Bama rallies to win opener
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Aug. 31, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Alabama hit South Florida with a tsunami of offense to start the second half and changed the tide of both team's season openers at Legion Field on Saturday afternoon.
After limping to a 17-point tie at the end of the opening half, the Tide (1-0) blasted out of the gate in the second half, driving the ball 72 yards on 11 plays for a field goal en route to a 40-17 win over the Bulls (0-1).
Apparently, Alabama needed one more half to implement the offense that was installed at the start of preseason practice by the team's third head coach in just nine months.
The Tide picked up five first downs on its opening drive of the third quarter leading to the field goal, Alabama notched 139 yards of offense and scored 16 points to begin the second half.
Williams tallied the first touchdown of the second half for Alabama, returning South Florida punter Brandon Baker's kick 73-yards for the second score of the half and a 27-17 lead. Brian Bostick, who recorded the field goal to open the quarter, converted the point-after attempt.
Williams powered his way into the end zone again with 3:01 left in the third quarter. The tailback capped an 11-play, 97-yard drive with a three-yard scoring run. Alabama's point-after attempt was blocked by South Florida.
Alabama's offensive dominance in the third quarter was in stark contrast to how the team began the game.
The Tide had their first play from scrimmage called back in the opening half, after quarterback Brodie Croyle was flagged for throwing in front of the
line of scrimmage.
But the Tide, which didn't record an offensive play for positive yards until 3:33 of the first quarter on a two-yard run by Ray Hudson, found its stride with 92 seconds left in the opening half.
Croyle led a 5-play, 80-yard drive to knock South Florida's lead to 17-14, with 26 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Tide caught a break on the ensuing Bulls' return, as J.R. Reed fumbled bringing the ball up the field into Alabama's hands.
After running two plays from South Florida's 24-yard line, Bostick came on to kick the game-tying field goal as time expired from the first half.
The Bulls jumped out to a 17-7 lead on two touchdowns by Brian Fisher one rushing and one receiving and a 45-yard field goal by Santiago Gramatica.
Despite the offense's deficiencies for most of the opening half, the Tide's defense made sure the Bulls didn't run away with the game.
Alabama defensive back Charlie Peprah picked off an errant throw by South Florida quarterback Ronnie Banks with 5:27 left in the first quarter and returned it 51 yards for the Tides' first points of the game.
Williams scored his final touchdown with a one-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
Croyle finished the game going 14-for-27 for 203 yards and one touchdown.
Alabama continues its season against the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.