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September 2, 2013

ALABAMA NOTEBOOK: Big numbers in opener no surprise for Tide

ATLANTA — The big stage is quickly becoming the best place for Alabama to put up big numbers against what are generally regarded as some of the biggest programs in the country.

Including two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games at the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech and last year's Cowboy Classic at Cowboys Stadium versus Michigan, the top-ranked Tide have shown no mercy to their top-tiered competition in their last seven season openers.

Toss Alabama’s 35 points Saturday against the Hokies into the mix, and the Tide have crushed opening opponents by a combined score of 292-74 during coach Nick Saban's tenure.

With the eventual 35-10 Week 1 victory, Alabama improved to 63-3 under Saban when leading at halftime, 12-1 all-time against Virginia Tech and 15-5-1 in domed stadiums. The Tide also increased their win streak on the road, which includes neutral-site matchups, to 15.



% Fresh faces: There were six players — offensive linemen Arie Kouandjio, Ryan Kelly and Austin Shepherd, defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan, defensive back Jarrick Williams and long snapper Cole Mazza — who had their first collegiate starts for Alabama on Saturday, as well a host of young backups and reserves who received playing time late when the Tide was well on their way to toppling Virginia Tech.

So when Saban was asked about “the several new guys in there tonight,” it should come as no surprise he didn’t exactly know how to answer.

“New guys where? We had them all over the place,” Saban quipped with a laugh. “Can you be more specific? If I started to go through every young guy that played tonight, everybody would leave. Who do want to know about?”

When narrowed down to the new-look offensive line, which allowed quarterback A.J. McCarron to be sacked four times and struggled to create rushing room for T.J. Yeldon and the team’s other tailbacks, Saban’s response was much more serious.

“I don’t think we’re talking about the inexperienced guys not playing well,” he said. “I think we’re talking about the entire group realizing they need to play a little bit better together, be a little more physical.

“We have too good of skilled players not to give them more opportunities to make plays in the game. I’m not going to single out young guys. I think the entire group needs to do a better job.”

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