSIVE TDs IN THE SABAN ERA: Courtney Upshaw’s 45-yard interception return in the second quarter at Florida on October 1, was Alabama’s second interception return of the 2011 season, and the second in two weeks along with DeQuan Menzie’s 25-yard interception return for a score against Arkansas. The score against the Gators was Alabama’s third non-offensive touchdown of 2011 and the 23rd overall since the Nick Saban Era began in 2007. Since Saban took over as Alabama head coach, the Crimson Tide has garnered 23 non-offensive touchdowns including 10 interception returns, 7 punt returns, 3 kickoff returns, 2 fumble returns and 1 blocked punt return for a touchdown.
COMPLETIONS HARD TO COME BY: The Alabama defense has been the third best in the nation in limiting completions from opposing quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide has held opponents to a meager 46.11 completion percentage through four games (83-of-180). The Tide is also third in the nation in yards per attempt at 4.22 ypa while ranking sixth in yards per completion at 9.16.
YARDS AT A PREMIUM: The Alabama defense is only allowing an average of 191.6 yards per game entering this week, which ranks third nationally and leads the SEC. The Tide is also surrendering only 3.06 yards per play, which leads the nation. UA opponents have run 313 plays against the Crimson Tide defense this season and only managed 79 plays – both running and passing – that went for more than five yards, which accounts for just 25.2 percent. On the flip side of that, the Alabama offense has seen 45.6 percent of its plays go for more than five yards (152-of-333). The Tide defense has also given up just 32 plays (10.2 percent) of more than 10 yards and 17 plays of more than 15 yards (5.4 percent).
ALABAMA TERRITORY PROTECTED GROUND: Crossing midfield against the Crimson Tide defense has not been an easy task in the first five games of the 2011 season. Alabama opponents have driven across the 50-yard line just 16 times (only counts drives that started in the opponent territory), but of those 16 drives that moved into Alabama territory, the opponent got passed the UA 40-yard line only 10 times. Of those 16 drives, opponents have managed just 34 points (four touchdowns and two field goals). Alabama has forced interceptions on three of those drives and punts two other times. The Tide has also blocked one field goal, forced two turnovers on downs once and recovered a fumble.
STOUT DEFENSIVE OUTING: The Alabama defense once again turned in a strong defensive effort in the win over Florida. The Crimson Tide held the Gators to 222 total yards (15 rushing, 207 passing) on Saturday night. The 15 rushing yards was the lowest total for the Gators in series history. In Saban’s 59-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited the opposition to less than 300 yards of total offense 34 times, or 57 percent of the time. The Tide has not allowed more than 251 yards (Penn State) in a single game this season and has twice limited the opponent to less than 200 yards (Kent State – 90 yards; North Texas – 169 yards).
10 POINTS OR LESS: Alabama held Florida to just 10 points Saturday night. Under Saban, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to 10 points or less 27 times including three times in five games this season. Last season Alabama held opponents to 10 points or less eight times and limited opponents to that mark seven times in 2009 and 2008. In 2007, the Tide posted two games in which it held opponents to that mark. Since 2007, Alabama has held opponents to 10 points or less 26 times and less than a touchdown 12 times.
FIRST DOWN STICK HARD TO FIND: Alabama’s defense has also proved to be very stingy when it comes to allowing first downs, surrendering just 56 first downs in five games for a an average of 11.2 per contest. UA has allowed just 14 total first downs rushing and six have come by penalty. Opposing offenses are converting just 30.1 percent of their third-down attempts against Alabama (25-of-83). The Crimson Tide gave up a season-low six against Kent State. The Tide allowed just one rushing first down and a single first down to KSU in the entire first half. The six first downs allowed are the second fewest in the Nick Saban era (2007-present) – UA gave up just five to Chattanooga in 2009. The Crimson Tide has held opponents to nine first downs or less nine times dating back to the start of the 2008 season.
