South Florida 17

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Alabama 40

(1-0, 1-0 home)

Coverage: ESPN

7:45 PM ET, August 30, 2003

Legion Field (AL), Birmingham, AL

1 2 3 4 T
USF 7 10 0 017
ALA 7 10 16 740

Williams ensures Shula era gets off to good start

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Shaud Williams ran for 98 yards and scored three touchdowns as Alabama gave new coach Mike Shula his first victory, 40-17 over South Florida on Saturday. After falling behind 17-7 in the second quarter, Alabama scored 33 unanswered points for the victory. Shula took the helm after an unsettling nine months at Alabama. Last year's coach, Dennis Franchione, unexpectedly left for Texas A&M in December. Alabama settled on Washington State's Mike Price, but he was fired before ever coaching a game with the Tide for his conduct at a strip club and hotel during a weekend golf tournament in Pensacola, Fla. Enter Shula. The former Tide quarterback was hired in May despite having never been a head coach or a collegiate coach at any level. The Alabama offense looked sluggish in the first half, running a system it has practiced for three months. The Tide had three punts, a missed field goal and a fumble in its first five possessions. The Bulls jumped out to the early lead on two touchdowns by Brian Fisher -- one rushing and one receiving -- and a 45-yard field goal by Santiago Gramatica. Alabama stayed in the game early thanks to a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Charlie Peprah that tied the game at 7 in the first quarter. Down 17-7 with 1:32 to go in the first half, Alabama drove 80 yards, thanks in large part to a 49-yard pass from Brodie Croyle to Zach Fletcher. Croyle capped the drive with a 10-yard scoring pass to Triandos Luke to close the gap to 17-14. J.R. Reed fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Brian Bostick tied the score two plays later with a 40-yard field goal. Alabama looked much better in the second half, as Croyle settled down and the huge offensive line started to wear down the South Florida defensive front. The Tide took its first lead after a 25-yard field goal by Bostick to open the second half. South Florida went three-and-out, and Williams broke the game open with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave Alabama a 27-17 lead. Williams added touchdown runs of 1 yard in the third quarter and 3 yards in the fourth. Croyle, benefiting from ample time in the pocket, completed 14 of 27 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. South Florida quarterback Ronnie Banks, making his first collegiate start, was under pressure all day, primarily from defensive end Antwan Odom. He finished 17-of-33 for 199 yards, one touchdown and one interception.