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September 19, 2009TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama football team played a number of reserves and new players Saturday against North Texas, including Robert Lester and Kyle Pennington, but the boldest move by far was redshirt freshman quarterback Star Jackson coming off the bench with 2:08 remaining in the half.
In his first extended playing time, Jackson guided the Crimson Tide on an 11-play drive for 36 yards, resulting in a 35-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin. After junior starter Greg McElroy retuned after halftime and got another touchdown for a 37-0 lead, Jackson was inserted again and played most of the second half.
He completed 9 of 13 passes for 87 yards, the longest being a 21-yard throw to sophomore Brandon Gibson.
"I think for Star Jackson to get to play as much as he did today was probably a real asset for us relative to the future, especially playing with our first unit rather than just out there at the end of the game trying to get the game over," Coach Nick Saban said. "He did a pretty good job, but was a little slow in the operations sometimes."
Saban was referring to when Jackson let the clock run out for a delay-of-game penalty when Alabama was in the red zone (inside the 20).
"I made a couple of mistakes but we will go over it in film and get better," Jackson said. "It was great to get out on the field and held the team. I just have to continue to work and wait for my time."
McElroy got a chance to catch up with his former high school coach, Todd Dodge, and posed for a picture with his son Riley, the North Texas starting quarterback who was sidelined with a separated shoulder, after the game.
"It was different," McElroy said. "Seeing him and talking to him, him saying how proud he was of me. It was a really good feeling. I was glad to see that everyone got out safe, and that Riley was held out. He needs to make a quick recovery and I'm really hopeful he'll be able to do that."
Todd Dodge compiled an amazing 79-1 record over this final five seasons at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. His quarterbacks during that time were Chase Daniel for two years, McElroy for one, and Riley Dodge (who decommitted from Texas to follow his father) for the final two.
"I can't say it was bittersweet, it doesn't matter who we play we want to go out and dominate," said McElroy, who was 12-for-14, 158 yards and two touchdowns. "I'm glad we got a win against those guys. I could care less what the score was or what the stats were. But we did get the victory, we're 3-0 on the year, and I'm 19-0 as a starter at the big-time level. It feels really good."
Alabama reported no serious injuries in the game. Sophomore running back Demetrius Goode took a hard hit at the end of a 14-yard carry, and McElroy had to ice his jaw during the game.
"I think it was when I was diving into the pile," McElroy said of the first-play fumble. "My face mask just got pushed back, but it was kind of a minimal deal. Something I'll have to keep ice on it the next couple of days."
Sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones (bruised knee) suited up, but didn't play. Senior running back Roy Upchurch (ankle) was not in uniform. Of the two, Jones has a better chance to play Saturday against Arkansas.
The 53 points were the most scored by Alabama since beating UTEP, 56-7, on Oct. 6, 2001 at Legion Field, and at Bryant-Denny Stadium since a 62-0 win over Tulane on Oct. 12, 1991.
Alabama already has four running backs with more than 100 rushing yards: Mark Ingram (297), Trent Richardson (215), Terry Grant (150), and Upchurch (107).
Alabama has scored on eight of its 10 first quarter possessions this season, resulting in five field goals and three touchdowns. Alabama has run 69 first quarter plays for 449 yards.
Because senior Lorenzo Washington was used on special teams senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald had to switch to No. 7 (both wore No. 97).
Team captains were Cory Reamer, Mike Johnson and Rolando McClain.