So far so good for Alabama’s first-time quarterback starter. Still, we still very much have us a football game.
Revealed publicly as the starter shortly before kickoff, Jake Coker looked as if he’d assumed the position for many years prior in helping to push Alabama to a 14-7 halftime lead. Coker completed 10-of-13 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, a 17-yarder to Robert Foster in the second quarter that gave the Tide their lead back.
Head coach Nick Saban had indicated leading into the game that two quarterbacks, Coker and Cooper Bateman, would see action; thus far, and likely because of how well Coker has played and how in rhythm he is, Bateman hasn’t seen the field.
Of course, Coker had some help in the form of a running game that accounted for 87 non-sack yards. Not surprisingly, Derrick Henry led the way with 75 yards — on eight carries — and a 37-yard touchdown run that accounted for UA’s first score of the day.
Perhaps surprisingly, Coker’s counterpart, Joel Stave, was quite effective in his own right as well. Stave, who suffered through a crisis of confidence last season, completed 14-of-16 passes for 149 yards against a very good Tide secondary. He accounted for the Badgers’ lone touchdown, a six-yarder to Alex Erickson to temporarily tie the score at 7-all.
UW had the chance to go into the locker room down 14-10 but couldn’t capitalize on a shanked 20-yard punt by UA’s JK Scott with less than 10 seconds left. With the ball at the Tide 39-yard line, Stave completed a 23-yard pass to Erickson to set up a 34-yard field goal attempt with four seconds left. Rafael Gaglianone, though, clanked it off the upright to keep the deficit at seven.
The Badgers, one of the top rushing teams in college football over the past several years, could manage just 22 on 13 carries against a very stout Tide front seven.
Wisconsin will get the ball on offense to start the second half.