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September 9, 2006

Turnovers doom Vandy in Tuscaloosa

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.-Alabama's John Parker Wilson threw for 207 yards and a touchdown, and the Alabama defense forced four Vanderbilt turnovers as the Crimson Tide eked out a 13-10 win over Vanderbilt in front of 92,138 fans.

'Bama's Leigh Tiffin converted the game-winning field goal with 7:34 remaining, and the Tide defense sealed the victory when Juwan Simpson intercepted Chris Nickson's desperation heave at the Alabama 25 as time expired.

"We had opportunities (to win), but we didn't capitalize on several of them that we had," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "(Alabama) made a few key first downs to keep the ball, and that made it a little tough on our offense to do the things we wanted to do to win."

The Commodores led 10-3 when Nickson led them on a nine-play, 87-yard drive before halftime. Vandy's Jonathan Goff forced a Tim Castille fumble at the Vandy 13, and D.J. Moore recovered. Moments later, Nickson found Earl Bennett on a six-yard touchdown pass with just 14 seconds left in the half.

Alabama tied the score on the first possession of the second half when Wilson hit D.J. Hall with a 31-yard touchdown pass to end a seven-play, 81-yard drive in which Wilson went 5-5 for 74 yards.

'Bama got the ball back when Alex Washington fumbled ensuing the kickoff on the Vandy 26. Once again, the Commodores forced a turnover when Goff jarred the ball loose from Jimmy Johns, and Vanderbilt's Curtis Gatewood recovered at the two.

The teams battled back and forth, then 'Bama picked Nickson at the Alabama 21, and marched deep into VU territory through the fourth quarter. The Commodores held when Broderick Stewart sacked Wilson on a third-and-8 from the VU 18, but Tiffin kicked a field goal for the final 13-10 margin.

Nickson also threw drive-ending interceptions at the Alabama 34 and 21-yard-line, leaving the Commodores to lament what might have been.

"I'm kind of speechless," said Vanderbilt tailback Cassen Jackson-Garrison, who rushed for 42 yards on nine carries. "It hurts. We were so close. We had led this game the entire time.

"We just needed a little more time to pull it out. Hopefully, we can just figure out what we did wrong and come out next week and play hard."

The Commodores (0-2) return to Nashville for the first of three consecutive home games, starting with Arkansas next Saturday. Alabama (2-0) faces Louisiana-Monroe in Tuscaloosa next weekend.


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