YARDS HARD TO COME BY: During Nick Saban’s last 45 games at the Capstone, the Crimson Tide defense has held the opposing offense to less than 200 yards of total offense 15 times. Alabama has accomplished the feat twice thus far this season, limiting Kent State to 90 total yards, while holding North Texas to 169. The 90 yards against Kent State also marked the second time a Saban defense has limited its opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense. Alabama’s best came in 2009 when they held Chattanooga to just 84 yards of total offense. The Tide held opponents under 200 yards three times in 2010, four times in 2009 and six times in 2008.
THREE AND OUT: Alabama led the nation in defensive three-and-outs in 2009 with 5.61 per game and then ranked 10th nationally last season with 4.08 per game. The 2011 season is off to an even better start with a national-best 36 three-and-outs in five games. The Tide forced Kent State into three-and-outs on 12 of its 17 possessions. UA then forced Penn State to three three-and-outs in week two and North Texas into eight. Alabama opened SEC play by recording seven three-and-outs against Arkansas followed by six at Florida, making for an average of 7.2 per game.
FIRST-HALF DEFENSE: Alabama allowed 10 points in the first half of the Florida game, snapping a nine-game streak of allowing seven points or less in the first half. The Crimson Tide had surrendered three points or less six times over that span, including three first half shutouts.
GROUND DEFENSE: Keeping opposing running backs under 100 yards is nothing new for the Crimson Tide. Alabama has surrendered just nine individual 100-yard rushing games dating back to the 2005 season (84 games), a mark that ranks second nationally behind Boston College. Since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007 (59 games), Alabama has allowed four players to rush for 100 yards in a game: Tennessee’s Tauren Poole (117 yards), Mississippi’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis (131 yards), Houston’s Anthony Alridge (100 yards) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (195 yards).
TOUGH SLEDDING ON THE GROUND: Alabama is now tied with Ohio State for surrendering the fewest rushing touchdowns in the nation since the start of the 2005 season, giving up only 48. The Buckeyes had led the nation until giving up a one-yard rushing touchdown to Miami on September 17. Since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007, the Crimson Tide has given up 30 rushing touchdowns while OSU has allowed 28. In 2010, Alabama surrendered just six rushing touchdowns in 13 games and has given up one this season in the final minutes against Penn State.
NOWHERE TO RUN: Alabama held Florida to 15 rushing yards on 29 carries in the victory last week. In Saban’s 59-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited the opposition to less than 100 rushing yards 36 times, or 60 percent of the time. The 15 yards on the ground by the Gators marks the fourth time this season the opposition has been held under 100 yards.
BARRON HONORED FOR PERFORMANCE AT PENN STATE: Senior safety Mark Barron was named the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week on September 14. Barron totaled seven tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery and both of his take-aways thwarted Penn State drives inside Crimson Tide territory. The interception ended a Penn State drive at the UA 9-yard line in the third quarter and the fumble recovery stopped the Nittany Lions at the Alabama 35-yard line in the fourth quarter. The interception was the 11th of Barron’s career. He was also named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts at Penn State.
DePRIEST MAKES HIS PRESENCE FELT EARLY: True freshman linebacker Trey Depriest has started on special teams and seen reserve action at linebacker for the Crimson Tide this season. He was named the co-SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts against Kent State where he led the team in tackles with 10 while making his presence felt literally throughout the stadium with multiple bone-jarring hits. DePriest has also been twice named a Specialist of the Week by the Alabama coaching staff and is third on the team with 17 tackles in five games this year.
RETURNING CAPTAINS: Senior safety Mark Barron and junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower are the third set of captains to return to the position for a second season since Alabama first began naming multiple team captains in 1956. In 2002, both Jarret Johnson and Tyler Watts were second-year leaders, while Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Johnson repeated in 2008.
