Originally created 09/12/99

No. 21 Alabama 37, Houston 10



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Just a week ago, Alabama could barely move the ball. This week, the Crimson Tide could barely be stopped.

Shaun Alexander had three touchdowns and Alabama scored three times in just over seven minutes Saturday as the 21st-ranked Crimson Tide beat Houston 37-10.

"Our first-game jitters were out and we were mentally focused today," quarterback Andrew Zow said. "That allowed us to move into a rhythm early and get a tempo going."

The Tide (2-0) struggled early at Vanderbilt last week, trailing in the fourth quarter before rallying for two late touchdowns in a 28-17 victory.

On Saturday, the Tide scored on its first two possessions on the way to gaining 505 yards.

It was the kind of start Alabama coach Mike DuBose was looking for, so he could stick to his game plan of rotating quarterbacks Zow and Tyler Watts.

"The only thing we wanted to do was get off to a quick start with Andrew and give Tyler a chance and we were able to do that," DuBose said.

DuBose has decided to let both quarterbacks play in the first few games this season so Watts, a highly touted redshirt freshman, can gain experience. But as Alabama struggled last week, he only found two chances to get Watts into the game.

Against Houston, Watts came in for Alabama's third series with the Tide already ahead 10-3 on Zow's 25-yard pass to Alexander. Watts was 1-of-3 on the first possession, which ended with Alabama's only punt of the half.

But the Tide stuck with him and he delivered on the next series with a five-play, 78-yard drive capped by Alexander's 17-yard TD run. That gave Alabama a 17-3 halftime lead.

Zow, the starter, was 8-of-18 for 156 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Watts was 3-of-7 for 74 yards.

"I felt better this week and I'm more comfortable now that I have seen more reps," Watts said. "I think it works because Andrew is encouraging to me. The rotation doesn't seem to bother him."

Houston closed to 17-10 on its first possession of the second half, scoring on Jason McKinley's 16-yard pass to split end Orlando Iglesias.

Alabama put Houston away with three big plays.

A 25-yard punt gave Alabama the ball at the Houston 40. Four plays later, Zow found Freddie Milons wide open in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:02 to go in the third quarter.

One possession later, Alexander scored his third touchdown of the day, bouncing off three defenders in the middle of the field and breaking up the right side for an 8-yard touchdown run and a 30-10 lead with 14:18 to play.

McKinley, hit hard on a blitz by Marcus Specer, fumbled on the Cougars' next possession and Alabama's Cornelius Griffin recovered. Two plays later, tight end Terry Jones converted Zow's screen pass into a 40-yard touchdown with 10:28 to play.

Jones, the 6-foot-3, 262-pound son of former Alabama great Terry Jones, led Alabama with three catches for 124 yards.

"I can't remember the last time a tight end led Alabama in receiving," DuBose said. "But he is a weapon, a real force to be reckoned with in our offense."

Alexander, who had 194 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns last week, had 192 yards on Saturday. Backup Shaun Bohanon added 95 yards on 12 carries.

"He was a fine runner, the difference in the game," Houston coach Kim Helton said of Alexander. "Alabama doesn't have too much difference between their quarterbacks, but that running back was exceptional. We just couldn't get him to the ground."

Houston, limited to 274 yards, struggled except when Iglesias got the ball. He made six catches for 105 yards.

"We were disappointed not coming away with a win," Iglesias said. "Alabama was stronger than we were, but we have to make more plays than we did here today."