TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The “Wildcat” offense pulled a disappearing act Saturday night.
A week after surprising many by sprinkling in the variation of the spread offense, Alabama went away from it Saturday.
Only once in the first half did Alabama line up in the formation as Roy Upchurch ran 7 yards up the middle on the only attempt.
In Week 1 the Tide ran nine plays out of the trendy offense with Mark Ingram taking eight of the snaps, and Upchurch taking the other. Against Virginia Tech, only 23 yards came out of the Wildcat.
The Tide did continue to operate, on occasion, out of a pistol formation just as it did against the Hokies.
That variation sets a running back behind the quarterback who takes a shotgun start.
Tiffin ties his dad
Kicker Leigh Tiffin’s two first-half field goals ties him for the third on the school’s all-time field goal list. It’s a tie he shared with his father.
The Muscle Shoals product’s 59 field goals deadlocked him with his dad Van Tiffin who kicked for the Tide from 1983-86.
Phillip Doyle (1987-90) holds the record with 78 field goals.
McElroy gets first QB start
Greg McElroy finally got his first start at quarterback.
Technically, the junior started the Virginia Tech game as a receiver when Ingram lined up at quarterback on the first offensive play in the Wildcat formation. McElroy handed off to Upchurch on the first play Saturday before completing an 8-yard pass to Julio Jones.
Richardson plays more
As promised, Trent Richardson saw more action in his second game.
And the playing time came right away.
He ran the ball on four straight plays on the opening drive and went to halftime with six runs for 21 yards. A big second half left Richardson with 118 yards on 15 carries.
Richarson’s 12-yard screen-pass reception in the third-quarter gave Alabama a first-down and ignited the sleepy crowd. On his Thursday radio show, Nick Saban promised the heralded freshman from Florida would get more carries than he did against Virginia Tech. Richardson ran three times for 10 yards on the final offensive series of the opening game.
Terry Grant at receiver
Terry Grant’s debut at receiver was not a big one.
A running back for two seasons, Grant touched the ball once in the first half on an end-around that lost three yards.
A return to running back led to a 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The leading rusher in 2007 started practicing with the receivers on Monday. Saban said he wanted to get Grant involved with the offense in some way since there were so many talented running backs limiting his time.
Linebacker still ineligible
Backup linebacker Jerrell Harris remained out of the Alabama lineup as he awaits an eligibility ruling from the NCAA.
He missed last Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech.
Saturday’s win was the 801st in Alabama football history a week after being the seventh to pass the 800-win barrier.
The Tide remains seventh on the list since No. 6 Penn State picked up its 802nd win Saturday afternoon over Syracuse. Michigan remains atop the list with 874 wins after beating Notre Dame in a shootout Saturday.
No seats lost in construction
Despite the ongoing construction job in the south end zone, Bryant-Denny Stadium didn’t lose any seats. Four new rows were added in front of the south end zone seating bowl to offset any losses while the expansion project to add a second tier is underway.
The south end zone scoreboard was removed after last season, and in its place stands a crane that towers higher than any point in the stadium.
Work is scheduled to be completed by next fall when San Jose State opens the home schedule Sept. 4, 2010 in front of more than 101,000 fans.
Deaderick does not play
Defensive end Brandon Deaderick didn’t play in the first half Saturday after missing practice during the week.
Marcell Dareus started in his place and picked up a big sack in the second quarter.
Deaderick missed practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday attending the funeral for his grandmother in Kentucky.
The senior played in the Virginia Tech game just five days after suffering a gunshot in the forearm in an attempted robbery.
Cody the lead blocker
Nose guard Terrence Cody reprised his role as a lead-blocker.
The 355-pound crowd favorite lined up in the backfield and threw a punishing block on Ingram’s 2-yard touchdown run that put Alabama back ahead 20-14.
with 8:20 to play.
Alabama continued to prove that its special teams aren’t special yet, an issue which could lead to real problems the next time the Tide plays a more competitive team.
With Alabama sporting a nice 10-0 lead early in the first quarter, Tide fans were just starting to get comfy with the notion of a nice blowout.
Enter Alabama’s special teams to spice things up, at least momentarily.
Just moments after a touchdown gave the Tide the lead, Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton broke right up the gut on the kickoff return, then down the right sideline as he outraced all the Tide defenders to the end zone for a 96-yard touchdown.
The Tide had consistent problems with returns in the season-opening win over Virginia Tech, as well. In that game, the Tide gave up Dyrell Roberts’ 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to erase a 6-0 lead.
The Hokies averaged 30.4 yards per return, tallying 243 return yards on eight kicks.
GETTING OFF THE FIELD
The Tide didn’t fare well in the first half in terms of getting its defense off the field in a timely fashion.
The Golden Panthers converted 5 of 8 third downs in the half.
Alabama converted just 2-for-5 in the first half, settling for field goals twice and punting once.