Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monroe Game Preview: Everything You Need To Know Before Kickoff
No. 12 Alabama (2-1, 0-1 SEC) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
When: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 3 p.m. CT
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Local weather on gameday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83 degrees, 68 percent humidity and a 0 percent of precipitation. Winds moving NE at 6 mph.
TV: SEC Network (Play-by-play: Dave Neal, color analyst: Matt Stinchcomb, sideline reporter: Kayce Smith)
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (Play-by-play: Eli Gold, color analyst: Phil Savage, sideline reporter: Chris Stewart).
Spread: Alabama (-37-38), according to Danny Sheridan.
Last Meeting: Alabama was famously upset 21-14 at home by the Warhawks during Nick Saban’s first season as head coach in 2007.
Series History: Alabama and Louisiana-Monroe are tied 1-1, though officially the Warhawks lead the series 1-0 after the Crimson Tide’s 2006 win was later vacated by NCAA ruling.
Ole Miss came into Bryant-Denny Stadium for a late kickoff Saturday night and came away with a 43-37 victory.
Despite almost completing a few near comebacks, the Crimson Tide was unable to overcome five turnovers and a few unusual big plays from the Rebels. Alabama trailed by 20 and 19 at different points in the game but pulled within six on both occasions.
Cooper Bateman made the surprising start for Alabama at quarterback after Jake Coker started the first two games of the season. Bateman lasted the first four series but came out for Coker in the second quarter after his fourth series of the game and never returned. Coker played the rest of the way.
Bateman completed 11-of-14 passes for 87 yards and an interception; Coker went 21-of-44 for 201 yards, four touchdowns (one rushing) and two interceptions.
Alabama never led in the game after falling behind 3-0 early in the first quarter.
For the Crimson Tide, the loss marks just the second time ever it’s lost to Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa (the first coming in 1988) and the first time that its lost consecutive meetings against the school in series history.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly finished the game 18 for 33 passing with 341 yards and three touchdowns, though two of his scores – 66- and 73-yard plays, respectively – came on either an unlucky bounce or a blown assignment that should have been called back for an illegal man downfield.
Derrick Henry had another big time rushing, carrying the ball 23 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The Warhawks had a bye last week, but in its last game two weeks ago, it took down Nicholls State, 47-0, at home.
Quarterback Garrett Smith threw three touchdowns, two of them to wide receiver Ajalen Holley, who had 155 yards receiving in the win. All three of Smith’s touchdowns came in the third quarter, when Louisiana-Monroe scored 30 points to extend its lead to 40-0 by halftime.
The Warhawks had 593 total yards of offense, while allowing just 260.
Louisiana-Monroe lost 51-14 against Georgia in both schools’ season opener on Sept. 5. The game, held in Athens, Georgia, was called with 9:54 remaining after a lightning delay forced the teams off the field.
Alabama plays the Bulldogs next week in Athens.
Keep an eye on:
Jake Coker, quarterback: Coker has had plenty of attention in every week, dating back to the season opener three weeks ago and understandably so. He didn’t start last week against Ole Miss, but coach Nick Saban said earlier in the week that he expects he will again against Louisiana-Monroe. While Coker shouldn’t have too much trouble guiding the Crimson Tide to a win over the Warhawks, will his performance give the coaching staff supreme confidence that he should start and play throughout in a big road test at Georgia next week?
Damien Harris, running back: Harris was picked in this spot earlier this season against nonconference opponent, Middle Tennessee State, but never had much of an opportunity, carrying the ball just eight times for 55 yards in relief of Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake after the Crimson Tide was unable to build a comfortable lead until late. But Louisiana-Monroe isn’t as strong as the Blue Raiders, meaning Harris should see the field some time earlier this week. Because Henry is in the midst of a potential Heisman Trophy run and Drake serves multiple roles, it’s important for Alabama to develop a third player in time for the thick of its schedule.
Garrett Smith, quarterback: While it’s hard to entirely put the blame on the Alabama secondary for the Rebels’ two long touchdown passes last week, it’s still an area of concern and Smith, from his performance through two games, has shown the potential he may be able to burn you. Smith, a redshirt freshman, has had a good start to his collegiate career, completing 79 percent of his passes (49-of-62) for 576 yards, six scores (one rushing) and one interception. In his debut at Georgia, Smith went a steady 23-of-29 passing for 206 yards, two touchdowns, as well as his lone pick. His 180.5 passer efficiency rating this season ranks ninth in the nation.
Michael Johnson, linebacker: When Alabama practiced this week, the scout team jersey of Johnson’s No. 34 was one of the more prevalent ones out there and for good reason. Last season, the senior linebacker was the team leader in both tackles for loss (16) and sacks (eight). Considering Alabama is still trying to groom a quarterback(s) for bigger games ahead this season, anyone that has the potential to shake any confidence away from Coker or Bateman – both of whom have been inconsistent so far this season – is Louisiana-Monroe’s gain.
- Starting receiver Robert Foster will likely miss the remainder of the season after needing shoulder surgery following last Saturday’s 43-37 loss to Ole Miss.
- Running back Derrick Henry missed Wednesday’s practice due to an illness but should be fine in time for Saturday’s game.
- Reserve safety Jabriel Washington returned to practice in a limited role this week after missing the previous two weeks due to a knee injury but is unlikely to play against Louisiana-Monroe.
- Backup middle linebacker Hunter Kissinger missed the Warhawks’ last game against Nicholls State two weeks ago with a lower body injury and is questionable to play.