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STEPHEN’S REPORT: #1 Alabama vs. Western Carolina Preview

A victory over Mississippi State has Alabama first in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Crimson Tide remains at Bryant-Denny Stadium this week, as it will face FCS-opponent Western Carolina.

Western Carolina Catamounts: 7-4, (5-2)

Western Carolina’s head coach Mark Speir has the Catamounts third in Southern Conference play. Western Carolina enters Saturday’s matchup with Alabama, after securing a 42-27 win against Virginia Military Institute.

Junior quarterback Troy Mitchell has been effective this season. He’s completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,320 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Mitchell threw for 339 yards and five touchdowns in Western Carolina’s victory over VMI.

Junior Darius Ramsey is the Catamounts featured running back. Ramsey’s totaled 753 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. Mitchell can sling the ball, but he’s also a potent runner. He has 572 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Freshman Detrez Newsome has 489 yards rushing. Newsome leads all backs with nine rushing touchdowns.

Redshirt sophomore Spearman Robinson is Western Carolina’s deep threat receiver. He has 40 receptions for 526 yards and nine touchdowns. Karnorris Benson has appeared in nine games for the Catamounts, totaling 31 catches for 401 yards and five touchdowns. Terryon Robinson leads the group in receptions (50), receiving yards (643) and yards per game average (58.5). Robinson has collected one touchdown reception this season.

Senior linebacker Christon Gill anchors Western Carolina defensively. Gill has 102 tackles (11.0 tackles for loss), three sacks, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one interception and a forced fumble. Gill and Caleb Hawkins lead the Catamounts with three sacks apiece. Sophomore defensive end Andrew Mayton is third on the team in sack with 2.5. Sophomore defensive back Trey Morgan is a ball hawk. He leads the team in interceptions (5) and deflections (8). Morgan also has 49 tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Alabama Crimson Tide: 9-1, (6-1)

Defense set a tone for Alabama against Mississippi State. Senior linebacker Trey DePriest forced a safety, giving the Crimson Tide its first points of the contest. Alabama harassed Dak Prescott and held Josh Robinson to 37 rushing yards. The Crimson Tide forced three turnovers and defeated the Bulldogs 25-20.

Senior quarterback Blake Sims was clutch for Alabama in the fourth quarter. He engineered a 15-play, 76-yard drive that ended on a 7-yard touchdown run from T.J. Yeldon. Sims converted two critical third downs with his feet, and the drive took a little over six minutes off the clock. He finished 19/31 passing for 211 yards and a touchdown.

Sims has been special for the Crimson Tide this season. He’s completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,454 yards, 23 total touchdowns (18 passing, 5 rushing) and three interceptions.

Junior running back T.J. Yeldon has dealt with some injuries, but he’s quietly had a productive season. Yeldon has 758 yards rushing (5.0 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He’s averaged 75.8 yards per game, and is 242 yards away from a third 1,000-yard rushing season. Sophomore Derrick Henry has five rushing touchdowns. He’s recorded 590 yards, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Sims has 280 rushing yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Amari Cooper’s performance against Mississippi State has him third in the Heisman race. He caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in Alabama’s win over the Bulldogs. Cooper has been nothing short of remarkable this season. He has 87 receptions for 1,303 yards and 11 touchdowns. Cooper’s averaged 130.3 receiving yards per game. Senior DeAndrew White has come on strong as of late. He’s caught 11 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown in the last three games (Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State). White has 30 receptions for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Christion Jones and T.J. Yeldon both have 14 catches apiece. O.J. Howard has 10 receptions for 173 yards.

Linebacker Reggie Ragland leads Alabama on defense. He has 79 tackles (7.5 tackles for loss), 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one interception and a forced fumble. Defensive back Landon Collins played well against Mississippi State. He registered seven tackles and an interception. Collins has 68 tackles, five pass breakups and three interceptions this season. Trey DePriest has 59 tackles, two pass breakups and a safety. Jarran Reed leads all defensive linemen in tackles (43). Reed also has a sack and five pass breakups. Xzavier Dickson leads the team in sacks (7.0). Jonathan Allen (3.5 sacks) and Ryan Anderson (3.0 sacks) combined have 6.5 sacks.

Alabama’s 2014 senior class

Since 2010, Alabama’s senior class has guided this team to a 55-8 record. This class has been a part of two national titles, and with leaders like Blake Sims, Ryan Kelly, Trey DePriest and others, it has a chance to win another one. Alabama’s coaching staff and fans will honor this class Saturday with flowers and cheers of appreciation. Homecoming is full of excitement, but winning remains a focus point.

New Faces Suiting Up

Alabama defeated LSU and Mississippi State, but it endured some injuries in both games. The Crimson Tide will rest some starters against Western Carolina, including T.J. Yeldon. Blake Sims will start first, but expect to see plenty of Jake Coker in the second half. The Crimson Tide’s 2014 recruiting class will get some action defensively Saturday. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban has yet to specify placekicker Adam Griffith’s injury. Freshman punter JK Scott will get an opportunity to attempt some field goals. Receivers ArDarius Stewart, Chris Black, Cameron Sims and Robert Foster will receive much field time against the Catamounts. Alabama isn’t overlooking Western Carolina, but it is using this matchup to prepare for Auburn.

Alabama vs. Western Carolina 2014 stats
W. Carolina’s offense Alabama’s defense W. Carolina’s defense Alabama’s offense
28.4 points 14.5 points 24.7 points 33.7 points
184.7 rush yards 94.1 rush yards 224.1 rush yards 197.9 rush yards
22 rushing TDs 2 rushing TDs 20 rushing TDs 21 rushing TDs
219.0 pass yards 196.0 pass yards 161.8 pass yards 274.2 pass yards
19 passing TDs 11 passing TDs 11 passing TDs 21 passing TDs
403.7 total yards 290.1 total yards 385.9 total yards 472.1 total yards
43% 3rd down 36% 3rd down 46% 3rd down 52% 3rd down
11/17/2012 Western Carolina vs Alabama Football Highlights
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