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Walk-on kicks Alabama past Vanderbilt

By TIMES WIRES
Published September 10, 2006


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Freshman walk-on Leigh Tiffin made a 47-yard field goal with 7:34 left to lift Alabama to a 13-10 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

"I knew it was a big kick, but it didn't really overwhelm me," said Tiffin, kicking because Jamie Christensen has an injured groin.

Despite several mistakes, the Tide extended its win streak over the Commodores to 18. Three times, it reached the Vandy 35 without scoring. Two came when linebacker Jonathan Goff forced fumbles by Tim Castille at the 13 and Jimmy Johns at the 2.

"In a game like this you've got to find a way to win, and we did," said coach Mike Shula, who in 1984 was a sophomore quarterback for Alabama, the last time Vanderbilt beat the Tide.

After Castille's fumble, Vanderbilt took a 10-3 lead with 14 seconds left in the first half. It capped an 87-yard drive with Chris Nickson's 6-yard pass to Earl Bennett.

Alabama tied it after taking the second-half kickoff, driving 81 yards and scoring on John Parker Wilson's 31-yard pass to D.J. Hall.

And the winning drive started after Simeon Castille's second interception of the game. Wilson converted a third and 18 when he sidestepped a defender and hit Nikita Stover for 36 yards.

But on third and 8 from the Commodore 17, Wilson took a 13-yard sack. Shula, who earlier called for a fake field goal rather than have Tiffin try a 41-yarder, turned to him to win the game. The son of former Tide kicker Van Tiffin sent a line drive through the uprights.

What went through his mind lining up?

"Just making the field goal," Tiffin said. "You don't really want to psyche yourself out."

The Commodores went three-and-out on their next possession. The Tide ran out most of the final 5:01 before Vandy got one more chance, taking over at its 15 with 48 seconds left.

Nickson threw two incompletions, and a clock-burning short pass to Bennett before scrambling 9 yards to the sideline. His desperation downfield pass was intercepted by Juwan Simpson to end the game.

"I'm kind of speechless," Commodores tailback Cassen Jackson-Garrison said. "It hurts. We had led this game the entire time. We just needed a little more time to pull it out."

Bennett had only five catches for a 45 yards, but the Tide was determined not to let him win it.

"We knew Earl Bennett was the guy," Simeon Castille said. "We knew they were going to get it to him. We were just trying to use that tendency to our advantage."

Wilson and Nickson made their SEC debuts as starters. Nickson, a former Alabama prep Mr. Football from Brundidge, was 15-of-23 for 140 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. He also ran for 40 yards.

Wilson was 18-of-29 for 207 yards, an interception and the touchdown

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

No. 4 Auburn 34, Mississippi State 0

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Brad Lester rushed for two touchdowns for the Tigers. His first, a 2-yard run to the left corner, made it 14-0 3:25 into the second quarter. It was set up by Karibi Dede's fumble recovery after Sen'Derrick Marks sacked and stripped the ball from Tray Rutland at the Bulldogs 1.

Up 17-0, a facemask on the second-half kickoff gave the Tigers the ball at the Bulldogs 48. Kenny Irons, who rushed for 69 yards to end his streak of 100-yard games at seven, broke a 17-yarder. And three plays later, Lester broke three tackles on his way to a 20-yard touchdown.