TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It didn't matter who was on the field for No. 1 Alabama Saturday. Starters, All-Americans, freshmen or fourth-stringers, they were all better than the FAU Owls.
Alabama's 40-7 win was a thorough bludgeoning, the kind only the nation's top team could dish out. The Crimson Tide put on an exhibition of execution, and the Owls were hapless against it, but $1 million richer for the effort.
FAU (1-3) entered the game 50-point underdogs, but they escaped Bryant-Denny Stadium without major injury and with a million-dollar game paycheck. Along the way, the Owls prevented Alabama (4-0) from posting its third straight shutout.
It was that shutout streak that injected some fourth-quarter drama into an already decided and otherwise forgettable contest.
Alabama was looking to become the first Division 1-FBS team since 1995 to post three consecutive shutouts, and they nearly did, until Graham Wilbert completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Alex Deleon with 2:49 remaining in the game.
Alabama scored 134 unanswered points during the shutout streak’s 12-quarter, 192-minute lifespan.
“I don't know how important the touchdown was, but it's important that our guys never quit playing,” FAU coach Carl Pelini said. “I promise you, that doesn't excuse the way we started...I think we let Alabama's reputation affect the way we started the game. If we're going to become the program that I want to be, then we can't do that.”
With only 110 yards of total offense, the Owls posted their worst offensive output of the season, and for much of the game, FAU flirted with the program's all-time record for offensive futility. The Owls' 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive more than doubled the Owls offensive production from the first three quarters.
“If you want to have a chance against someone like this, you have to play your best, and we didn't do that today.” Wilbert said. “They're the No. 1 team in the country, They're a great team...They showed it.”
FAU never recovered from an early deficit, as Alabama's starters jumped on the Owls' porous defense quickly and didn't relent until they were taken out of the game on the Tide's second possession of the second half.
Alabama needed less than two minutes to establish its dominance over FAU, as Kenny Bell took Alabama's fourth play of the game 85 yards to the end zone.
It wasn't until late in the third quarter, after Alabama had brought in it's third string quarterback, that the Crimson Tide punted to FAU.
Before that, Alabama starting quarterback AJ McCarron completed 15 of 25 pass attempts for 212 yards and three touchdowns, while Eddie Lacy, without breaking much of a sweat, rushed for 106 yards on 15 carries in only one half of play.
Freshman T.J. Yeldon added 63 yards to Alabama's rushing total of 256 yards.
Many of those rushing yards came after the FAU defense made initial contact, as the Alabama running backs frequently required three or four Owls to bring them down.
“The yards after contact were ridiculous,” Pelini said. “They're as physical a team as there is out there.”
Amari Cooper, Michael Williams and DeAndrew White each had four receptions for Alabama.
Wilbert completed only one pass in the first half, and that went for a one-yard loss. The Owls went into the locker room at halftime with only 23 yards of total offense and a 30-point deficit.
“That's a great defense that we faced,” Pelini said. “They were just physically handling us up front.”
The FAU defense can take solace in stopping Alabama a few times, as the Crimson Tide had two field goals each from Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster.
“Obviously, you'd rather hold them to field goals than touchdowns,” Pelini said. “We gave up way too many yards and didn't tackle.”
Alabama ended the game with 503 yards of total offense.
While most FAU players had games to forget, FAU punter Sean Kelly was a star, punting eight times Saturday and averaging nearly 50 yards per kick. Kelly punts accounted for 285 more yards than the FAU offense.
The crowd of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium was the largest to ever see an FAU football game.
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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