TIDE, TAKE THREE
Three tidbits regarding Alabama as it transitions from last week's rout of Michigan to Saturday's home opener against Western Kentucky:• Alabama wound up scoring 70 unanswered points from the third quarter of last year's Auburn game through the BCS title win over LSU until just before halftime against Michigan.• The Crimson Tide used eight true freshmen in the opener: running backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, receiver Amari Cooper, linbackers Denzel Devall, Dillon Lee and Reggie Ragland and defensive backs Geno Smith and Landon Collins.• Yeldon became the first Alabama true freshman to rush for 100 yards in his debut, gaining 111 yards on 11 carries. Saban said he would like for junior Eddie Lacy and Yeldon to develop into a tandem, with Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart contributing as well.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect to Alabama's opening football game against Michigan will be the follow-up.
The Crimson Tide were the nation's best team last season and were the nation's best team this past weekend, scoring the first 31 points in a 41-14 thrashing of the No. 8 Wolverines. Alabama will play in the comfort of Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend against Western Kentucky, which is 1-0 for the first time since 2005 after defeating Austin Peay.
"We were too young, too inexperienced, and we couldn't handle success," Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday. "Everybody was saying all those things about our team, and now everybody is saying something different, but my question is, 'What is different?' Nothing. We're still young, we're still inexperienced and we still have some things to work on.
"It's going to be all about the maturity this team has to focus on what they need to do and correct the deficits we have, whether that is individually or collectively."
Hilltoppers coach Willie Taggart referred to the Tide on Monday as "the next expansion team in the NFL," but Taggart may take some comfort in that two of Alabama's worst showings under Saban since 2008 occurred after resounding opening triumphs.
After mutilating Clemson 34-10 in the '08 Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, the Crimson Tide stumbled through a 20-6 win over Tulane in Tuscaloosa, getting outgained by the Green Wave 318-172. The Tide won the '09 Chick-fil-A Kickoff 34-24 over Virginia Tech, yet they trailed Florida International 14-13 after 20 minutes the following week before pulling away for a 40-14 win.
"This game is all about playing as well as we can play and improving as much as we can improve," Saban said.
Defensive tackle Jesse Williams and linebackers Trey DePriest, Tana Patrick and Reggie Ragland were limited during Monday's practice, but Saban said Ragland is the only one questionable for this weekend. The Hilltoppers went 7-5 last season, with two of their losses occurring to Kentucky (14-3) and LSU (42-9), and their one prior trip to Tuscaloosa resulted in a 41-7 loss in 2008.
Alabama players are not expecting last Saturday to be the high-water mark of their season.
"I definitely think the execution was average," senior center Barrett Jones said. "We made a lot of mistakes, and we honestly left a lot of points out there. I think we kind of let off the gas a little bit in the second and third quarters, which is kind of disappointing."
There he goes
Saban had a predictable response when a reporter asked if he planned to provide more playing time for backup quarterback Phillip Ely this week.
"It's typical that what you all would think and what our fans would think that because these guys play in the Sun Belt [Conference] that they're not very good," he said. "It really is presumptive, and it's so presumptive that I'm not even going to answer it. We would like to play a lot of players and give Phillip a lot of experience, and if the opportunity comes up in any game we play, that's something we would like to do, but to ask that on Monday is pretty presumptive."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.