TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama was far from perfect and far from putrid in Saturday afternoon's 35-0 win over Western Kentucky at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Which is why Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban was neither thrilled nor terse.
"This game ended up being a little bit like I expected it to be," Saban said. "It was probably different from what a lot of people here expected it to be. They bring a lot of pressure with their defense and a lot of stunts to try to give you bad plays, and we had far too many negative plays on offense.
"We didn't give up big plays, which is really important, and I was pleased being able to get a shutout. I think the turnovers were huge in that."
The top-ranked Crimson Tide rolled despite allowing six sacks and amassing 39 rushing yards through three quarters. They did not commit any turnovers and collected four, three via fumbles.
It was not as impressive as the previous week's 41-14 win over Michigan in Texas, so was there a letdown?
"A little bit," Tide senior center Barrett Jones said. "We didn't have quite as good of a week in practice as we did the week before Michigan. I really don't think it was that much of an effort issue. I think it was execution, which comes from maybe not practicing and preparing as well as we could have."
Saban used media opportunities last Monday and Wednesday to chastise writers for propping up his team and for overlooking the Hilltoppers, and players said their coach didn't let up in practice.
"Coach takes every week like it's LSU week," linebacker Nico Johnson said.
Alabama's first play from scrimmage was an 18-yard run by Eddie Lacy, and it was followed by a 47-pass from AJ McCarron to Kevin Norwood. Lacy was stuffed for a 7-yard loss on the Crimson Tide's third offensive snap, but then McCarron threw over the middle to Christion Jones for a 14-yard touchdown a minute and 53 seconds into the game.
Johnson forced a fumble that defensive end Damion Square recovered near midfield to halt Western Kentucky's opening possession, but McCarron was sacked twice on Alabama's second possession, and the Tide had to punt. Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard caused a fumble that noseguard Brandon Ivory recovered to snuff WKU's second possession, and the Tide didn't waste this opportunity, with McCarron firing a 33-yard, first-play touchdown pass down the middle to Norwood for a 14-0 advantage.
The Hilltoppers moved 41 yards to Alabama's 19-yard line early in the second quarter, but linebacker Xzavier Dickson sacked WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes, causing a fumble that was recovered and returned 7 yards by safety Vinnie Sunseri to the 32. Alabama then went 68 yards in seven plays, taking a 21-0 lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from McCarron to Jones.
Alabama's three forced fumbles were the program's most in a game since the 2007 opener against Western Carolina.
"Last year, as good as we were on defense, we didn't cause that many fumbles," Saban said, "but it was a pretty good tradeoff for as well as they played. This year, I think that if we can be a good turnover team and have a good turnover ratio that it would be very beneficial to us."
Alabama collected its fourth turnover on Deion Belue's interception 1:35 into the third quarter, setting up the Crimson Tide at the WKU 12-yard line. After an incomplete pass on first down, McCarron found Norwood for the touchdown to make it 28-0.
McCarron finished 14-of-19 for 219 yards and four scores for the Crimson Tide, who won their 19th consecutive September game.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...