HIGHTOWER RETURNS: Junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower returns for his fourth season at the Capstone as the man in the middle of Alabama’s complex defensive scheme. Hightower received a medical redshirt for the 2009 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the fourth game of the season against Arkansas. An amazingly quick recovery returned him to the practice field with full contact during spring drills. Hightower split time between the Mike and Will linebacker spots in 2010 while also seeing time with his hand in the dirt on passing downs to take advantage of his pass-rushing skills. The Lewisburg, Tenn., native has 158 career tackles with 12.0 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries. Hightower leads the team in 2011 with 25 tackles in four games with a career-best 4.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.
BARRON RETURNS: Senior safety Mark Barron is one of the most prominent safeties in the nation. The Mobile, Ala., native is a two-time first-team All-SEC player while garnering third-team All-America honors in 2009 and first-team All-America recognition in 2010. He has 175 career tackles and has ranked second and first, respectively, among Crimson Tide players in total stops the past two seasons. Barron has 19 pass breakups over the past three seasons and 11 interceptions. In 2010, Barron was the leader of the Tide secondary. He finished as the Tide’s top tackler 75 stops while missing the bowl game with a torn pectoral muscle. This year, he is second on the team with 22 total stops while recording one interception and two pass breakups.
OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT UNDER McELWAIN: Since offensive coordinator Jim McElwain’s arrival in 2008, Alabama has improved each season in points per game, rushing yards and passing yards. The Crimson Tide is currently averaging 11.3 more points per game in 2011 (38.4 ppg) than it did in 2007 (27.1 ppg) and 64.2 more yards per game in total offense.
SCORING VARIETY: Alabama has found the end zone in a variety of ways in its two SEC contests this season. The Crimson Tide threw for two touchdowns against Arkansas, rushed for one touchdown and returned a punt and an interception for scores. DeQuan Menzie returned an interception 25 yards for a score, while Marquis Maze returned a punt 83 yards. AJ McCarron tossed two touchdown passes, while Eddie Lacy rushed for a touchdown. In last week’s game at Florida, Trent Richardson rushed for a pair of touchdowns, McCarron and Lacy also tacked on one rushing touchdown apiece, and Courtnew Upshaw returned an interception 45 yards for the score.
FIRST POSSESSION SCORES: For the fourth time this season Alabama scored on its first possession with the Jeremy Shelley 32-yard field goal against Florida last week. The only game thus far in 2011 the Crimson Tide has not scored on its first possession was at Penn State on Sept. 10. Alabama opened the season with a touchdown against Kent State (Sept. 4), kicked a field goal against North Texas (Sept. 18) and scored a touchdown against Arkansas (Sept. 24).
RICHARDSON SETS CAREER BEST: Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson had a career game against Florida. Richardson set a single-game best with 181 yards on the strength of a career-high 29 carries. His previous best came this season against North Texas (Sept. 17) when he ran for 167 yards on 11 carries. The 181 yards is the most by an Alabama back against Florida in the series history, surpassing Billy Jackson’s 147 yards against the Gators in 1978.
RICHARDSON HAVING BIG YEAR: Richardson recorded his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game in the SEC road matchup at Florida. He is in the top 20 on the Alabama career rushing yard list with 2,073 yards to rank 14th in Alabama history. Richardson leads the Crimson Tide with 622 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns (11 total touchdowns). Richardson is the 16th Alabama back to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a career. His 124.40 rushing yards per game ranks ninth nationally and second in the SEC. He also leads the league with an average of 13.2 points per game while ranking tied for fifth nationally in scoring.
RICHARDSON ON RECORD PACE: Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson has been scoring touchdowns at an alarming rate to start the 2011 season. In just five games, Richardson has found the end zone 11 times. Richardson opened the year with three touchdowns against Kent State and followed that up with two more at Penn State. Richardson scored three touchdowns for Alabama against North Texas and added another against Arkansas. With the two scores against Florida, Richardson pushes his career total to 24 touchdowns on the ground and 30 overall. The 30 touchdowns (24 rush, 5 rec., 1 ret.) ranks tied for fifth with Bobby Marlow (1950-52) on the Alabama career list. Shaun Alexander is the all-time leader at Alabama with 50 career touchdowns.
