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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2007
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Alabama Report

Bama solves Bennett

NASHVILLE — While Vanderbilt tried to get All-SEC receiver Earl Bennett open in every which way, Alabama never allowed him much space in a 24-10 win Saturday.

On the game’s first snap, quarterback Chris Nickson found Bennett for a 60-yard reception, which was called back because of an offensive pass interference penalty. Bennett appeared to push off Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson, creating the separation for the big pass play.

It was the only big play Bennett came close to making. Otherwise, the Birmingham native caught four passes for 52 yards with a long of 17.

“We knew they were going to try to get him the ball,” said cornerback Simeon Castille. “We knew it was going to take all 11 of us on defense. We were trying to do our job to contain him.”

All of Alabama’s cornerbacks who played found themselves on Bennett at one point or another, but it was the defensive line that pressured Nickson and backup quarterback Mackenzi Adams constantly. Alabama’s defense was credited with nine quarterback hurries, which means it forced the quarterback to throw faster than he wanted.

Vandy offense familiar

Alabama credited preparation as one of the reasons it limited the Commodores to 232 yards — early preparation.

According to head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide studied the Vanderbilt offense for two days during preseason practice.

“We looked at some of the stuff they have done just so when we got to this point it wouldn’t be new for us,” Castille said. “We are going to start preparing a lot more this week.”

McClain gets a sack

It took until the third quarter of his second collegiate game, but linebacker Rolando McClain finally had a chance to unveil his sack dance.

Near the end of the third quarter, McClain came after Vanderbilt quarterback Mackenzi Adams on a blitz and threw him to the ground. The Decatur High graduate then got up, beat his chest a couple of times and gave a fist pump.

McClain and fellow linebacker Darren Mustin tied for the team lead with six tackles each.

“He’s getting in the right place to make plays,” Saban said.

Vandy’s Langford shines

Vanderbilt safety Reshard Langford’s status for Saturday’s game was in doubt earlier in the week. He was expected to play, but the Commodores had questions about his effectiveness.

Langford injured his ribs a week earlier in Vanderbilt’s season-opening victory against Richmond.

Against Alabama, the Tanner High graduate finished with five total tackles and had an interception in the second quarter.

“We will bounce back,” Langford said. “We’ve got to treat a game like it’s a play. You make a mistake one play, you can’t dwell on it. We didn’t come out victorious, but we’ll go out and practice hard to get ready for next week.”

Hall, Brown still working

Saban said linebacker Prince Hall and wide receiver Keith Brown were going to have to work their way back after being suspended for the season opener against Western Carolina.

He clearly wasn’t kidding. Both were used sparingly Saturday. Brown didn’t catch a pass, and Hall had one tackle.

McClain saw most of the action at middle linebacker in Hall’s place, while Mike McCoy was slotted as Alabama’s No. 2 receiver for most of the game.

Tiffin makes three

Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin was 3-for-5 on field goals with misses of 49 yards and 48 yards away.

Tiffin made shots from 20, 40 and 20 yards to bring his total to 4-for-8 for the season.

Another big first play

Alabama seems to be making a habit of scoring early in games.

Javier Arenas returned a punt 69 yards to the Vanderbilt 1. Terry Grant bowled into the end zone on the next play, which was Alabama’s first offensive snap of the day.

It was the second straight week Grant scored on the first offensive play. Against Western Carolina, Grant ran 47 yards for an opening touchdown.

Crimson everywhere

The Commodores requested to wear their road white jerseys before the game, which meant Alabama could wear its home crimson.

The stands appeared full of crimson-wearing fans, too. A standing-room-only crowd of 39,773 filled Vanderbilt Stadium, and it appeared many Tide fans had bought Vanderbilt season tickets as a way to avoid paying ticket scalpers for seats.

“I was excited to see all of our fans,” Castille said. “It did make it kind of feel like a home game.”

DJ Hall watch

Alabama receiver DJ Hall continued his seemingly methodical march toward breaking Ozzie Newsome’s Alabama record for receiving yards.

Hall picked up 67 yards on three catches against Vanderbilt. He now sits 34 yards away from the NFL Hall of Famer.

Grading the CrimsonTide

Decatur Daily Sports Writer Josh Cooper grades Alabama’s performance in Saturday’s 24-10 win over Vanderbilt, giving the CrimsonTide a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.

OFFENSE: B

It’s tough to grade the Crimson Tide’s offense poorly after racking up 371 yards, but Alabama didn’t exactly light it up in the red zone. Its first touchdown was set up by a punt return, and quarterback John Parker Wilson wasn’t stellar. But Terry Grant was good, and the Tide moved the chains better in the second half.

DEFENSE: A-

When you give up 232 yards against a good offensive team in Vanderbilt, you can hold your head up high. The minus comes from the Commodores’ touchdown drive during garbage time, which bothered the Crimson Tide coaches and players.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Return man Javier Arenas shortened the field in a big way for the Tide, and punter P.J. Fitzgerald had a solid 41.6-yard average. But Leigh Tiffin did miss two field goals — even if they were from 48 and 49 yards out.

OVERALL:B+

On the road, Alabama out-muscled a good SEC opponent and made a statement. This win gives the Tide momentum heading into next week’s game against Arkansas.

Best and worst

Best time to make a statement: On the second snap of the game. Alabama set the tone for the day by nailing Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson.

Best frugality in fans: Every week, Alabama fans surprise you with something else. This week, it was purchasing Vanderbilt season tickets so they wouldn’t have to pay jacked-up prices from scalpers.

Worst atmosphere for a home team: It has been said many times before, but how can you expect to make a bowl when every home game feels like a road game? That is the reality for the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Worst uniform decision: Vanderbilt wearing road white jerseys and allowing Alabama to bring its crimson tops just didn’t make much sense. With the stands full of crimson, it already felt like the game was in Tuscaloosa, not Nashville.

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Josh Cooper
Josh Cooper
DAILY Sports Writer

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