Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Top-ranked Alabama converted four Western Kentucky University turnovers into 21 points in a 35-0 victory over the Hilltoppers Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The loss dropped WKU to 1-1 on the season, while the Crimson Tide improved to 2-0.
It was the first time the Hilltoppers had been shut out since a 14-0 loss to Western Illinois on Sept. 14, 2002. That ended a streak of 120 straight games for WKU with at least one score.
“We certainly didn’t play the way we are capable of. You can’t turn the ball over four times against anybody, but especially against the #1 team in the country,” said head coach Willie Taggart. “Our defense played the way we had hoped, but offensively we just weren’t able to capitalize. We’ll regroup from this and come out ready to play next week.”
Alabama wasted little time giving the crowd of 101,821 something to get excited about, going 72 yards in just four plays on the opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Three of the four plays went for over 10 yards as a 47 yard completion from A.J. McCarron to Kevin Norwood moved the Crimson Tide inside the WKU 10 yard line. After a Hilltopper stop for a seven-yard loss, McCarron hooked up with Christion Jones over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown pass just 1:53 into the game.
The Tide was able to force two Hilltopper fumbles on WKU’s first two offense series, and took advantage of the second turnover for their second touchdown of the quarter. After taking over at the WKU 33, McCarron connected with Norwood on a 33-yard scoring pass to push the lead to 14-0 with 5:57 to go in the opening period.
A third WKU fumble of the first half resulted in another Alabama scoring drive as the Crimson Tide were able to drive 68 yards in just under four minutes. On a third-down play, McCarron found Jones for the second time in the half, this time on a 22-yard completion, to give Alabama a 21-0 lead with 6:53 to go before halftime.
McCarron finished the half completing eight of 10 passes for 161 yards and three Crimson Tide scores.
A fourth turnover on the opening drive again proved costly for the Hilltoppers. After Deion Belue intercepted a Kawaun Jakes pass deep on WKU territory, McCarron threw his fourth and final touchdown of the game as he found Norwood for the second time on a 12-yard completion to make it a 28-0 game with 13:15 on the clock.
That score held until late in the fourth quarter when Kenyan Drake capped off an 81-yard scoring drive with a 32-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring and give the Crimson Tide a 35-0 victory. That scoring drive was kept alive after punter Cody Mandell was able to scramble 18 yards on a 4th-and-17 play following a low snap.
Despite the loss, the Hilltoppers were able to put up 224 yards of total offense, and were only outgained by 23 yards prior to the final scoring drive by Alabama. WKU also held the Crimson Tide to 103 fewer yards than they were able to put up in last week’s 41-14 win over Michigan.
Offensively, Jakes completed 20 of 31 passes for 178 yards, and hooked up with Jack Doyle seven times for 45 yards. It was the second straight game Doyle has led WKU in receptions. Andrew Jackson led the WKU defense with seven total tackles, while Quanterus Smith registered a career-high three sacks. As a team, the Hilltoppers were able to get to the quarterback six times, and had eight total tackles for loss, tallying 60 yards.
McCarron finished the game completing 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards and four scores. Norwood led the receivers with 92 yards on three catches.
WKU will face a second straight Southeastern Conference opponent next Saturday, traveling to Lexington to take on Kentucky in a 6 p.m. (CDT) game at Commonwealth Stadium. That contest will be televised nationally on ESPNU