No. 12 Alabama rides defense to 34-0 win over ULM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama 's defense rebounded with a vintage performance while Jake Coker and the offense overcame a sputtering start.
Coker threw three touchdown passes in the 12th-ranked Crimson Tide's 34-0 win Saturday over Louisiana-Monroe, and a defense victimized for some big plays in a loss to No. 3 Mississippi allowed just 92 yards.
''(Linebacker) Reggie Ragland kept saying that no one's scoring on us, and that's been the motto,'' said safety Geno Matias-Smith, who had an interception. ''It motivates us because it has to be the standard. We didn't have the best game last week, so we just have to keep creating an identity.''
The Tide (3-1) has a much bigger challenge with an upcoming visit to No. 7 Georgia.
The Warhawks (1-2) didn't have a first down in the first 23 minutes and were held to 9 yards rushing. They lost 51-14 to the Bulldogs three weeks earlier.
It was their first visit since stunning the Tide 21-14 eight years ago in coach Nick Saban's first season, which still stands as the low point of his tenure.
This one seemed out of reach by the time Alabama went up 14-0 in the second quarter.
The Tide racked up six sacks and two interceptions.
Coker was 17-of-31 passing for 158 yards but also threw an interception for the third straight game. He hit freshman Calvin Ridley for a 15-yard touchdown and backup tight end Michael Nysewander for a 19-yarder.
''I think we all started a little slow, but eventually we got things going and finished how we wanted to finish off,'' Coker said.
By the time ArDarius Stewart caught Coker's third touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, most of the announced 101,323 fans had made a beeline for the exits.
The only mystery was whether the Tide would produce the 16th shutout under Saban, and a late stop by the backups took care of that.
''They didn't do anything that surprised us,'' Warhawks coach Todd Berry said. ''We just didn't do what we were asking them to do. I liked our game plans coming in, but we still didn't execute as well as we would have liked. Alabama's a good football team, and it should be a great game next week.''
The best news for the Tide might have come from the drives that stalled. Adam Griffith broke out of a kicking slump, making field goals of 40 and 35 yards. He came into the game having made only a 20-yarder in five attempts and now has hit three straight.
''We have a lot of confidence in him that he's capable,'' Saban said. ''I just think he's got to think the right things and focus on the technique that he needs to use to have success. When he does that, he's a very good kicker.''
Coker couldn't connect on a number of downfield attempts, including one that was picked by safety Tre' Hunter when it didn't appear he had a receiver much closer than 10 yards of the ball. He was hit as he threw. Saban rose in his quarterback's defense, citing a number of dropped balls.
''We had four drops in the first half,'' the coach said. ''Four balls that were just flat dropped and you couldn't throw them any better. ''
Derrick Henry rushed for a touchdown in his ninth straight game and gained 52 yards on 13 carries after battling illness during the week. Kenyan Drake ran for 65 yards.
The Tide defense was much more dominating.
The Warhawks didn't have a first down until faking a punt in the second quarter. Punter Chris Qualls hit Harley Scioneaux on fourth-and-3 from their own 20.
Louisiana-Monroe's Garrett Smith was 17 of 37 for 74 yards with a pair of interceptions. Ajalen Holley was limited to just 38 yards on nine catches.
Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen aggravated a nagging left shoulder injury in the second quarter and wore a sling on the sidelines in the second half in a track suit.
Saban said he expects Allen to play against Georgia.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org