Crimson Tide rolls past Dores, 30-8

M. Tant runs for yardage. (AP Photo/John Russell)

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Alabama's 12th-ranked Crimson Tide used a stifling defense to roll past Vanderbilt, 30-8, before 36,407 on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Tide held the Commodores to 162 yards of offense and jumped out to a 30-point lead before allowing a lone Vanderbilt touchdown with 5:43 left.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Alabama's 12th-ranked Crimson Tide used a stifling defense to roll past Vanderbilt, 30-8, before 36,407 on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Tide held the Commodores to 162 yards of offense and jumped out to a 30-point lead before allowing a lone Vanderbilt touchdown with 5:43 left.

The loss assured a 20th consecutive losing season for Vanderbilt (2-7, 0-5 SEC). For the Crimson Tide (7-2, 4-1), it was the third consecutive impressive win. Coming off a landmark victory against Tennessee, the Tide showed no evidence Saturday of a mental letdown.

The Commodores' running game, which had been the offense's bread-and-butter, could simply never get untracked. The Tide defense, which was holding opponents to an SEC-best 86 yards per game, held the Commodores to a net of 46 yards rushing on 29 attempts. Vandy's longest rush of the day went for only nine yards.

The Alabama defense also kept quarterback Jay Cutler constantly on the run and held him to 7 completions on 18 attempts. Meanwhile the Vandy defense showed some improvement against a powerful Alabama rushing attack, but the Tide offense was able to capitalize on a number of untimely Commodore miscues on its way to 30 points.

Coach Bobby Johnson attributed the loss to a collection of Commodore mistakes.

"Mental errors, missed assignments on offense prevented us from getting anything going on offense in the first half," said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "Blown coverages on the last touchdown... I'll probably say this for years and years, but you just can't help the other team. They're good enough. They don't need our help, and we helped them a bunch.

"{Alabama] is a good team. We competed in the first half, had a chance to do some things, but didn't quite take advantage of them."

The heavily favored Crimson Tide easily drove the ball 77 yards on 11 plays on its first possession, largely on a series of out-patterns from Tyler Watts to Triandos Luke. The drive, however, was aided by an offsides penalty on Vanderbilt that nullified an incomplete pass on third down and gave the Tide a first down. Watts scored the touchdown himself on a 9-yard rush up the middle, and the Tide led, 7-0.

When Vanderbilt's offense went three-and-out on its first possession, it looked as though the game might evolve into a repeat of the Georgia game-- which saw the Bulldogs score on their first eight possessions. However, the Vanderbilt defense stiffened, and forced Watts & Co. to punt on two straight possessions.

But the Vanderbilt offense could get little accomplished. Bama's vaunted defensive front kept the Commodores from putting together any kind of offensive momentum. Commodore fans' only bit of excitement came just inside the second quarter, when Cutler found Brandon Smith all alone on a deep pass-- but Smith uncharacteristically dropped the ball.

"That was a big play," said Johnson. "He had a chance to score on that play, maybe get it to 7-7 and put some doubt in Alabama's mind. I don't think we ever put any doubt in their mind that the game was in doubt."

A Waine Bacon interception of a Cutler pass put Alabama in business at the Vandy 43, but again the Vandy defense stiffened and held Bama to a 36-yard field goal. Robinson tacked on another field goal with 0:30 left in the half, and the Tide led 13-0 at halftime. Though the Vandy offense had sputtered, the defense had at least kept the lead from becoming insurmountable.

Vanderbilt got the ball to open the second half, but the Dores couldn't move. On its first possession of the second half, Alabama drove 54 yards in a time-consuming 13-play touchdown drive. The backbreaking play was a fourth-and-9 conversion on which Tyler Watts carried for 11 yards to the Vandy 19. Four plays later Shaud Williams burst up the middle for a score that put the Tide up 20-0.

Vandy moved deep into Alabama territory on its next possession, only to turn the ball over on a Kwane Doster fumble at the 17. Watts brought the Tide to the Vandy 24, and Robinson added another field goal. Shortly afterward Bama added insult to injury when Brodie Croyle found Dre Fulghum all alone in the Vandy secondary for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

The Commodores' only touchdown came late in the fourth quarter, set up by a 44-yard screen pass from Cutler to Doster. Cutler found Dan Stricker at the edge of the end zone for a 10-yard scoring pass, and subsequently hit Brandon Smith for a 2-point conversion. At last, Commodore fans-- who were probably outnumbered 70-30 by Crimson-clad Alabama fans-- had something to cheer about.

Stricker's catch tied him with Chuck Scott's school record for career touchdown passes (20). It was Stricker's only catch of the game.

The Commodore defense, which has been crippled all season by injuries, suffered a few more. Cheron Thompson suffered a sprained ankle early in the game and did not return. Mike Martin hurt a hamstring, and near the end of the game Moses Osemwegie suffered an ankle injury that necessitated X-rays.

Punter Greg Johnson launched a 70-yard punt in the second quarter, a career best.

Vanderbilt returns next week to host the Florida Gators in another 1:00 p.m. game at Vanderbilt Stadium. Alabama, ineligible for a bowl due to NCAA sanctions, faces Mississippi State next week.

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