RICHARDSON HAMMERS HIS WAY PAST 100: Junior running back Trent Richardson has rushed for over 100 yards in the past four games, turning in a two-touchdown, 111-yard outing at Happy Valley against Penn State followed by a 167-yard, three-touchdown performance against North Texas and a 126-yard effort vs. Arkansas. He totaled 181 yards and two touchdowns at Florida on Saturday. Richardson also went over the century mark at Tennessee in 2010 (119 yards), vs. Penn State in 2010 (144 yards), vs. Florida International in 2009 (118 yards) and against Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.
IMPRESSIVE GROUND ATTACK: Alabama scored four touchdowns on the ground Saturday at Florida to move its season total to 17. The 17 rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth nationally and leads the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide has scored 24 touchdowns this season with 17 coming on the ground.
JONES AND RICHARDSON HONORED BY THE SEC: Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson and junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones were named SEC Offensive Player of the Week and SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, respectively, following the Crimson Tide’s 38-14 victory over Arkansas on September 24. Richardson rushed for a game-high 126 yards on 17 carries, marking his third-straight 100-yard game, and also caught three passes for a game-best 85 yards. Jones received the highest grade on the Alabama offensive line and helped lead a balanced Tide attack that led to 197 rushing yards and 200 passing yards.
Darius Hanks RETURNS: Alabama senior wide receiver Darius Hanks returned to the field on September 17 for the first time this season after sitting out two games in compliance with the NCAA redshirt rule. In 2011 he has four receptions for 33 yards.
AJ CONSISTENT AND EFFICIENT AT QB: Alabama sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron has shown excellent decision making after the first five games of the 2011 season. The native of Mobile, Ala., has connected on 75-of-120 passing (62.5 percent) for 919 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions in the last four games. McCarron has started all five of Alabama’s contests this season at quarterback. He ranks 63rd nationally and seventh in the SEC with a 134.50 passing efficiency rating.
TWO ROAD STARTS … TWO ROAD WINS: Making just his second-career start at quarterback, AJ McCarron recorded his first road win and it came at one of the most intimidating venues – Beaver Stadium – in college football against one of the most tradition-rich program – Penn State. McCarron’s initial success on the road for the first time follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Greg McElroy, who defeated No. 7 Virginia Tech 34-24 in his first start away from home at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 2009. He then won his first true road contest at Kentucky later that season, 38-20. McElroy finished his career 11-2 away from Bryant-Denny (includes neutral site games). McCarron also joined McElroy in registering a win over Arkansas in his first SEC start. Last week, McCarron went into another hostile environment in his first SEC road contest where he guided the Tide to a 38-10 victory at Florida.
MAZE MAKES A STATEMENT: Senior wide receiver/return specialist Marquis Maze is one of the key components in replacing All-America wide receiver Julio Jones, and Maze has shown exactly what he is capable of. The senior enjoyed a big day in the season opener against Kent State, setting personal single-game bests in receiving and returns. For the game, Maze returned eight punts for 96 yards (12-yard average), returned a kickoff for 39 yards, and caught eight passes for 118 yards for a total of 253 all-purpose yards. The receiving totals are single-game highs for Maze at Alabama, exceeding his prior high of six catches against LSU in 2009 and 96 yards against Florida in 2009. On the season, Maze leads the Crimson Tide in receptions with 22 for 262 yards (11.9 yard average) and one touchdown. He also has 21 punt returns for 320 yards, with an average of 15.2 yards per return, ranking 12th nationally.
Barrett Jones DOES IT ALL ON CRIMSON TIDE OFFENSIVE LINE: Junior All-American Barrett Jones has started at right guard the past two seasons, but added a few responsibilities to his résumé this spring and fall. He started all four games this season at left tackle and has also seen snaps at left guard, right tackle and center. A candidate for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, Jones has now started 30 games at the Capstone.
