‘Bama’s title defense begins in Classic blowout

ARLINGTON, Texas — Alabama’s 41-14 rout of Michigan Saturday night came in a game called the Cowboys Classic.

The classic part of the title is debatable unless you were pulling for Crimson Tide. If that was the case, the game was all kinds of classic.

It was a classic tail-whipping.

It was a classic mismatch of the defending national champion and a Michigan team that looked nothing like a school worthy of a preseason No. 8 national ranking. It was classic Alabama football too, as the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide physically dominated the Wolverines, running at will, passing at will and putting defensive pressure on Michigan by jumping out to a 31-0 lead in the second quarter.

And if you were looking for a classic Heisman statement game from Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, you were out of luck. He threw for 200 yards and one touchdown, plus ran for a score, but was also intercepted twice and relegated to being just another hapless quarterback against a relentless Alabama defense.

While the 14-time national champs weren’t perfect in front of 90,413 at Cowboys Stadium, they certainly showed they’ll be a force one again this season.

“We have high hopes for this team,” said Alabama senior center Barrett Jones, who helped pave the way for 232 yards on the ground for the Crimson Tide. “It kind of shows the nation that this isn’t the complacent Alabama that people were expecting. We’re hungry and we’re coming for another national championship.”

If Alabama was hungry, it went on a feeding frenzy in a 17-minute span that saw them jump out to a 31-0 lead with 4:31 remaining in the first half. Alabama did damage in every phase of the game, scoring on a pair of touchdown passes from A.J. McCarron, getting a rushing touchdown from Eddie Lacy and a defensive score on a 16-yard interception return by C.J. Mosley.

Mosley’s pick of Robinson in the second quarter signaled that the rout was on and that the oddsmakers who tabbed Alabama as a two-touchdown favorite over Michigan were too conservative.

The scary part about Saturday was that Alabama didn’t leave Arlington satisfied. Missed opportunities will be a focus this week, which doesn’t bode well for Western Kentucky, the next foe on Alabama’s path to what it hopes is a 15th national crown.

“This was a really good team win for us,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “And the expectation that we have and the standard we want to play to in business or on sports is about who you are. You know, it’s good to look good. It’s good to wear the jersey, but it’s the guy in it and the character that you have and who you are that probably make the biggest difference.”

Anyone who thought Alabama would be devoid of stars after its national title was followed by talent lost to the NFL would be mistaken. McCarron threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Lacy, who was limited by an ankle injury, was part of a four-headed monster at running back.

The star in the backfield was true freshman T.J. Yeldon, who reeled off a 40-yard run on one of the first-half scoring drives and finished with 111 yards on just 11 carries. His name was mentioned in the same sentence as former ‘Bama backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson after his debut on national television.

And then there was the defense. Robinson’s Heisman hopes may already be dashed as he was relegated to being a pocket passer with happy feet by the Crimson Tide. He ran for just 27 yards and his highlight play may have been when he was run over in the first half after making a tackle on an interception.

Michigan had 269 total yards on 56 snaps, but 135 came on just two plays. Alabama totaled three interceptions, limited the Wolverines to 69 yards on the ground and also sacked Robinson once.

“We didn’t play Michigan football,” said Robinson, who went to the locker room briefly in the second half after coming up short on a fourth-down run. “They had a great team. I give them credit, but we didn’t come to play ball today. You guys could see that we didn’t come to play all today, and we’ve got to bounce back from it.”

One of the more popular shirts for the Maize-and-Blue faithful had “The Big House in the Big D” on the back. Maybe that was the problem for Michigan. Maybe the Wolverines showed up in Dallas. Unfortunately for them, the game was in Arlington.

The Wolverines didn’t get on the board until Robinson’s six-yard run late in the second quarter. They got within 34-14 with 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but by then the only thing in doubt was the final score.

It wasn’t exactly the splash Michigan was hoping to make in the biggest game of the weekend.

“I would think we’re on the short end of the measuring stick right now,” Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said. “We’ve got a lot of things we know we can do better. I’ve seen us do it better and we’ve got to get back to work.”

The good news for Hoke and the Wolverines is that they’ve got the rest of the season to do that. That’s also the bad news for everyone else remaining on Alabama’s schedule.

There’s still work to be done if the defending champs want to have a classic game.

“We know we can play with anybody,” said McCarron. “We’ve got to consistently play 60 minutes, every snap of the game. We just have to keep coming with it every game. This is definitely a good way to start off, but we’re going to have to come back week in, week out and improve.”