No. 1 Alabama dominates Florida Atlantic, 40-7

By Marc Torrence

Alabama used another strong performance from its defense and a rejuvenated Eddie Lacy to defeat the Florida Atlantic Owls 40-7 in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. It was Alabama’s fourth win of the season and came in its last game before it gets into the meat of its SEC schedule with six straight conference opponents coming up.

“We still can get better,” wide receiver Kenny Bell said. “We don’t need to take our foot off the pedal. If we want to be great we’ve got to play like we’re great and continue practicing like we’re great.”

The lone Owls touchdown came with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter and snapped a scoreless streak that spanned 177 minutes and 25 seconds, dating all the way back to Alabama’s season opener vs. Michigan.

Despite the crowd cheering as loud as it had all game, Florida Atlantic scored on a six-yard touchdown pass while the first-string defense cheered on the backups from the sideline. The Crimson Tide was looking for three consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1966, when Alabama finished undefeated under head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“We were excited, we were wanting them to get the stop like they were the first string and it was the beginning of the game,” safety Vinnie Sunseri said.

“We never talk about [the scoreless streak]. As coaches, we’re just trying to get the guys to play as well as they can play,” head coach Nick Saban said. “To the players it probably meant something, probably meant a lot. …A lot of those players were rooting for the guys out there playing.”

Despite giving up the late score, Alabama’s defense put on another dominant display. The Owls didn’t get a first down until there was 4:31 left in the first half and had just 23 yards of total offense at the half. They finished the game with just 34.

“Our goal is to dominate and I feel like we did,” linebacker Trey DePriest said. “Regardless if we gave up the score or not, I feel like we did our job and dominated.”

On offense, running back Eddie Lacy continued to improve after dealing with an ankle, hamstring and toe injury through spring practice and fall camp. He finished with 107 yards on 15 carries and cut well, didn’t shy away from contact and even showed off his signature spin move a few times.

“It’s getting there,” he said of his spin. “I feel like it was slower than I would normally did it. But I did it and it worked, so it’s all right in my book.”

“Everyday he’s getting better and better,” left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said. “He’s going to blow up sooner than later.”

Alabama’s offense opened the scoring when quarterback AJ McCarron hit Bell on a quick slant route across the middle that Bell took 85 yards for a touchdown on the Tide’s first possession of the game.

“It was a great touchdown,” Bell said. “I felt it was time for me to make a big play to get the offense going.”

After forcing an Owls three-and-out, Alabama drove down the field behind the strength of Lacy and true freshman running back T.J. Yeldon. McCarron hit wide receiver DeAndrew White in the back of the endzone on a play similar to White’s touchdown grab last season against Vanderbilt. White made a leaping grab and a replay showed he kept his feet in bounds.

In the second quarter, Alabama’s offense stalled on three consecutive drives and the Tide was forced to settle for field goals. Cade Foster made the first one from 52 yards out, a career-high for Alabama’s designated long field goal kicker. Jeremy Shelley added 26- and 30-yard field goals of his own. McCarron added another score just before halftime on a four-yard pass to wide receiver Christion Jones that made the score 30-0.

The closest Florida Atlantic got to scoring on Alabama in the first half was in the first quarter when Jesse Williams blocked a field goal that would have broken the scoreless streak.

“I just saw the gap and tried to hit it and jump as high as I could to stick my hand up,” Williams said. “I know where they’re going to try and kick it to. I can’t really take the time to look for the ball, I just jump up and make the biggest body I can to stop it.”

Foster added a 46-yard field goal and true freshman Kenyan Drake scored on an eight-yard touchdown to cap off the UA scoring.

Next week, Alabama has Ole Miss in Bryant-Denny for an 8:00 game. Players and coaches both agreed that, despite the dominant showing, the Tide still has a lot to work on as it continues into SEC play.

“We didn’t finish some drives, we turned the ball over a couple times, we didn’t get any turnover on defense,” Saban said. “When we play against better teams, the consequences will be greater.”

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