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WCU win like a good mouthwash

Coming off a tough loss, a 49-point win over a lower-tiered team is somewhat like gargling: it allows a team to get a bad taste out of its collective mouth, on several levels. One example in Alabama’s 49-0 home win over Football Subdivision foe Western Carolina was how the Tide got off the field on third downs.  The Catamounts (1-10) converted on but two of 11 such tries, and were unsuccessful on their lone fourth down attempt, as well.

“We practice that every week,” said safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. “It’s very important to get off the field on third down. We want to get off the field, and it was good today that extra guys got to come in and play.

“Last week is in the past. We just wanted to come out and move forward.”

One man who moved forward—literally – was junior cornerback Deion Belue, who scooped and scored his first career touchdown on a Catamount lateral gone bad and was credited with a 57-yard touchdown return. (Replays seemed to indicate it was longer, but official stats are just that.)

“Whenever a play like that is there, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Belue, “so I did. I knew the ball was live. I saw (Adrian) Hubbard close to it, and I thought he was going to pick it up, so I was getting ready to block for him, but I got to it first.

“When you’re coming off a loss, it’s easy to get distracted. We did our jobs. Coming in to this game, we were just focused on getting back to what we do, because this season is getting close to the end.”

Bama coach Nick Saban said, “We went out and tried to play to a standard, and executed fairly well. I think we improved as a team today.”

Another example of a bad taste erased is getting off to a fast start offensively, rather than a series of three-and-outs leading to a big early hole, as was the case a week ago. Not so Saturday.

“The first ‘o’ scored every time we got in,” starting quarterback AJ McCarron pointed out accurately. “We were clicking on all cylinders.”

McCarron etched his name in crimson flame in the school record books by throwing his 21st touchdown pass, a single-season mark.

“It’s a great honor, just because of all the tradition and the great quarterbacks that have played here,” said McCarron. “None of that would be possible without my great teammates and our great offensive line.”

The 29-yard scoring strike from McCarron to Christion Jones that broke the record came with 8:15 left in the first half and put the Tide up 28-0 at the time. The previous single-season mark of 20 touchdown passes was set in 2010 by current New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy.

Every Tide player who spoke to the media made it clear that no one was looking past Western Carolina to next week’s final home game, the Iron Bowl against cross-state rival Auburn.

“We take it one game at a time,” said Belue, “and we’ve got Auburn coming up, so now we’re going to focus on Auburn.”

Said Clinton-Dix:  “If we just come out and do our jobs, we’ll come out with a victory, but Auburn can show up and beat you. We’re not going to underestimate Auburn.”

Lacy, who ran for 99 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, added, “Auburn is a tough team to play, no matter what their record is. We’re going to come out and play as hard as we can, the way we’re supposed to play.”

Saban added, “You throw everything out the window when you play a rivalry game. Records don’t mean anything.”

Kickoff for the Iron Bowl is set for 2:30 p.m. CT, with CBS set to televise the game.

Saban, whose team upped its record to 10-1, also announced that freshman running back Kenyon Drake missed the game due to being suspended for violation of team rules, adding that “it wasn’t anything serious.”

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