O-LINE EXPERIENCE A KEY: Alabama enters Saturday’s game with one of the most experienced offensive lines in the nation. The Crimson Tide return four starters from last year’s unit and a combined 101 careers starts. Center William Vlachos leads the line with 32 career starts, making every start dating back to the 2009 season opener. Tackle/guard Barrett Jones is close behind with 30 starts, missing only two games late last season (Georgia State & Auburn) with a sprained ankle. Chance Warmack has started the last 18 games at left guard and D.J. Fluker started 14 games at right tackle. Anthony Steen is the newcomer to the group with just seven starts.
NEW QUARTERBACKS MAKING STARTS IN THE FBS: Alabama is one of 27 FBS schools that had a quarterback making his first start during the 2011 season. In addition to Alabama, two other SEC programs will placed a newcomer at the QB position including Auburn and Mississippi.
100-YARD RUSHERS AND RECEIVERS: Thirty-one times in 29 different games Alabama has had rushers exceed 100 yards, and the Tide has had 14 100-yard receivers in 14 games since head coach Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Former running back Mark Ingram recorded 12 100-yard rushing games during his career, while junior Trent Richardson has eight 100-yard rushing efforts and sophomore Eddie Lacy has produced two. Under Saban, Alabama has gone 28-1 in those 29 games that produced a 100-yard rusher. Marquis Maze (1) and Trent Richardson (1) are the only current players with a 100-yard receiving game. The Tennessee game on Oct. 23, 2010, marked the sixth time under Saban that Alabama has had a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same game.
Special Teams Notes
MAZE RETURNS KICKOFF for 70 YARDS AGAINST GATORS: Alabama senior wide receiver and return specialist Marquis Maze had another stellar special teams performance in the Crimson Tide’s 38-10 win at Florida. Towards the end of the first quarter, Maze returned a kickoff for 70 yards, his longest kickoff return of the season, setting up an Alabama touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. Maze leads the team with an average of 36.4 yards per kick return.
MAZE WEAVES TO AN 83-YARD PUNT RETURN FOR A TD: Alabama senior wide receiver and return specialist Marquis Maze took the first Crimson Tide opportunity of the second half against Arkansas for a touchdown on an 83-yard punt return. The punt return for a touchdown is the first of his career and the longest return of his career. The punt return was the first for a touchdown for Alabama since Javier Arenas found the end zone against Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2009. The return also marked the 10th longest return for a touchdown in Alabama history.
MAZE SETS PUNT RETURN RECORD: Alabama senior wide receiver and return specialist Marquis Maze totaled a career-best 253 all-purpose yards vs. Kent State while also leading all receivers with 118 yards on a career-best eight catches. But he etched his name in the Alabama record book with a game-high tying eight punt returns for 96 yards. The 96 yards was also the seventh-most in a single game in UA history. Maze also added one kickoff return for 39 yards.
ALABAMA-VANDERBILT SERIES: Alabama holds a 58-19-4 (60-18-4 without NCAA rulings) series lead over Vanderbilt in a series that dates back in the Alabama record books to the 1903 season. The Crimson Tide and Commodores will be meeting for the 83rd time overall and the first time since 2007. Alabama has played Vanderbilt 16 times in Bryant-Denny Stadium, losing once to the Commodores once in Tuscaloosa in 1984. The last time the two teams met was on September 8, 2007, with the Tide posting a 24-10 victory in Nick Saban’s first year coaching Alabama. Alabama later vacated the victory due to NCAA ruling.
SERIES RECORDS BY SITES: Alabama and Vanderbilt have met at four different sites since the first game in the series in 1903. The Crimson Tide has a 31-6-2 (32-6-2 without NCAA rulings) record against the Commodores in the state of Alabama, including a 14-1 mark (15-1 without NCAA rulings) in Tuscaloosa. Vanderbilt’s lone win in Bryant-Denny Stadium came on Sept. 29, 1984. The Tide and Commodores have also played in Birmingham, where Alabama has a 15-3-1 lead in the series, and Mobile, where Vanderbilt holds the edge with a 2-1-1 record.
