TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- All or nothing.
Big play or field goal.
Sure, Alabama took care of North Texas 41-0 Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but it didn’t earn style points in the final tune-up before SEC play.
The No. 2 Crimson Tide scored just one touchdown after crossing the Mean Green 40, but still hit a few home runs a week before Arkansas comes to town. Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy both ran up career rushing records thanks to two long touchdown runs apiece on a night AJ McCarron took most of the snaps at quarterback again.
Trent Richardson scored on runs of 71 and 58 yards while Eddie Lacy added touchdown runs of 43 and 67 yards to skew the stats and the final score. Richardson’s final line included 167 yards on 11 carries (15.2 average) followed by Lacy’s 161 yards on nine runs (17.9 average).
Midgame doldrums, though, struck as it did two weeks earlier and Alabama (3-0) appeared flat after taking a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. The momentum shifted when the offensive personnel changes came. Phillip Sims replaced McCarron and the offensive line played musical chairs.
“I don’t think it was feast or famine,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think there were a lot of 3-, 4-, 5-yard runs, but I think there was too many negative plays. If you average four yards a run, that’s supposed to be pretty good running. We probably did that minus the big runs, but if you have good backs, and our expectation is we will make some explosive plays running the football.”
Four drives ended in field goal attempts, two of which were successful on a night of renewed experimentation for the Alabama offense. McCarron completed 15-of-21 attempts for 190 yards while Sims went 6-for-8 for 49 yards in a supporting role. Both lost fumbles representing the only two turnovers of the night.
The Alabama defense, however, held its ground nearly all night. It recorded its first shutout against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since 2008 when Arkansas State fell 35-0 on homecoming. The Mean Green (0-3) didn’t cross midfield before halftime when it tallied one first down. Finding some footing immediately following the intermission still didn’t dent the scoreboard. The most promising North Texas drive accounted for 54 of its 169 total yards before stalling at the Alabama 26. Robert Lester then deflected a field goal attempt.
“We lost composure for a minute there,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “But stuck in and overcame it.
The biggest threat to the shutout came in the final moments after North Texas scooped a Phillip Sims fumble deep in Alabama territory. The defense technically came up with two goal-line stops after the ball crossed the 10. A pass interference penalty in the end zone on third down gave the Mean Green a first down at the 2, but Alabama’s reserve defense kept the visitors from advancing any further to preserve the clean scoreboard.
“It was fun because the crowd got back into it for the rest of the game,” starting linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “After they made the play, the (first-team) defense ran out there to congratulate them.”
Safeties Mark Barron and Will Lowery combined to lead Alabama with seven tackles apiece while Dont’a Hightower had two tackles for loss among his five stops.
No. 14 Arkansas (3-0) visits Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the SEC opener for both teams.