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Despite lackluster effort, No. 1 Crimson Tide rolls past Mocs 31-3 (via Crimson Magazine)

20 Nov 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: November 19, 2016

The plan was seemingly an obvious one for Nick Saban's No. 1 Alabama football team entering Saturday night's home contest against the Chattanooga Mocs of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Get off to a quick start, build an early big lead, and then devote the rest of the game to polishing up various areas of its overall repertoire while also getting a lot of players into the contest.
And while a largely-lackluster effort, especially in the first half by the Tide, did not allow much room for comfort for UA and perhaps caused a bit of stress with the bundled-up home crowd, Alabama was still able to take a decisive 31-3 victory before a capacity crowd of 101,821 at a frigid Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama with its 23rd straight victory overall, improved to 11-0 on the season while the visiting Mocs fell to 8-3.
“That wasn’t probably our best effort, but I think you have to give the Chattanooga players a lot of credit,” said Saban. “They played hard and they played well and played with a lot of grit and a lot of toughness. We knew this would be a challenge for us at this point in the season to get our guys to play at a high level, even though we wanted to kind of build on the momentum and get everybody’s confidence to where it would be really good going into next week (and a battle against Auburn). But I thought our players responded a little better in the second half and the defense obviously played pretty well, just giving up three points. Offensively we didn’t have a whole lot of consistency and we definitely need to do better. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned.”
The victory set a record for Saban, who earned his 41st win while directing the nation’s top-ranked team at the Capstone. Saban’s Tide teams have won 41 of 46 games when ranked No. 1. Also, the 46 games coaching the nation’s top-ranked squad ties Saban for that total with Ohio State legend Woody Hayes.
Alabama began its opening possession on the Crimson Tide 23-yard-line, and on the very first play of the game, Jalen Hurts connected with Calvin Ridley on a 23-yard gain. Hurts then ran for 20 to the UTC 34. The UA drive, however, stalled.


The Mocs on their first series, though, were able to drive 50 yards for the first point of the contest via a 47-yard field goal by Henrique Ribeiro. The big play in the march was a 31-yard pass from Alejandro Bennifield to C.J. Board.
A sluggish-looking Alabama team then went three and out on its second series, and the Tide was still scoreless after the first period.
As the second quarter began, the Tide was in continuation of a series that began on its 25. That seven-play march ended in explosive fashion as Hurts hit a streaking Ridley on a 47-yard scoring pass at the 14:21 mark of the quarter to put Alabama on top 7-3.
After the Mocs went three and out on their ensuing series, Alabama’s offense went back to work in good shape at the Crimson Tide 44 after a 30-yard UTC punt. Alabama, however, could not take advantage of the prime field position and was forced to punt.
That JK Scott boot, however, was fumbled by the Mocs, with Alabama’s Keaton Anderson recovering at the UTC 9.
Hurts ran for eight yards to the 1 on first down, and three plays later on 4th-and-goal, Hurts connected with Gehrig Dieter on a 1-yard scoring pass to put the Tide up 14-3.
This was the score at halftime as Alabama could not produce any further points the rest of the quarter, and only tallied 145 total yards in the first 30 minutes of play. Saban said at halftime that he was a “little embarrassed” by the way his team performed overall during that first half.
With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, the Tide began a series at the UTC 43.
And Alabama was finally able to translate good field position into big points as sophomore tailback Damien Harris scored on a 25-yard run at the 4:07 mark. This put Alabama up 21-3. Earlier in the series Harris had a big nine-yard run on 3rd-and-1.
Early in the final period, the Tide was able to add three points to its lead as Andy Pappanastos  connected on a 33-yard field goal to make the score 24-3. This capped a six-play, 46-yard drive.
The big play on the series was a 34-yard run by Hurts.
After recovering a Mocs fumble at the UTC 20, the Tide scored its final points via another 1-yard pass from Hurts to Dieter at the 3:45 mark to make the lead 31-3. The TD was set up by a 13-yard pass from Hurts to Cam Sims that placed the ball at the 1.
"(The scoring receptions)  felt really good" said Dieter. "We came out a little slow, but we picked it up in the second half. I do think we will be playing a lot better next week.”
Alabama finished the game with 332 total yards, including 196 on the ground and 136 through the air.
Hurts completed 15 of 21 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 68 yards.
Harris led the Tide rushing attack with 91 yards on 13 carries and a score.
Ridley had a game-high seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown while Sims had four catches for 34 yards. Saban noted after the game that redshirt junior receiver ArDarius Stewart did not play due to a violation of the team’s behavioral standards.
A UA defense that allowed only 184 total yards was led by Ronnie Harrison with 11 tackles, while Dalvin Tomlinson added eight tackles and Tony Brown and Jonathan Allen had six apiece. Allen and Reuben Foster both had two tackles for loss.
Scott averaged 48.8 yards on his six punts, with a long kick of 56 yards. 
The Tide returns to action next Saturday, Nov. 26 as arguably the nation's finest college football rivalry, The Iron Bowl, is renewed at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama will host Gus Malzahn's Auburn Tigers in a game set for a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff.
The contest will be televised by CBS.

Special thanks: Alabama Athletics Communications

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