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November 17, 2012TUSCALOOSA | The first to sit, as he should have been, was arguably the player the University of Alabama could least afford to lose to an injury: quarterback AJ McCarron.
Alabama thrashed visiting Western Carolina 49-0 Saturday, and more so than any game this season, the lopsided score provided a strong opportunity for Alabama's reserves to play extensively.
With a 28-0 lead and Western Carolina mounting nothing resembling resistance, the Crimson Tide junior quarterback's day was done by lunchtime.
And increasingly, his fellow starters joined him on the bench. Alabama's official participation report listed 66 players seeing action.
From the middle of the second quarter on, Blake Sims took nearly every snap at quarterback.
"Blake played in the first half, actually had a really good drive. We wanted to put him in at least one series with the ones. I thought he did a good job," UA coach Nick Saban said. "We still have work to do. He has ability to throw the ball. He just gets real antsy sometimes, especially in the pocket."
Sims completed just 2 of 6 passes, but rushed for 70 yards on eight carries, most of them on zone-read option plays.
At running back, Brent Calloway handled much of the second-half load and finished with 52 yards on seven carries. Freshman Kenyan Drake, typically the third back to play, was unavailable due to a suspension for a team rules violation.
"It wasn't anything real significant or bad, but it happened once before," Saban said. "He was told if he did it again, that he wouldn't dress for the game. It is what it is."
Defensively, freshman safety Landon Collins saw extensive action, as did reserve cornerbacks Jabriel Washington and Bradley Sylve. Sylve recorded a pass breakup, as did freshman Geno Smith, who earned his first career start.
The second offensive line - tackles Kellen Williams and Austin Shepherd, guards Arie Kouandjio and Chad Lindsay, and center Ryan Kelly - took over in the second half.
"I was watching Ryan Kelly mostly. He's kind of my protege," center Barrett Jones said. "The guy I've been training up to be the next center. He's going to be an outstanding player and somebody who will be fun for you guys to watch. He's extremely quick and explosive. He's got great feet and body quickness."
UA escapes healthy
Alabama sustained no injuries of significance Saturday, although wide receiver Kevin Norwood was withheld from the game due to a nagging injury that prevented him from practicing during the week.
"D.J. (Fluker) sprained his foot a little bit. He could have gone back in the game," Saban said. "We didn't put him back in the game. Kevin Norwood could have played today. We decided not to play him. He wasn't able to practice all that much this week. Hopefully, we can get a little healed up here and get healthy. Some of the guys who play a lot of snaps didn't play a lot of snaps today, which is probably a good thing."
A running clock was used in the second half Saturday to speed up the game. The clock continued to run on incomplete passes but was stopped for scores and penalties. ... Quarterback AJ McCarron broke the UA record for touchdown passes in a single season with his 21st, a 29-yarder to a wide-open Christion Jones. ... Alabama's Deion Belue scored his first career touchdown with a 57-yard fumble return just before the half that put UA ahead 42-0. It was the third nonoffensive touchdown of the season for Alabama, and the first this year on a fumble return. Alabama went to the halftime locker room with a shutout for the fifth time in 11 games this year. ... For what was almost certainly the first time in his career, McCarron recorded the longest rush of the game (24 yards). ... Alabama has won 18 consecutive nonconference games since its 2009 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah. ... UA is now 47-0 since 2008 when rushing for at least 150 yards. ... Announced attendance was 101,126, although a high number of no-shows was evident in the stadium, particularly in the south end zone. ... Alabama's game captains were junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, junior running back Eddie Lacy and senior kicker Jeremy Shelley.
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.