Wilson leads Tide past Western Kentucky

Published 9:56 pm Saturday, September 13, 2008

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — John Parker Wilson moved up the record books then took a little break. No. 11 Alabama didn’t need him in the end after turning in the start-to-finish effort coach Nick Saban had been seeking.

Wilson passed for 215 yards and two touchdowns and became the Crimson Tide’s all-time leader in total offense, and freshman Mark Ingram ran for two scores in a 41-7 win over Western Kentucky Saturday night.

Alabama (3-0) rolled to 557 yards, its highest total since gaining 644 against LSU in 1989. Equally important, it did so a week after getting held to 172 yards by Tulane and having to rely on special teams to supply both touchdowns.

Even the hard-to-please Saban had no major complaints.

“We started the game out but most importantly we finished,” he said. “That’s what we wanted to try to accomplish. The goal in this game was to go prove that you could play to your capacity, you could play your best football.”

If it wasn’t the best, it was close enough against the Hilltoppers (1-2), who began moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision last season. They were held to 158 total yards but did become the first offense to score against the Tide this season.

“We didn’t catch this game with really good timing with Alabama coming off the Tulane game, and that got their attention,” Western Kentucky coach David Elson said. “When Alabama is playing at their best, they’re pretty good.”

Alabama’s offense was almost perfectly balanced: 281 yards rushing, 276 passing and a bunch of reserves saw action.

Key players got a chance to rest up and enjoy the show a week before opening Southeastern Conference play.

“This just gets the kinks out,” said Glen Coffee, who rushed for 97 yards on 11 carries before sitting out the second half. His career-long 51-yarder set up a touchdown.

Freshman Julio Jones caught five passes for 66 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown.

Wilson completed 17-of-27 passes with an interception in three quarters before giving way to backup Greg McElroy with all the scoring done.

Wilson passed Brodie Croyle to set Alabama’s total offense mark with 6,321 yards and his 41st touchdown throw tied Croyle atop the school list. He also jumped Andrew Zow to move up to No. 2 in passing yards, behind Croyle.

“The entire offense played a lot better than last week,” Wilson said. “It was good to come out and start the way we did. We were able to sustain the whole game.”

Ingram scored the Tide’s first two touchdowns on runs of 7 and 5 yards and gained 51 yards on nine runs. He also didn’t play after halftime.

Roy Upchurch gained another 53 yards while Terry Grant scored on an 8-yard run as the Tide got plenty of running backs and three quarterbacks in the game.

Western Kentucky quarterback David Wolke, subbing for injured starter K.J. Black, hit tight end Tristan Jones for a 30-yard score on a fourth-and-4 play late in the second quarter.

Wolke completed 14-of-25 passes for 116 yards and was intercepted once on the Hilltoppers’ only other promising drive — another fourth-down play.

“We didn’t make plays, and I don’t think we were physical enough up front,” Wolke said. “They came out and did a really good job of holding us.”

Alabama’s offense mostly moved at will with two other drives ending on a missed field goal and a fumble inside the Hilltoppers’ 10-yard line. The game ended with the Tide knocking on the door again.

The Tide led 31-7 at halftime and scored on its first four drives.

Western Kentucky, meanwhile, never mustered much offense and gained just 42 yards on 22 rushes.

With a chance to get a look at young players and subs, Saban did find some fault in the offense’s performance.

“I wish we wouldn’t have kept the ball so long, because there were some defensive players we wanted to see a little more,” he said. “But it didn’t work out that way.”