AP photo by Butch Dill|
Glen Coffee (38) jumps over Houston’s Quinte Williams, lower left, while Tide lineman Antoine Caldwell loses his helmet in Alabama’s 30-24 homecoming win Saturday. Coffee gained 121 yards in his first start for the Tide.
With Tide in neutral, Castille saves victory
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — His hair still matted from wearing his headset, his body nervously ticking at the podium during his postgame news conference, a sleep-deprived Nick Saban had a statement for Alabama fans following the Crimson Tide’s 30-24 homecoming win over Houston:
“When we play, don’t leave early. We’ll make it interesting.”
A decent-size portion of a capacity 92,138 crowd stayed to watch the Crimson Tide nearly blow a 23-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 30-10 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Alabama needed a Simeon Castille interception in the end zone with no time left to
preserve the victory.
Houston never quite made it all the way back, but Saban knows that now, halfway through the season, his team needs
to figure out a way to play an entire game.
The Crimson Tide (4-2, 2-1 SEC), heads to Ole Miss on Saturday to resume its conference schedule as a team that took yet another valuable step in Saban’s “process.”
“The biggest lesson to be learned is for two games, we have been ahead, and we let the other team in the game come back on us because we don’t continue to play offensively,” Saban said.
“You try to tell guys to play for 60 minutes in the game, don’t pay attention to the scoreboard because it means nothing. We didn’t do well in the second half of the game offensively.”
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson’s day mirrored that of his team.
He started out strong with 105 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and was 15-of-23 passing for 157 yards as Alabama started the fourth quarter up 31-10.
Then, as he described, the Tide started “coasting” in the fourth quarter.
Alabama was outgained in the second half 267 yards to 95 by a Cougar offense that Saban said kept him awake at night all week.
Case Keenum entered at quarterback at the end of the third quarter for Houston, replacing the ineffective Blake Joseph, and gave Houston a spark, completing 11 of 17 passes for 132 yards with one touchdown pass. But he also threw two interceptions.
AP photo by Butch Dill|
Alabama defensive back Simeon Castille (2) intercepts the ball in the end zone to seal the win over Houston 30-24 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. He is helped by teammate Marcus Carter, right. Alabama owned a 23-0 lead in the first half before the Cougars took advantage of the Tide’s “coasting.”
Wilson was 0-of-4 in the final 15 minutes and threw a costly interception that set up the Cougars on their final drive.
With 4:28 remaining and Alabama winning 30-24, Rashad Johnson intercepted a pass by Keenum on the Alabama 30-yard line, and returned it 28 yards.
Alabama run some time off the clock, gain a few yards and get into kicker Leigh Tiffin’s field-goal range to put the game away.
But on a third-and-five play from the Houston 37-yard line, Wilson’s shovel pass to Glen Coffee was tipped in the air by the running back and intercepted by Houston safety Brandon Brinkley.
Houston’s offense, which Castille described as having “the best overall skill players that we will see,” drove down to the Alabama 15-yard line in 2:32.
Then with five seconds on the clock, on a fourth-and-three play, Keenum threw to the left side of the end zone, where Castille and safety Marcus Carter outleaped Cougars wide receiver L.J. Castile. The Tide’s Castille came down with the ball, finally securing the victory.
“You never know what is going to happen,” he said. “That is why you need to be ready for everything. And then, I saw an interception. I knew I needed to go out and stop them and we were able to do that.”
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