McElroy, No. 4 'Bama rout North Texas
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)Alabama coach Nick Saban was waiting for his team to play solid ball for the full 60 minutes.
Well, 55 minutes and 40 seconds isn't too bad.
Greg McElroy fumbled on the game's first play but just about everything else went well for the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide in a 53-7 victory over North Texas on Saturday.
McElroy passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another before sitting out most of the second half, the one miscue a distant memory.
"Until today, I wondered, 'Was this team really going to fulfill its full potential?"' Saban said. "I just wasn't pleased with the lack of consistency we played with in the first two games. We played really well at times and at other times we didn't, but I feel like we were much more solid today and we made some improvement."
Mark Ingram ran for 91 yards and a TD on eight carries, and scored on a 29-yard reception for the Tide (3-0) in its final pre-conference tuneup before Arkansas visits last year's SEC West champions. Freshman Trent Richardson added 87 yards and a touchdown, and Terry Grant scored twice and gained 79 yards.
It was the highest-scoring game for Alabama since a 56-7 win over UTEP in 2001.
Star receiver Julio Jones missed the game with a bruised right knee, tailback Roy Upchurch was out with a high ankle sprain and the subs got plenty of action after 'Bama raced to a 30-0 halftime lead. With starting quarterback Riley Dodge out with a separated non-throwing shoulder, North Texas (1-2) was outgained 523-187.
"Our goal was to dominate for 60 minutes," said McElroy, a high school teammate of Dodge. "We were able to do that."
McElroy completed 13 of 15 passes for 176 yards, including the 29-yarder to Ingram and a 34-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Maze before leaving after one drive in the third quarter. He ran for a 2-yard score against a team led by his high school coach and Riley's father, Todd Dodge.
"That was a different experience," McElroy said. "It was a good feeling for him to tell me he was proud of me."
Dodge left impressed with the Tide as well.
"They were as advertised," he said. "Coming in and preparing for them, we felt like there was definitely a reason they were ranked No. 4 in the nation. They obviously should (be), and have high hopes of being able to play for a national championship. They've got all the ingredients you need: a big physical offensive line, tough running backs, an accurate quarterback and a defense that's very tenacious."
Backup Star Jackson led a field goal drive in the final 2:08 of the first half and was 9 of 13 passing for 87 yards, the first pass attempts of his career.
The only downers for Alabama: the game-opening fumble by McElroy when he was hit after cocking his arm and Leigh Tiffin's two missed extra points. The defense forced a three-and-out after that fumble gave the Mean Green the ball near midfield.
"Even though the first play wasn't good, I felt like we dominated the line of scrimmage and the game for probably the first time in the beginning of a game all year," Saban said.
North Texas junior Nathan Tune was 16 of 23 for 126 yards and a touchdown in his first start, but got little help from a run game stymied by the Tide's massive defensive front seven.
North Texas managed just 61 yards rushing - most of it in the fourth quarter - and got seven carries for 8 yards from leading rusher Cam Montgomery.
"We just could not run the ball," Dodge said. "We knew it was going to be tough going in to run against that front and we sure tried but weren't able to get anything going."
The absence of Jones and Upchurch didn't seem to slow the offense down much.
'Bama converted 10 of 14 third-down plays and collected 28 first downs to seven for the Mean Green. The assortment of backs routinely sprung free for nice gains up the middle.
Tide return man Javier Arenas had a huge second half with punt returns of 36 and 33 yards and a 61-yard kick return to set up three scores.
Alabama had six consecutive scoring drives after McElroy lost a fumble on the game's first play from scrimmage, starting with a 13-play, 95-yard march.
The Tide had 11 plays of 10-plus yards in the first half.
"We came out fast, finished strong," Ingram said. "We put two good halves together, and we should be proud of that.
"We're looking forward to getting to the SEC schedule and make a run back at the championship."