TUSCALOOSA — Saturday looked like a day when Alabama freshman running back Kenyan Drake would get plenty of playing time.
Plenty of other third-team players got on the field during the Crimson Tide’s 49-0 home win over Western Carolina, but Alabama coach Nick Saban said Drake didn’t get to play because of a suspension. Drake wasn’t allowed to dress out.
“Kenyan Drake was suspended today for a violation of team rules,” Saban said. “It wasn’t anything that was really significant or bad, but it happened once before, he was told if he did it again that he wouldn’t dress for the game. It is what it is.
“It would have been great to have him out there today — he would have gotten a lot of playing time. We think he is a good person and are certainly excited about his future, but he also has to learn that if you don’t do the right thing, there are consequences for it.”
With Drake out, fourth-team running back Brent Calloway benefited the most, getting seven carries for 52 yards. Also, senior walk-on Ben Howell got five carries for 9 yards. Howell is a fan favorite from nearby Gordo, and he’s popular with his teammates, too, because of his friendly personality and work ethic.
“It’s great to see him play,” Tide safety Vinnie Sunseri said. “He’s one of my favorite people in the whole world.”
Alert Belue scores a TD
Western Carolina botched an attempt at a trick play, and Alabama’s Deion Belue turned it into a touchdown.
Backup quarterback Eddie Sullivan took the snap and pitched to Troy Mitchell, who also is the Catamounts’ starting quarterback but had lined up at running back. Mitchell rolled out and was trying to throw back to Sullivan, but the toss went awry. Because it was a backward pass, it was ruled a lateral.
With the ball lying on the ground, not everyone realized it was live. Belue did, picked it up and ran 57 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw that he had muffed it,” Belue said. “My teammate, (Adrian) Hubbard, saw it and froze up. He could’ve picked it up. But I picked up the ball and ran.”
Big day for Calloway
Redshirt freshman Brent Calloway turned in his biggest game of the year with 52 rushing yards. He also had three tackles as part of Alabama’s kick coverage teams.
It marked his first extended action at running back. He switched to the position from H-back at midseason when backup Dee Hart injured his knee.
“There are some things that Brent does well as a running back,” Saban said. “He has worked hard. He is a really good special teams guy for us — when he makes good decisions. I call it executive function do you make good choices and decisions about what you do — like penalties and stuff like that. I think he has gotten better at that and actually made some good plays today on special teams.”
But Saban still thinks Calloway would be better at his original position.
“We wanted to play Brent at H-back, which we thought he was really good at, which is kind of where (former Tide star) Brad Smelley played,” he said. “I think the experience at running back is probably beneficial to his future, but we will see where that takes us when we get some other running backs in here. If he can compete in that position, we are happy with him to do it. I really feel that with his size and skill set, he has really good hands and good speed that he could be a good H-back for us.”
Smith gets first start
Alabama freshman cornerback Geno Smith made his first collegiate start Saturday as the Tide opened with six players in the defensive backfield.
He made one tackle and broke up a pass. Saban said Smith’s development allows Alabama a bit of flexibility on defense. When the Tide plays six defensive backs, Smith can play the fifth player in the group, which Saban calls “star.” That allows safety Vinnie Sunseri to move from “star” to “money,” which is the sixth player in the secondary. Saban said Sunseri is better suited for “money” than “star.”
“Geno has corner-type of ability at the star position, and I think that lends itself to having a little bit better cover-guy. ... So, his development is probably critical to improving defensively,” Saban said.
A record for AJ
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw only six passes Saturday but one of them went for a touchdown. His 29-yard scoring pass to Christion Jones gave him 21 touchdown throws this season, which is a Tide record.
Greg McElroy held the old record with 20 in 2010.
“It means a lot with all the tradition and all the great quarterbacks that have played here,” McCarron said. “Like I said, and like I will always say, none of that would be possible without my great offensive line and my great wide receivers that I have out there making plays for me.”