SABAN VERSUS VANDERBILT: Alabama head coach Nick Saban has a 2-0 record in his career against Vanderbilt, with one of those wins coming from his time as head coach at LSU and the other while coaching at Alabama. This is Saban’s first time playing the Commodores in Tuscaloosa as his lone meeting came in Nashville in 2007.
ALABAMA CELEBRATES HOMECOMING: Alabama will play its 91st Homecoming football game this Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Vanderbilt at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama has compiled a 76-13-1 (.849) all-time homecoming record, including a 23-10 win over Mississippi on Oct. 16, 2010. The Crimson Tide is riding a nine-game homecoming winning streak dating back to the 2002 season. UA has not lost on homecoming since a 35-21 loss to LSU (coached by Nick Saban) on Nov. 3, 2001. Alabama’s current nine-game homecoming winning streak is the longest streak since a school-record 26-game winning streak from 1958-83. The first homecoming game took place on Armistice Day during the 1920 season. From 1929-39, Alabama won 11 consecutive homecoming games. Alabama’s record 26-game homecoming winning streak ran from 1958-83. Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was a perfect 25-0 in homecoming games at Alabama from 1958-82. Coach Ray Perkins extended the streak to 26 games with a 44-13 win over Memphis State on Oct. 1, 1983. The streak ended the following year with a 30-21 loss to Vanderbilt on Sept. 29, 1984. Since 1984, Alabama has compiled an 19-6 homecoming record over the last 25 years.
ALABAMA WINS 20th CONSECUTIVE SEC OPENER: With the victory over Arkansas, Alabama has posted a 54-21-3 (.720) on-the-field record in Southeastern Conference openers dating back to the league’s inception in 1933. The Crimson Tide has won 20 straight SEC openers, dating back to the 1992 season. The streak began with a 25-8 win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 5, 1992. The 20-game winning streak includes 12 wins over Vanderbilt (1992-2001, 2006-07), five wins against Arkansas (2002, 2008-10) and one win against Kentucky (2003), Mississippi (2004) and South Carolina (2005). The last time Alabama lost a SEC opener was Sept. 14, 1991, when Florida beat Alabama 35-0 in Gainesville. The 20-game winning streak in SEC openers is the longest streak in school history and the longest active streak in the SEC. The 2011 season marked just the sixth time since divisional play began that Alabama has opened its SEC slate with a Western Division team. That also happened in 2002 (Arkansas), 2004 (Mississippi) and the last three years against (Arkansas).
34 NATIONAL TV GAMES IN LAST 44 GAMES: Alabama’s contest at Florida on Oct. 1, marked the 34th nationally-televised game since the start of the 2008 season for the Crimson Tide. In 2010, Alabama had five games on CBS, three games on ESPN, two games on ESPN2, one on ABC and one on ESPNU. In 2009, UA played two games on ABC, including the BCS National Championship Game, and six games on CBS while ESPN broadcast two more Crimson Tide games. In 2008, Alabama had 10 of its 14 games broadcast nationally, including five games on CBS, three games on ESPN, one on ABC and one on FOX.
TIDE 43-3 UNDER SABAN WHEN LEADING AT THE HALF: The Crimson Tide is 43-3 when leading at halftime under head coach Nick Saban. Alabama had a 28-game winning streak snapped in 2010 against LSU. The first two losses came against LSU with the last loss to Auburn in 2010. In 2007, UA held a 20-17 halftime lead before losing, 41-34, on Nov. 3, 2007, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In 2010, UA led 10-3 at the half before the Tigers rallied for a 24-20 win at Tiger Stadium. The Tide lost 28-27 to Auburn to close out the 2010 season after leading 24-7 at the half. The Crimson Tide is 3-5 under Saban when trailing at halftime and 2-2 when tied at halftime. The three wins when trailing at the half came in a 34-24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech on Sept. 5, 2009, in Atlanta; a 24-15 victory over No. 9 LSU on Nov. 7, 2009; and a 24-20 win at Arkansas on Sept. 25, 2010 . Alabama’s two wins when tied at halftime came at LSU on Nov. 8, 2008, (a 27-21 victory) and at Auburn with a 26-21 win on Nov. 27, 2009.
