TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – Derrick Henry rushed for two touchdowns and scored a third on a catch, all in the first half, to lead No. 2 Alabama to a 48-14 victory over Western Carolina on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide (10-1) recovered from a slow start to score the final 31 points in its first game since rising to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings. FCS member Western Carolina (7-5) scored a touchdown on the opening drive and trailed just 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Blake Sims was 17 of 25 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing an interception in the end zone to snap a 158-pass streak without one. Henry had touchdown runs of 10 and 23 yards and a 9-yard scoring reception.
Neither played in the second half.
The Tide can clinch a spot in the SEC championship game with a victory next weekend at home over No. 16 Auburn.
Alabama held out injured tailback T.J. Yeldon (ankle), wide receiver DeAndrew White (hamstring) and placekicker Adam Griffith, whose injury hasn’t been specified. Coach Nick Saban said all three probably could have played if needed.
Alabama set a school record with 36 first downs and outgained Western Carolina 612-213 in total yards.
The game did supply some injury scares for the Tide.
A half-dozen players missed time after getting hurt during the game, including star wide receiver Amari Cooper, who played only one series. Cooper tied Alabama’s record with 194 career catches with three on the drive but didn’t return after a bruised knee.
Saban said left tackle Cam Robinson and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson both left with sprained ankles. Saban said all three are OK.
Tight end Brian Vogler was taken directly into the locker room after getting hurt on the opening drive of the third quarter. Saban said he has a knee injury and his status is less clear.
The game provided substantial playing time for backups. Receiver Chris Black had six catches for 101 yards.
Backup quarterback Jake Coker saw his first action in four games and completed 12 of 18 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Tyren Jones ran for 75 yards and Altee Tenpenny gained 64.
Western Carolina’s Troy Mitchell, who started as a freshman against Alabama in 2012, fared much better this time. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 221 yards with a pair of scores.
Karnorris Benson had nine catches for 118 yards. The Catamounts were held to minus-8 yards rushing.
The Tide didn’t flex its muscle until Western Carolina capitalized on Henry’s fumble to cut the deficit to 17-14.
Alabama responded with three touchdowns in a 5:56 span. Henry burst outside for a 23-yard score on a fourth-down play and then caught a 9-yarder from Sims. The Tide gained 262 yards in the second quarter.
Western Carolina caught one break on its opening drive that wound up resulting in a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Alabama recovered a third-down fumble but the Catamounts got a mulligan because of an inadvertent whistle by the officials.
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