TUSCALOOSA | AJ McCarron walked into the University of Alabama record books on Saturday - when he wasn't getting knocked down.
That paradox summed up Alabama's 35-0 victory over Western Kentucky at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a win that was comfortable without being crisp for the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide.
McCarron threw for four touchdowns in the game, making him the first Alabama quarterback ever to have two four-touchdown passing performances in his career. But he was also sacked six times, and Alabama's vaunted running game just barely got over the 100-yard mark after a line performance that center Barrett Jones described as "pretty average."
The defense fared better, shutting out the Hilltoppers, thanks in large part to four forced turnovers (three fumbles and an interception), although WKU did move the ball intermittently.
"The game ended up being like I expected it to be and different from what a lot of people here expected it to be," UA head coach Nick Saban said. "Defensively, we didn't give up big plays, which is really important. I was pleased with being able to get a shutout. I think the turnovers were huge in that."
Western Kentucky geared its defense to stopping the Alabama run, which did open up passing opportunities for McCarron. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards and four scores, two to Kevin Norwood and two first-half scores to Christion Jones.
"We were fortunate to hit a couple of big plays today (when) he threw it to the right guy and read the coverage correctly," Saban said. "But we need to do a better job in the passing game. We just need to get in sync in terms of what we are doing."
McCarron opened the scoring with a 14-yard pass to Jones, then added a 33-yarder to Norwood before the quarter ended. Jones' second score came midway through the second quarter on a 22-yard pass, while Norwood added his second touchdown in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass. Freshman Kenyan Drake capped the scoring on a 32-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Western Kentucky, on the other hand, was scuttled by three lost fumbles and an interception.
"We moved the ball and then we shot ourselves in the foot," said WKU coach Willie Taggart. "We came in with two goals, to play good defense by stopping the run and not turn the ball over and then we do the complete opposite of what we wanted to do.
"We wanted to finish our drives and we just didn't and it killed us."
Alabama may have lost one of its offensive standouts in the fourth quarter as running back Jalston Fowler hurt his left knee and had to be taken from the field on a motorized cart. A full diagnosis of the extent of Fowler's injury is expected today.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.