September 8, 2007

Notebook: Defense stifles Vandy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - With one of the league's top quarterbacks and its best wide receiver combining for Vanderbilt, Alabama's defense had its hands full Saturday.

Full of Commodores, that is.

The Crimson Tide stifled Vandy signal-caller Chris Nickson for a 5-of-18 effort, then harassed reserve Mackenzi Adams after Nickson pulled a hamstring. Commodores record-breaking receiver Earl Bennett was limited to four catches for 52 yards, with help from a pentalty that wiped out a gain of 60-plus on the first play. And the Vandy rushing attack picked up only 57 yards on 26 carries.

"I thought the defense did an outstanding job against a good offensive team," said coach Nick Saban. "Did a good job on their quarterback and their receivers."

As for the option element of Vanderbilt's offense, a Cassen Jackson-Garrison run of 25 yards in the first half was about the only damage done.

"You have to be disciplined and know your assignment," Wallace Gilberry said. "They broke one, but the second time around we were really on top of it."

Injury News

Running back Glen Coffee sustained a right shoulder injury in the second half and was wrapped in ice following the game, but said he should be ready to play against Arkansas. "I just hurt it a little but I'll be alright for next week. I just fell on it and I've got to get it looked at." ... Offensive tackle Mike Johnson was injured in the first half, resulting in Andre Caldwell sliding to Johnson's right tackle spot for a few plays, while reserve Evan Cardwell played center. Johnson later returned, however, and Saban said he knew of no serious injuries.

* Alabama's game captains were DJ Hall, Darren Mustin and Justin Britt.

* For the second consecutive game, the Crimson Tide offense scored a touchdown on its first offensive play as Terry Grant scored on a one-yard run with 12:26 left in the first quarter. The play was set up by a 69-yard punt return by Javier Arenas following Vanderbilt's game-starting offensive possession.

Last week, Alabama scored on its first offensive play from scrimmage when Grant ran 47 yards for a score following another good punt return by Arenas against Western Carolina. This is believed to be the first time in Alabama football history that the Tide has opened consecutive games with a touchdown on the first offensive play from scrimmage.

Notes, Stats, Etc.

* The Alabama defense has allowed just one touchdown in the first eight quarters of play in the 2007 season.

* Redshirt freshman tight end Preston Dial earned his first career start for Alabama due to the Tide's first offensive play coming on a goal-line situation with an extra tight end in the game.

* The Tide defense began the day in a nickel formation giving nickel back Kareem Jackson his first start for the Tide.

* Ezekial Knight earned his first start at strongside outside linebacker for the Tide.

* DJ Hall surpassed the 2,000 receiving yard mark for his career after a three catch, 67-yard performance against Vanderbilt. Hall is now 34 yards shy of surpassing Ozzie Newsome's all-time school record for receiving yards.

* Junior free safety Rashad Johnson recorded his first career interception.

* Sophomore punter P.J. Fitzgerald recorded a new career-long with a 58-yard punt in the third quarter. Fitzgerald averaged 41.6 yards on five attempts.


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