HUGE CROWDS: On September 10, at Penn State, Alabama played before the largest crowd ever to witness a Crimson Tide football game as 107,846 fans packed Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. The Crimson Tide has played in nine games away from home that saw the attendance figure eclipse 100,000, with all but Saturday’s game being played at Neyland Stadium against Tennessee.
ALABAMA CONTINUES SUCCESS ON THE ROAD: Alabama’s win at Florida on October 1, continued a trend of road success by the Crimson Tide in recent seasons. Including the win over the Gators, Alabama has a 13-2 mark in true road games since 2008. The Tide posted a 3-2 mark last season on the heels of identical 4-0 records in 2008 and 2009. Alabama has outscored its opponents 497-244 over that span. In all games away from Tuscaloosa since 2008, Alabama is 18-4, including a 10-4 mark against ranked opponents.
FRESHMAN ACADEMICS: Alabama’s 2010 freshman class did more than just excel on the football field, the Crimson Tide placed 11 rookies on the 2011 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll, by far the highest total in the SEC - more than double the second-place team. Mississippi State was second with five, while Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee each had four. Florida and Georgia placed three representatives on the list apiece, and Arkansas, LSU and Vanderbilt all had two members of the honor roll, respectively. Mississippi rounded out the list with one. Alabama freshmen that made the list include: Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, Corey Grant, Adrian Hubbard, Harrison Jones, Arie Kouandjio, C.J. Mosley, Nick Perry, Brian Vogler, DeAndrew White and Jay Williams. The 2009 freshman class was equally impressive placing 12 on the list, which again was more than double the next-highest SEC institution.
TOP AIDES: Alabama’s coaching staff was ranked No. 1 in the Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com Top 10 Football Coaching Staffs list. Following the Tide was Oklahoma, TCU, Virginia Tech, Oregon, Iowa, South Carolina, Penn State, Boise State and Wisconsin. Alabama’s leadership on the sidelines and in the booth has a wealth of knowledge across all levels of football. The nine-man staff features a former head coach at the Bowl Subdivision level in Bobby Williams (Michigan State). The staff also has five coaches that have spent time as assistant coaches in the NFL in Mike Groh (Jets), Jim McElwain (Raiders), Kirby Smart (Dolphins), Sal Sunseri (Panthers) and Bobby Williams (Lions and Dolphins).
CRIMSON TIDE PLAYERS ON NFL ROSTERS: The Alabama football program is well represented in the NFL as it starts the 2011 season with former players and coaches dotting league rosters. The Tide has 38 former players and coaches working in the NFL this season. Charlie Peprah is the only Alabama player on the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. The Crimson Tide has 25 current NFL players. There are 13 former UA players and/or coaches serving as assistant coaches in the NFL this season.
ALABAMA’S TV RECORD: Alabama has compiled a 185-125-4 (.593) all-time record in 314 televised games. This does not include pay-per-view, tape-delayed or closed circuit telecasts.
OVERTIME RECORD: Alabama is 4-7 (.364) all-time in overtime games. In its last overtime game, the Crimson Tide defeated LSU 27-21 at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 8, 2008. Alabama has lost six of its last nine overtime games. The Crimson Tide is 4-6 (.400) in overtime games against SEC teams. Alabama is 2-4 (.333) in overtime home games. The Crimson Tide is 3-4 (.429) in single-overtime games.
NICK’S KIDS: At Michigan State, head coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry, started the Nick’s Kids Foundation, which the Sabans have continued in Tuscaloosa. Since their arrival at the University of Alabama, the Sabans have helped raise more than $2 million for “Nick’s Kids” that has been distributed to more than 150 charities and organizations throughout the state of Alabama.