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November 17, 2012TUSCALOOSA | On a day that some had labeled "Paycheck Saturday" in the Southeastern Conference, Western Carolina certainly earned one.
With most of the league feasting on nonconference opponents that do more damage to the budgets of schools like the University of Alabama than they could ever do on a football field, the Catamounts took a 49-0 beating at the hands of the Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It was not the least bit competitive.
Alabama had 21 points before the Catamounts had one first down.
It had 400 yards of offense before Western Carolina had 50.
And you can bet it had rival Auburn on its mind as soon as the clocks hit zero.
"Everything is ahead of us as a team, so we've got to look forward to what we need to try to do to improve," UA coach Nick Saban said. "Obviously, we're going to have a difficult game next week where you throw everything out the window in terms of records when you play rivalry games."
The Crimson Tide can clinch the SEC West and a spot in the SEC title game in Atlanta against Georgia the following week with a win over the Tigers. Saturday was little more than a warm-up for that, as even Saban conceded the Catamounts were "outmanned."
Quarterback AJ McCarron completed 6 of 6 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown before coming out of the game before the first half had even ended. Running back Eddie Lacy's day was fairly short as well, but he managed to pick up 99 yards on 10 carries with three touchdowns before his exit.
For Western Carolina, Saturday's game had more to do with the survival of its athletic department than its survival on the gridiron. Coach Mark Speir said earlier in the week that a piece of the $475,000 the school receives from UA for the game will go to upgrade the program's video equipment, which he described as archaic and "20 years behind."
As for the game, Speir indicated he was paying more attention to effort than the scoreboard.
"When you're getting into an ugly ballgame like that, our players didn't quit playing. They kept fighting," Speir said. "At halftime we were going to play for 30 more minutes and see where our program is at, in an infant stage where we are trying to build our program."
"Paycheck Saturday" turned out to be a bit more taxing - no pun intended - than some SEC schools bargained for. South Carolina played host to Wofford and found itself knotted 7-7 entering the fourth quarter, and the Florida Gators held a mere 10-0 on Jacksonville State at the half. Both SEC teams went on to win.
But none had as easy a day as the Crimson Tide.
It's not uncommon for Alabama's weaker nonconference opponents to play competitively with the Crimson Tide's second team. The Catamounts were not able to do that, either. With almost no starters seeing second-half action, Alabama preserved the shutout.
"The second defensive guys played a little better today. There have been times we've put those guys out there and they just make mental error after mental error," Saban said. "But I thought there was some maturity out of some of the backup players and the way they played today. They played with a lot more poise, which is something we haven't been able to get out of them."
Recruiting: Derrick Henry talks of selling the Tide program to other prospects
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.