By (Terrin Waack)

Leading up to Saturday’s game, Reggie Ragland told the rest of the defense that nobody was scoring on them. Geno Matias-Smith said that was Ragland’s motto.

Ragland was right. Alabama shut out the University of Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 on Saturday.

“That had to be the standard,” Matias-Smith said.

The last time the two teams faced off in 2007, Alabama lost 21-14. It was a different story this time around.

“We really tried to take a step in the right direction of establishing the kind of identity that we want to have as a football team,” coach Nick Saban said. “We played with a lot of toughness, especially on defense.”

Defense was strong at the line of scrimmage, keeping ULM to 9 yards rushing. It totaled six sacks from Da’Shawn Hand, Jarran Reed, Denzel Devall, D.J. Pettway, Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans.

Alabama had two interceptions by Matias-Smith and Ronnie Harrison.

“I was in the right place at the right time, tipped ball,” Matias-Smith said.

Jonathan Allen was injured during the game but Saban said this shoulder problem has happened before and he’s come back from it quickly. Allen is day-to-day leading up to the Georgia game.

Offensively, Alabama totaled 303 total yards with 137 rushing yards and 17 first downs. It ran 67 total plays compared to the 101 plays against Ole Miss the week before.

“I thought offensively we stopped ourselves way too many times,” Saban said.

Jake Coker started at quarterback and stayed there late into the fourth quarter when Cooper Bateman stepped into the position. Coker completed 17 out of 31 passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns. In his limited time, Bateman had eight yards and completed his only pass.

“I think we all started a little slow today but eventually we got things going and finished off how we wanted to finish off,” Coker said.

Four games into the season, Coker has thrown four interceptions. He threw one early on in the second quarter against ULM. He said everyone ran their route, he just had a hard time getting the ball out the way he needed to.

“When you throw an interception, you’re just not doing the right thing,” Coker said. “I have to be more conservative as far as taking shots, especially in traffic when I’m trying to get the ball out. I can’t do the things I’ve been doing.”

Just before the second quarter, Derrick Henry put Alabama on the board first with a 3-yard run. He had 13 carries for 52 yards with that one touchdown. Saban said Henry was sick earlier in the week and didn’t want to wear him out in this game. Kenyan Drake led the Alabama offense in rushing with 10 carries for 65 yards.

Coker connected with Calvin Ridley with a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, increasing Alabama’s lead 14-0. Ridley had four receptions for 38 yards and one touchdown.

Alabama receivers totaled three dropped passes in the first half.

After halftime, Alabama came out with its offense more in sync. It only had one dropped pass early in the fourth.

“Something went down,” ArDarius Steward said.

There was more miscommunication in the first half compared to the second, Coker said. It was all worked out come the third quarter. He said he loved being able to get into a rhythm and play almost the whole game.

Coker threw a 19-yard pass to Michael Nysewander for an Alabama touchdown in the third. Then in the fourth, he threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to ArDarius Stewart.

“It’s a momentum swing,” ArDarius Stewart said. “That’s what you have to have as a team – momentum. So every time you have a chance to make a big play, you do it.”

Adam Griffith made two field goals in the second half on kicks of 40 and 35 yards.

“We’re definitely getting better as we go,” Coker said.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports