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November 17, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Even after watching hours of film on fourth-ranked Alabama, Western Carolina coach Mark Speir still left Bryant-Denny Stadium impressed with the Crimson Tide's size, speed and strength Saturday afternoon.
In the wake of his team's 49-0 season-ending loss, Speir compared the experience to the first time he attended a NASCAR event.
"They're impressively strong," Speir said. "You watch film on that offensive and defensive line and, obviously, being able to see it up front, live and in-person, they're for real.
"I'm a NASCAR guy. I got to see Eli Gold here before the game. I told him it's kind of like seeing NASCAR on TV. Until you're up against that wall and seeing that car go by at 200 miles per hour, you don't get a real appreciation for it. It's the same kind of thing."
The Catamounts struggled with the Crimson Tide's physicality and athleticism, as Alabama rolled to a commanding 42-0 halftime lead.
Even with liberal substitutions in the second half, the Crimson Tide piled up 300 yards rushing with a 7.5-yard average per carry.
"When you watch them on film, they look big and fast just like they are in real life," Western Carolina senior linebacker Rock Williams said. "We got to go up against them today. They're a really strong team, especially their offensive line. It's really impressive their strength, and just how much stronger they are than us. That's one thing that is hard to see on film.
"This is the largest stadium I've had the chance to play in. It was awesome. It was a great environment. We don't get to play in stadiums like this every Saturday."
The only first-half scoring opportunity ended in disaster for the Catamounts after Devin Roberts recovered a fumbled punt by Christion Jones at the Alabama 29-yard line with just 41 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
After a 1-yard run by Michael Johnson, Western Carolina dipped into its bag of tricks when it brought in Eddie Sullivan at quarterback. Sullivan handed the ball to previous quarterback Troy Mitchell, who attempted a lateral back to Sullivan.
However, Mitchell's errant pass zipped backwards past Sullivan, and defensive back Deion Belue scooped up the loose ball and raced 57 yards for a touchdown.
"We tried a little trick play there hoping that we could maybe catch Alabama off guard and get 10 or 12 yards and get into comfortable field-goal position for us," Speir said. "I'm an old D-line coach and I've studied their front four. It's hard to run on those guys for anybody, much less a program like us.
"To Alabama's credit, they played sound, disciplined defense and created a big play."
Western Carolina mounted a third-quarter threat after a roughing-the-passer penalty and a 15-yard scramble by Sullivan moved the Catamounts to the Alabama 14-yard line.
But on fourth-and-1, Johnson ran into a Crimson wall and was dropped for no gain as the Catamounts turned the ball over on downs.
"I'm kicking myself in the butt on that fourth-and-1," Speir admitted. "We should have kicked the field goal and got out of here with some points. That's my fault for trying to go for it. That was stupid on my behalf, and I apologize to our football team for that."
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