TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football players were bigger and stronger than Georgia Southern’s Saturday afternoon. And 101,821 fans in Bryant-Denny Stadium knew it before the kickoff.
“But what we could control was how tough we were,” Eagles’ cornerback Laron Scott said.
Georgia Southern was tough physically and tough to discourage psychologically before falling to the third-ranked Crimson Tide, 45-21.
“Our kids fought tooth and nail all the way through,” Eagles coach Jeff Monken said.
Georgia Southern and its triple-option attack torched Alabama’s vaunted rushing defense for 302 rushing yards and 21 points.
The Tide entered the game allowing 51.9 rushing yards and 7.1 points a game. Only Arkansas had scored as many as 14 points in a game against Alabama. The Razorbacks also had the previous-best rushing total against Alabama with 148 yards on the ground.
But on a day when Alabama’s defense wasn’t at its best, the offense came through. The Crimson Tide scored six touchdowns and a field goal on its eight possessions to keep the Eagles from seriously threatening.
Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns. His second rushing score was his 20th of the season, breaking the school mark of Shaun Alexander’s 19 in 1999.
Richardson also caught a touchdown pass, one of three thrown by quarterback A.J. McCarron. Brad Smelley caught two those tosses.
But Georgia Southern had Alabama’s attention. Freshman Dominique Swope ran for 153 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jaybo Shaw threw a touchdown pass to Johnathan Bryant and Scott returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score.
“In my opinion, that’s a good win for us,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team improved to 10-1 and remains in the hunt for an FBS championship.
“That’s a good little team we played out there today. When I say little team, I don’t mean literally. Those guys played hard and played with a lot of toughness.”
You understand perfectly what Saban meant by little. The Eagles play in a division that allows 63 scholarships. Alabama has 85 scholarship players.
It’s suppose to make a difference but the Eagles, 9-2 and ranked third in the Football Championship Subdivison, never got flustered, staying within 10 most of the way before the Crimson Tide added a touchdown late in the third quarter and another with 44 seconds left to up the margin of victory.
“You’re never happy about a loss,” Scott said. “On the same page, it’s Alabama.”
It was Georgia Southern’s 19th consecutive loss to a full-fledged FBS team. The Eagles have a win over Florida International in 2004 when FIU was in transition to join the FBS.