(2) Alabama - 37, Middle Tennessee - 10
September 12, 2015
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide
(2-0) opened its 2015 home slate in impressive fashion,
forcing four turnovers en route to a 37-10 victory over
visiting Middle Tennessee (1-1) in front of 98,568 fans
at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
defensive back Ronnie Harrison (15) blocks the
punt by Middle Tennessee State punter Trevor Owens (43)
for a safety during the second quarter.
Photo Credit - Vasha Huntfirstname.lastname@example.org
After a shaky opening quarter by both teams, the Crimson
Tide was able to extend a 7-3 lead to a 23-3 halftime
margin. Senior quarterback Jake Coker, who had another
solid game, hit Robert Foster for a 19-yard touchdown to
open the scoring. Derrick Henry added touchdown runs of 1
and 2 yards in the second quarter, and he reached the end
zone a third time thanks to a 28-yard burst in the third
quarter. Sophomore quarterback Cooper Bateman recorded his
first touchdown pass of his career, connecting with Kenyan
Drake on a shovel pass for a 14-yard scoring play as well.
Defensively, Alabama recovered all three fumbles it forced
while also getting one interception, the most turnovers
an Alabama defensive has forced since Sept. 8, 2012,
against Western Kentucky. Senior linebacker Reggie Ragland
led the team in tackles once again, recording a total of
7.5, including six solos. The secondary also broke up six
For the game, Alabama totaled 532 yards (312 passing and
220 rushing), notched 28 first downs and averaged 6.5 yards
per play. Middle Tennessee gained 275 yards (189 passing
and 86 rushing), along with collecting 15 first downs and
averaging 3.7 yards per play. The Tide limited its
penalties on the day, being flagged only five times for
Alabama won the toss and elected to receive the opening
Senior Kenyan Drake took the kick and returned it out to
the 43-yard line, giving the Tide good field position for
its initial drive of the day, but senior quarterback Jake
Coker misfired on his first two passes as the Blue Raiders
forced a three-and-out. Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent
Stockstill completed a pass to Christian Collins that
nearly picked up a first down on their opening series, but
freshman defensive back Marlon Humphrey was able to knock
the ball loose and the fumble was recovered by senior and
fellow defensive back Geno Matias-Smith at the Blue Raider
After a couple of short gains by the Alabama offense,
Coker found senior wide receiver Richard Mullaney along
the sidelines for a seven yard gain on third-and-4 to
keep the drive alive, then threw a screen to sophomore
wide out Robert Foster that he took 19 yards into the
end zone. The drive was a brief one, taking just four
plays to cover 32 yards in 1:44. Junior Adam Griffith
knocked home the extra point and the Tide was off to a
quick 7-0 lead.
The up-tempo Blue Raider offense took over at the 25 and
put together a solid possession, keeping the Tide defense
off-balance with a good mixture of running and passing
plays. Stockstill connected with wide receiver Richie
James for a couple of first downs, while Jordan Parker
ran for another to move Middle Tennessee inside the
Alabama 35. On third-and-6 from the 29, Stockstill fumbled
the snap, which threw off the timing of the play and forced
him to make a hurried throw that fell incomplete. The Blue
Raiders' kicker Cody Clark attempted to get his team on
the board with a 46-yard try, but the kick sailed wide
Alabama took over at its own 29 and appeared to be poised
for another scoring drive. After Henry ran for a first
down, Coker hit junior tight end O.J. Howard for 12 more
yards and another first down. That play took the Tide
across midfield, but the drive stalled there. Alabama
elected to go for it on fourth-and-5 instead of punt the
ball away, and Coker was pressured and threw the pass over
The ensuing drive for Middle Tennessee was an extended
one that featured a fourth down conversion, but once
again resulted in a turnover. Stockstill found Collins
again on a third down play, then Shane Tucker picked up
13 yards on a run up the middle. After an illegal
formation penalty, Tucker carried the ball on five
consecutive plays, including on fourth-and-1, to move
deep into Alabama territory. The next series proved
costly, however, as coming out of a timeout Tucker took
a direct snap on third-and-one, but fumbled. The fumble
was forced by senior linebacker Reggie Ragland and
recovered by senior defensive lineman Jarran Reed.
Alabama's offense could not capitalize on this turnover,
going in reverse and punting the ball away after a
three-and-out. The quarter ended with the score 7-0 in
favor of the Tide, but with the Blue Raiders once again
on the move.
The second quarter began with another Middle Tennessee
conversion on third down, this time Stockstill to Terry
Pettis for nine yards on a slant. Three plays later it
was third-and-11, and again Stockstill found an open
receiver, floating a pass down the field to James for
21 yards to the Alabama 2. The Blue Raiders were turned
away from there, losing one yard on a rush and throwing
two incomplete passes. A 20-yard field goal by Clark
did put Middle Tennessee on the board, capping off the
12-play, 45-yard drive that took just over three minutes.
