Tuscaloosa, AL (Sports Network) - Coming off an impressive season-opening
victory, the now top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide have served notice that they
are fully capable of defending their national title. Next on the docket is
this weekend's matchup with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Nick Saban's squad took part in last weekend's marquee matchup and turned it
into a rout, blowing out then eighth-ranked Michigan, 41-14 in Arlington,
Despite the big win, Saban knows things need to get better.
"Everyone thought that we were too young, too inexperienced and we couldn't
handle success. Everyone was saying those things about our team. Now, people
are saying something different. My question is, `What's different?' Nothing.
We are still young, we are still inexperienced and we still have things to
work on. It's going to be all about the maturity that the team has to be able
to focus on what they need to do to correct the deficits that we have, whether
it's individually or collectively as a unit on some part of our team so that
we improve as a team. That's going to be important to how well we do. It's all
about the progress that you make through the season. There's plenty of room
for us to make progress."
The Hilltoppers are also 1-0 on the young season after making light work of
Austin Peay last week, 49-10. It marked the first time that Western Kentucky
has started the season with a win since 2005. Western Kentucky is facing a
defending national champion for just the second time in program history,
opening the 2007 campaign against Florida.
Head coach Willie Taggart has been tasked with keeping his squad focused on
the task at hand and not get overly concerned with playing the defending
"I think our football team is over that. We are playing Alabama. They have not
won a national championship this year. They are good. They are one of the best
football teams out there. To be honest with you, I think they might be the
next expansion team to the NFL. They have some big guys. They are big, strong,
fast and can run. They do not make a lot of mistakes. They are well coached.
Coach [Nick] Saban does a great job on both sides of the ball. They have some
big, big individuals. It is going to be a great challenge for our football
team. We are excited to go down there."
These two teams have met just once prior, with Alabama posting a 41-7 decision
in Tuscaloosa in 2008.
Taggart got his third season in charge at WKU off on the right foot, thanks in
large part to the play of quarterback Kawaun Jakes, who completed 18-of-23
passes, for a career-best 296 yards and four TDs against Austin Peay. Jakes
put up his numbers in just over a half of play. He became just the fifth QB in
school history and first since 1985 to throw four or more TDs in a game.
The Hilltoppers as a whole, put up a gaudy 596 yards of total offense, getting
a hefty 244 yards on the ground and 352 through the air.
Versatile tailback Antonio Andrews had a huge season-opener as well, racking
up 228 all-purpose yards, including a 70-yard punt return for a TD to open the
scoring in the first quarter of the game.
The Western Kentucky defense was equally impressive in the season-opener,
holding the Governors to a mere seven first downs and 154 total yards,
including a ridiculous 11 yards passing.
Junior linebacker Xavius Boyd led the team with eight total tackles. Fellow
junior LB Andrew Jackson and redshirt freshman end Gavin Rocker recorded the
two sacks that the Hilltoppers got, while sophomore safety Jonathan Dowling
(seven tackles) had the one interception on the day.
Despite the loss of several All-Americans from last year, the Crimson Tide
looked like they haven't missed a beat. Replacing Heisman finalist Trent
Richardson certainly won't be easy, but the depth in Alabama's backfield was
evident in the opener, as the defending champs erupted for 232 rushing yards.
Freshman T.J. Yeldon definitely made an immediate impact, rumbling for 111
yards and one TD on 11 carries. Juniors Jalston Fowler (67 yards) and Eddie
Lacy (35 yards and one TD) got into the act as well.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron managed the offense well and was sharp early on,
finishing the game 11-of-21, for 199 yards and two TDs.
Most of the All-American talent that moved on to the NFL was on the defensive
side of the ball for Alabama, but the 2012 squad was impressive nonetheless,
holding Michigan to just 269 total yards, including a mere 69 yards rushing.
The Crimson Tide neutralized Michigan's Denard Robinson, who threw for 200
yards, but was guilty of two interceptions, while rushing for just 27 yards
and one TD.
The Tide recorded three interceptions overall in the win, including one by
junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, who returned it 16 yards for a touchdown in the
second quarter to open up a huge lead over the Wolverines.
Saban is looking forward to the home-opener this week and will not
"We are certainly looking forward to our home opener in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
We had a great crowd and great venue this past weekend. It was great for our
fans. We certainly enjoyed participating in that game, but even more we are
looking forward to playing at home. I think all of our players love playing in
Bryant-Denny Stadium and love the great atmosphere that we have there, so I
know that the players are looking forward to that. I know that you all don't
think Western Kentucky is very good, but they've won eight out of their last
nine games, and they are probably one of the better teams in the Sun Belt this
year, maybe the Sun Belt champs eventually."
The Sports Network