No. 11 Alabama 33, Vanderbilt 25
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ No. 11 Alabama avoided losing its first-ever game under NCAA probation Saturday night by scoring 23 fourth-quarter points to down Vanderbilt 33-25 in a season opener.
Brian Burgdorf hit Toderick Malone with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 4:33 left to provide a 26-25 lead for Alabama, which was placed on probation last month for violations related to former players Gene Jelks and Antonio Langham.
Alabama hadn’t lost to Vanderbilt in Nashville since 1969 and last lost to the Commodores in 1984 in Tuscaloosa.
The Crimson Tide survived despite having four passes intercepted and losing one fumble. The four interceptions were the most for Alabama since 1993 against Louisiana State.
The Tide offense awoke in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard TD run by Dennis Riddle and a 32-yard field goal by Michael Proctor for a 20-19 lead. Riddle fumbled the ball and Vandy safety Eric Vance returned it 37 yards for a touchdown and a 25-20 lead with 8:19 to go.
Vanderbilt’s defense forced Alabama to fourth-and-4 on the drive’s ninth play when Burgdorf tossed the TD pass to Malone in the right corner.
Alabama’s Brad Ford then cinched the victory when he picked off Damian Allen’s pass on third-and-2 and ran untouched 46 yards for the touchdown that put the Tide up 33-25.
Vanderbilt held the Tide to 18 yards in the third quarter in taking a 19-10 lead.
The Commodores went ahead after Shawn Stuckey intercepted Burgdorf’s pass, leading to a 29-yard field goal by Steve Yenner. Allen threw a 6-yard TD pass to Fred Baker that put Vandy up 19-10 with 1:48 left in the third.
Jermaine Johnson wasted no time putting Vanderbilt up 7-0. He went untouched through the middle and ran 75 yards for the touchdown on the Commodores’ second play of the game.
Alabama responded quickly, scoring on its first drive of the season for the eighth straight year. Burgdorf capped a 14-play, 70-yard drive by running the last 4 yards.
Vanderbilt stopped the Tide’s next drive when DeReal Finklin intercepted Burgdorf’s pass, the first of three interceptions before halftime.
The Commodores, still learning a multiple offense from first-year coach Rod Dowhower, had their own problems in the first half. Vandy was only 4-of-15 for 18 yards and managed 106 yards total offense.
Alabama missed a scoring opportunity in the opening minute of the second quarter. Andre Short intercepted Ronnie Gordon’s pass and returned the ball to the Vandy 11, but the Commodores stopped the Tide on four straight downs, including Burgdorf on fourth-and-inches.
Proctor put the Tide ahead 10-7 with a 38-yard field goal at the 3:51 mark of the second quarter.
That lead lasted until James Manley picked off Burgdorf’s tipped pass and returned it 45 yards to the Alabama 12 just before the half. But the Tide defense pushed the Commodores back to the 15 and Yenner kicked a 43-yard field goal for a 10-10 halftime tie.