Out-of-conference blowouts are part of the college football economy. Every year, blue-collar programs pay smaller schools to come to town expecting not a close game, but exposure and high pay. Louisiana-Monroe head coach Terry Bowden knew as much before going to Alabama.
The ensuing 63-7 blowout went down on both sides. The Crimson Tide (3-0) got an easier game after a one-point win at Texas. Well, the Warhawks got $1.95 million per USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz.
“Team morale is the biggest thing you have to deal with, don’t lose your confidence when you watch some of these games,” Bowden said. “They don’t know it, but Alabama just built us a weight room today playing us. So there’s some good that came out of that game.
Going into Saturday, ULM was a seven-touchdown underdog. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has spoken of not treating any opponent lightly, as evidenced by last weekend’s upsets, but Bowden has taken a different approach to motivating his team.
“You can’t lie to these guys,” he said. “They know who we are playing against. I talked to them about having the audacity to believe that anything can happen any Saturday, but having the tenacity to play as hard as you can with every snap of your fingers and never give up. The truth lies somewhere in between.”
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The rout began quickly at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama took a 28-0 lead with its first turnover of the season, its first blocked punt and an improved offense. The Crimson Tide special teams unit edged the Warhawks by two touchdowns.
“I think what you don’t always see is the kicking game,” Bowden said. “How much more talented they were on the pitch in their specialists. With four big punt returns, one big kickoff return, one blocked punt for a touchdown, you can probably take the time he stays in the game driving on short pitches you can see that the score jumps and jumps.
Still, in the second quarter, Bowden was able to look around and say, “You know what guys, you play with them.” Each team scored seven runs before halftime, and Alabama’s offense entered a midgame lull.
“I was really proud. There was a quarterback there that was kind of fun,” Bowden said. second half, it gives us a better start. But they just stacked it. Can’t stop them. They’re an exceptional team, just like Texas was.
ULM lost to the Longhorns, 52-10, on September 3 for another big payday. Texas blocked a similar punt to Alabama’s Ja’Corey Brooks and Bowden called it “exactly the same” missed runner that Texas benefited from.
Still, the Louisiana-Monroe Tristian Driggers intercepted Alabama’s Bryce Young, the first of two turnovers for Young that day. Driggers now has three interceptions in three games, putting him near the top of the NCAA rankings.
“He’s an interesting guy. He’s reckless,” Bowden said of Driggers. “Sometimes we don’t know where he’s going to be because he’s reckless, but he has a flair for football. He moves around football and he’s instinctive.
The end result looked decided for most of the second half as the teams rotated players and crossed their fingers that there was no injury. The Tide was leading in the final minutes, however, with 63 points and Bowden reflected as he looked up at the scoreboard.
“When he gets to 70 you really start to think, I was a head coach for 27 years and I was actually on the sidelines, ‘Have I ever been to ’70?’ I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever had 70 on me,” Bowden said.
Alabama eventually got down on one knee, turning the ball over on the downs and ULM followed suit, erasing the final two minutes on the game clock.
“They were just too good for us in every phase of the game. You could watch the video and see that’s what you were getting into. But you always prepare for them not to play well or for something to go wrong.
Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at NALvarez@al.com
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