The Tide got back on track with its next drive. Coker used
play action to buy time, eventually connecting with Howard
on a 42-yard gain that included Howard breaking a tackle
near the sidelines and picking up an extra 10 yards. Henry
burst ahead for 12 yards on the next play, then carried
the ball on the next three plays for another first down.
Alabama went back to the air, with Coker rolling out to
his right, but his pass intended for sophomore wide
receiver ArDarius Stewart was nearly intercepted in the
end zone. A pass interference penalty by the Blue Raiders
on third down kept the drive going, and Henry eventually
punched it in from two yards out. Griffith added the
extra point again, giving the Tide a 14-3 lead following
the drive that covered 75 yards in 10 plays.
Stockstill and the Blue Raiders offense took over again,
as the quarterback looked to lead his team down the field.
After picking up a pair of first downs, Stockstill
committed his first costly mistake of the game, putting
too much air under a pass that was picked off by senior
defensive back Cyrus Jones at the Alabama 30. It did not
take the Tide long to capitalize, with Coker executing a
quick shovel pass to Drake that he nearly took all the
way, just getting tripped up at the 1. Henry took the
handoff on the next play, easily crossing the goal line.
Alabama extended its lead to 21-3 with 5:54 remaining in
Then the Tide defense put together a dominant series,
forcing two incomplete passes and a three-and-out for
the first time on the day. However, on the first play
from scrimmage for Alabama, Coker overthrew Stewart and
the pass was intercepted.
Middle Tennessee took over as its own 1, but could not
move the ball far, having to punt the ball away from the
8. Punter Trevor Owens was not able to get the punt off,
as freshman Ronnie Harrison blocked it out of the back
of the end zone for a safety. Alabama then received great
field position off the free kick thanks to a 16-yard
return from Mullaney. Coker and the offense were able
to put together a successful two-minute drive to end
the half, but Griffith pushed the 24-yard attempt to
the left on the last play of the half. Alabama went to
the locker room with a 23-3 advantage.
On the opening play from scrimmage of the second half,
the Blue Raiders committed their fourth turnover of the
game when Stockstill completed a short pass to Ed'Marques
Batties, who fumbled at the 29. The fumble was forced
and recovered by junior defensive back Eddie Jackson.
Sophomore Cooper Bateman came in at quarterback for
Alabama's first drive of the half, but could not lead
the offense to a first down. Griffith set up for another
field goal attempt, this time from 49 yards out, but
it landed short. However, an offensive pass interference
call against Middle Tennessee put them well behind the
chains on their next possession, as they went three-and-out.
Starting at the Alabama 45, Bateman and Drake teamed up
for a touchdown drive. Drake recorded carries of 13 and
9 yards, then Bateman kept the ball and gained four yards.
Following a personal foul on the defense, Bateman
connected with Drake on a shovel pass that went 14 yards
for the score. The Tide was up 30-3 after the drive that
covered 55 yards in only four plays.
Middle Tennessee's offense could not get any momentum
going after one first down on its next drive, but Alabama
went three-and-out quickly to punt the ball right back to
the Blue Raiders. Once again Middle Tennessee had no
trouble getting a drive going, collecting two first downs,
but struggled to sustain the drive, eventually having
to punt after an incompletion on third down.
After being pinned back inside the 5 following the punt,
Bateman orchestrated a touchdown drive of 95 yards.
Bateman hit Howard and freshman wide receiver Calvin
Ridley during the possession, while Henry had seven
carries, including finishing the drive off with a 28-yard
rush to the outside for his third touchdown of the game.
That extended the lead to 37-3 with less than two minutes
remaining in the quarter, and that would be the score
going into the final quarter of play.
The teams traded three-and-outs to begin the fourth
quarter. Alabama moved the ball for a couple of first
downs on its next offensive possession, but could not
convert on a third-and-1 from just across midfield and
was forced to punt again. The Blue Raiders failed to
pick up a first down yet again, and after Owens booted
a 45-yard kick, Mullaney returned it 21 yards to the
Middle Tennessee 45.
Bateman got the drive started by connecting with senior
tight end TY Flournoy-Smith for 31 yards, but two plays
later Bateman's pass was intercepted by the Blue Raiders'
Jeremy Curter. Curter returned it 77 yards to the Alabama
20. Finally recording a takeaway of its own, Middle
Tennessee capitalized. Backup quarterback Austin Grammer
came in and kept the ball twice for a total of five yards.
Then, on third-and-5 from the 15, he found receiver Rod
Ducksworth open in the end zone for the team's lone
touchdown of the game.
Alabama got the ball back and effectively ran out the
remaining 5:21 off the clock. Junior quarterback Alec
Morris came in for the final four offensive plays of
the game for the Tide.
Saban improved to a perfect 9-0 in home openers as the
head coach of Alabama.