Alabama 38, Florida International 3
By John Zenor, AP Sports Writer
October 28, 2006

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- In a game featuring two punchless offenses -- and no thrown punches -- Alabama got all the big blows it needed from defense and special teams.

Freshman Javier Arenas returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and Ramzee Robinson scored on a 34-yard interception return in the Crimson Tide's 38-3 win over the undermanned Golden Panthers on Saturday.

The winless Golden Panthers (0-8) were playing without nine starters and nine reserves who were suspended or dismissed for their actions in an ugly brawl in their last game two weeks ago against Miami.

They still managed to keep it close for awhile against Alabama (6-3), which was coming off a 16-13 loss at No. 8 Tennessee.

"They've got a lot of pride," Tide coach Mike Shula said. "They stuck it out in a very, very difficult situation."

FIU, a 36-point underdog, appeared undaunted by the heavy odds, taking a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, trailing only 10-3 at halftime and even managing a goal line stand.

"We brought 52 (players) and we had five or six hurt, so we were down in numbers," Golden Panthers coach Don Strock said. "But I'm very proud of the way they hung in there, the first half especially.

"Our concern in the second half was getting worn down because of the numbers we had."

Alabama got a scare when quarterback John Parker Wilson limped off the field on the final drive of the first half after aggravating a sprained left ankle. He returned for the first two series after the half, but threw only an incompletion.

"I didn't think he'd be able to come back out and play," Shula said.

Wilson, who urged the coaches to let him play, said he expected to play against Mississippi State.

"They asked me how I felt and I told them I wanted to go back in. The doctor said OK," said Wilson, who finished 8-of-13 for 72 yards, easily a season low.

He also had a 9-yard touchdown pass to Le'Ron McClain.

The announced crowd of 92,138 topped the previous high for an FIU game -- against the Hurricanes -- by more than 40,000. They weren't subjected to any fisticuffs.

The Golden Panthers were perfect citizens against the Tide, not even drawing a personal foul penalty. They made plenty of other damaging mistakes in the second half.

First, Arenas raced down the left sideline for a touchdown after appearing to get bottled up behind a blocker upon fielding the punt.

"The blockers did what they were supposed to do and I did what I was supposed to do, and it just resulted in perfect execution," Arenas said.

Then, Chance Attaway fumbled and Simeon Castille returned it 11 yards to the FIU 7. Attaway was one of three FIU players making their first career starts.

Four plays later, Tim Castille -- Simeon's brother -- scored on a 1-yard plunge up the middle. Castille had failed to score on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first half.

"It definitely hurt me when we couldn't get it in," Castille said. "That was tough."

Shula had opted for a field goal in the same situation late in the first half against Tennessee.

Robinson turned the game into a bigger route after stepping in front of Josh Padrick's pass with a clear path to the end zone in the fourth quarter. Alabama backup quarterback Jimmy Barnes capped his first significant action with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Nikita Stover.

The Tide's only touchdown in the first half came after they took over at the FIU 33 following Forress Rayford's blocked punt, finally giving the team's restless fans something to cheer.

Until that point, it was a tight game, but that wasn't much solace to Golden Panthers linebacker Keyonvis Bouie.

"I never go into the game thinking we're going to lose, no matter who we play," Bouie said. "Even though with our situation most guys had written us off, I think we came out with a lot of intensity and ready to play. A lot of people didn't expect that of us.

"But me personally, I'm not proud of this."

Neither team supplied much consistent offense. Alabama finished with 224 total yards and FIU 175, including just 40 yards on 27 rushes.

FIU set up its only score, a 37-yard field goal by Justin Rivest, with Padrick's 68-yard pass to freshman Jeremy Dickens. Padrick finished 8-of-24 for 134 yards.

Tide receiver Keith Brown missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.