TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t want his team taking Western Kentucky lightly, and although it might not have looked exciting, the Crimson Tide cruised to a 35-0 win as they get ready for Arkansas next week.
Quarterback AJ McCarron finished 14-of-19 for 219 yards and matched a career high with four touchdown passes. Freshman sensation T.J. Yeldon had just 25 yards rushing but caught four passes for 47 yards. Fellow freshman Kenyan Drake added a 32-yard touchdown run late in the game.
The defense gave up 224 yards to the Hilltoppers, but the unit forced four turnovers to keep the shutout intact. Junior college transfer Deion Belue made the first interception of his career at UA.
It was over when: You could make a case it was when Western Kentucky got off the bus, but the Hilltoppers made it closer than the experts predicted. Still, when McCarron connected with Christion Jones on a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 with 6:53 remaining in the first half, there was no coming back.
Game ball goes to: The easy choice would be to give it to McCarron, who tied a career high with four touchdowns, but wide receivers Christion Jones and Kevin Norwood each caught two scores and gave the Tide the big play ability they lacked a year ago. Now a junior, Norwood has emerged into a playmaker and one of McCarron’s favorite targets.
Stat of the game: Alabama committed just one penalty all game. This has to make Saban happy after the Tide committed seven penalties for 55 yards last week against Michigan.
Unsung hero: The Alabama pass rush looked to be more effective against the Hilltoppers and leading the way was redshirt freshman Xzavier Dickson. The outside linebacker seemed to be in the backfield all game. His biggest play came midway through the second quarter when he sacked the quarterback, forced a fumble and kept WKU off the board.
What it means for Alabama: Regardless of what head coach Nick Saban says, this was just a tune-up for next week’s showdown at Arkansas. Alabama’s offense looked efficient and McCarron keeps improving. The defense didn’t give up the big play, but WKU showed it could move the ball. Turnovers were key and will be key again next week.
What it means for WKU: Nobody expected the Hilltoppers to win or even keep it close for that matter. They didn’t look scared, though. This is a good football team who has the talent to compete in the Sun Belt this year. Playing in this type of environment can only help down the road.