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October 28, 2006

Special teams, defense lead Tide over FIU

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Freshman Javier Arenas returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and Ramzee Robinson scored on a 34-yard interception return, leading Alabama to a 38-3 win over undermanned Florida International on Saturday.

The winless Golden Panthers (0-8) were playing without nine starters and nine reserves, who were suspended or dismissed for their actions in an ugly brawl in their last game two weeks ago against Miami.

They still managed to keep it close for awhile against Alabama (6-3), which was coming off a 16-13 loss at No. 8 Tennessee.

FIU, a 36-point underdog, appeared undaunted by the heavy odds, taking a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, trailing only 10-3 at halftime and even managing a goal line stand.

Alabama got a scare when quarterback John Parker Wilson limped off the field on the final drive of the first half, favoring his left leg. He returned for the first two series after the half, but threw only an incompletion.

Wilson finished 8-of-13 for 72 yards, easily a season low, but also had a 9-yard touchdown pass to Le'Ron McClain.

The announced crowd of 92,138 topped the previous high for an FIU game - against the Hurricanes - by more than 40,000. They weren't subjected to any fisticuffs.

The Golden Panthers were perfect citizens against the Tide, not even drawing a personal foul penalty. They made plenty of other damaging mistakes in the second half.

First, Arenas raced down the left sideline for a touchdown after appearing to get bottled up behind a blocker upon fielding the punt.

Then, Chance Attaway fumbled and Simeon Castille returned it 11 yards to the FIU 7.

Four players later, Tim Castille - Simeon's brother - scored on a 1-yard plunge up the middle. Castille had failed to score on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first half.

Robinson turned the game into a bigger route after stepping in front of Josh Padrick's pass with a clear path to the end zone in the fourth quarter. Alabama backup quarterback Jimmy Barnes capped his first significant action with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Matt Caddell.

The Tide's only touchdown on the first half came after taking over the ball at the FIU 33 following Forress Rayford's blocked punt, finally giving the team's restless fans something to cheer.

Neither team supplied much consistent offense. Alabama finished with 224 total yards and FIU 175, including just 40 yards on 27 rushes.

FIU set up its only score, a 37-yard field goal by Justin Rivest, with Padrick's 68-yard bomb to freshman Jeremy Dickens. Padrick finished 8-of-24 for 134 yards.

Tide receiver Keith Brown missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.



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