(2) Alabama - 41, North Texas - 0
- By Don Kausler Jr./Tuscaloosa Bureau, The Birmingham News, Press-Register, and The Huntsville Times
September 18, 2011

  Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy runs past defensive end Brandon Akpunku #47 of the North Texas Mean Green for a 67-yard touchdown run.
Photo Credit - Butch Dill/Getty Images
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama -- When the No. 2 team in the nation plays host to a mediocre team from a mediocre conference, the expectations sometimes are unreasonable.

Alabama routed North Texas 41-0 Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but because the Crimson Tide did not score a touchdown on every possession, coaches and fans seemed grumpy.

Alabama coach Nick Saban is going to find fault if his team scores a touchdown on all but one possession. It's just in his DNA.

Some fans wanted to see at least one more touchdown so the Tide could have covered the 45-point spread.

But games like these serve a purpose. Alabama played 66 players. Second- and third-team players gained valuable experience.

Saban found plenty of things to criticize.

"You've got to score touchdowns when you get in the red area," he said of an offense that drove inside North Texas' 20-yard line five times but scored one touchdown. It made two of four field-goal attempts. "We didn't finish drives like we needed to."

He later moaned about a "lack of execution." This was about an offense that compiled 586 yards.

Of course, there were mitigating circumstances.

"We change a lot of people in games like this, and I think it affects the momentum of the game," Saban said. "We changed quarterbacks, we changed tackles, we changed center. We changed a lot of things, and that's for the development of our team.

"I'd like to stand here and say that those things don't affect anybody, and we don't want it to affect anybody, and we don't expect it to affect anybody, but the fact of the matter is sometimes when you don't have that continuity, you lose a little something."

Look, of course, for much less substitution this week when Alabama plays host to Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

The big key will be this: Will true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio start at left tackle. He came off the bench early against North Texas, and when he did, left tackle Barrett Jones moved to right tackle, replacing D.J. Fluker. It's hard to imagine Fluker not starting against Arkansas, so where would Jones play if Kouandjio starts?

In Arkansas, Alabama will face a much better offense than it has seen in its first three games, but the Razorbacks have not been tested by a defense nearly as good as the Crimson Tide's.

If you don't think Saban practices what he preaches about playing to a high standard, you should have seen him late in Saturday's game when North Texas threatened to ruin the Tide's shutout. Saban called a timeout, gathered the 11 second- and third-team players around him and screamed.

A pass interference penalty meant Alabama had to make two goal-line stands, and it rose to the occasion.

"You've got to like the way the players competed," Saban said.

Yes, he sprinkled some praise in with his criticism.