Trent Richardson, No. 2 Alabama roll over North Texas
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's potent tailback tandem Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy took turns sprinting toward the end zone. North Texas never got there at all.
Richardson and Lacy each had a pair of long touchdown runs and career rushing highs of 160-plus yards to make a little backfield history, and No. 2 Alabama's defense smothered the Mean Green in a 41-0 victory Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (3-0) had never had two backs run for even 150 yards in the same game. Richardson and Lacy covered the yardage in big chunks.
"To break free in Bryant-Denny is always a good feeling," Richardson said.
To do it a couple of times is even better.
"That's one of the best feelings as a running back to know you don't have to worry about nobody touching you or hitting you," Lacy said. "The offensive line did everything they were supposed to do, the wide receivers blocked downfield. Getting the touchdowns is one of the best feelings ever."
Richardson scored three times -- including a 58-yarder and a career-long 71-yarder -- and had most of his 167 yards on the two long ones to help Alabama race into its showdown with No. 14 Arkansas. He had 24 yards at halftime against the Mean Green (0-3) and the nation's 117th-rated defense.
Lacy scored on runs of 43 and 67 yards and gained 161 yards.
Alabama's defense recorded its first shutout since a 45-0 victory over Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2009, thanks to a blocked field goal by Robert Lester and a goal line stand in the final minutes.
The Tide racked up 347 yards rushing and outgained North Texas 586-91.
First-year North Texas coach Dan McCarney, who spent three seasons at Florida vying for league titles against Alabama, thinks his new team faced another contender.
"We obviously know what a national championship team looks like by coaching on one at Florida and playing one tonight," McCarney said. "I think they have the pieces in place to go and compete for a title this season. They're just fast, relentless and physical playmakers. They suffocated our offensive line. Every time we looked to build some momentum, they continued to dominate our front."
Despite the big runs, Alabama's physical, aggressive defense set the tone against a team that is now 1-42 against ranked opponents and is off to its fourth 0-3 start in five years. North Texas had 25 yards and one first down in the opening half and only crossed midfield twice. Leading rusher Lance Dunbar gained 16 yards on 17 carries.
Tide quarterback AJ McCarron, meanwhile, completed 15 of 21 passes for 190 yards before giving way to backup Philip Sims in the fourth quarter -- and part of the second.
The running backs didn't steal the show until the second half.
Richardson ran his season total to eight touchdowns while he and Lacy together averaged 16.4 yards on 20 carries.
The game went from dominating to downright ugly in a 15-minute span, starting with Richardson's 58-yarder down the left sideline in the third quarter. Lacy then burst untouched through the line on the only play of a drive early in the fourth to reach the final margin.
Despite the lopsided score and wire-to-wire domination, there was plenty for Tide coach Nick Saban to find fault with ahead of the Tide's biggest test so far against fellow Southeastern Conference Western contender Arkansas.
Alabama's offense dominated between the 20s but stalled several times in the red zone. The Tide had to settle for two field goals by Jeremy Shelley plus two missed attempts.
North Texas also racked up four sacks and recovered fumbles by both Tide quarterbacks.
All that only made a cosmetic difference on the scoreboard and gave coach Nick Saban some teaching points after a third straight easy win.
"The big message here is every time you don't pay attention to detail, every time you don't do the little things right, the consequences can be, you know, bad," Saban said.
Just not particularly costly against a 45-point underdog.
The Tide scored on its first four possessions with McCarron picking apart a defense that allowed 563 passing yards to Houston last week. The defense, on the other hand, dominated throughout.
The shutout stood after North Texas opted to go for a touchdown in the final minutes instead of kicking a short field goal. Backup quarterback Andrew McNulty's fourth-down pass from the 3 sailed incomplete.
Alabama outgained the Mean Green 282-25 in the first half. Lacy scored on his 43-yarder run, and Richardson scored on a comparably mundane 4-yarder.
Alabama has scored at least 17 first-half points in seven straight games.
Alabama wide receiver Darius Hanks made his season debut after sitting out the first two games under the NCAA's redshirt rule. He had two catches for 20 yards.
2022 American Athletic Conference Standings
2022 Southeastern Conference Standings