COLUMBIA, Mo. | Solid all season previously, special teams play went from solid to spectacular to shoddy for the University of Alabama on Saturday in a 42-10 win over host Missouri.
Two big plays helped the Crimson Tide open a big first-half lead. Freshman Landon Collins blocked a punt in the first quarter for the Crimson Tide, setting up the offense's third touchdown. It was the first blocked punt by Alabama since Chavis Williams blocked a Georgia State punt in 2010. Christion Jones delivered the next big special teams play, a 30-yard punt return to midfield that finished with Jones being flipped after being hit by Missouri's Trey Barrow.
Those plays went a long way to give Alabama an advantageous drive start average of its own 36-yard line.
Soon after, Missouri made some special teams noise of its own with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marcus Murphy, his fourth touchdown return of the season, three of which have come on punts. That pulled the score within 28-7. Just before the half, UA punter Cody Mandell fumbled an accurate snap from longsnapper Carson Tinker, and was dropped for a loss of 17. The Tigers were unable to convert points on the ensuing drive, however. UA coach Nick Saban noted the special teams problems began after a 30-minute weather delay.
"We played extremely well until we had the rain delay," Saban said. "We came out a little flat, gave up the kickoff return, turned the ball over on the punt, turned the ball over again, they get 10 points and get back in the game and eventually we started playing a little better."
UA fans held their collective, proverbial breath Saturday when it appeared quarterback AJ McCarron was injured on a third-quarter sack by Missouri's Sheldon Richardson. McCarron required assistance coming off the field, and was being attended to by trainers while reserve quarterback Blake Sims warmed up on the sideline during UA's ensuing defensive series. McCarron returned on Alabama's next drive, however.
"AJ's got a twisted knee," Saban said. "He was able to go back in the game and play. We're hopeful that he won't have issues and he'll be able to play in the future. But it will probably take a day or so to figure that out for sure. The fact that he was able to go back in the game probably speaks well of his chance to come back and be able to play, but I think (the doctor) wants to take a look at it in 24 hours and see where we're at."
Saban indicated injuries to wide receiver Christion Jones (ankle) and running back Eddie Lacy (hand) were both minor.
Saban took blame for the Crimson Tide playing "flat" after the weather delay. With Alabama ahead 27-0 during the delay, the coaches agreed to just a five-minute halftime. "I didn't do a very good job when we were on the 30-minute break, obviously, getting the intensity back up, getting the mental energy back up going out there and warming up and coming back and playing like we needed to play," Saban said, "because we didn't play nearly as well after that. That's something I'll be responsible for."
It was the first lightning-delayed Alabama game since a 1994 home game against Ole Miss.
Williams at fullback
Alabama nose guard Jesse Williams once again was inserted into the offense as a fullback for goal-line situations. The 320-pound
Williams led the way for three short touchdown runs, two by Eddie Lacy and one from T.J. Yeldon.
C.J. Mosley led Alabama in tackles with 12, including nine solos, with a sack and a fumble recovery. ... Since 2009, Alabama quarterbacks have thrown only 14 interceptions, while the UA defense has recorded 70 interceptions over the same span. ... AJ McCarron's streak of consecutive passes without an interception reached 227 Saturday, a school record. McCarron has yet to throw an interception this season, though he did lose a fumble in the first half against the Tigers on Saturday. ... The Crimson Tide defense allowed only one red zone possession by the Tigers. ... Country music singer Sara Evans, the wife of former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker, performed the national anthem in a Missouri jersey. Evans was born in Boonville, Mo. ... Alabama has the most wins in the nation since 2007 with 61. Missouri ranked No. 12 entering Saturday's game with 51 over the same period. ... Alabama's game captains Saturday were offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, defensive end Damion Square and safety Robert Lester. ... Alabama has not been shut out in 148 consecutive games, a school record. ... The initial BCS standings will be released today.
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