A big reason why the University of Alabama scheduled Western Carolina for this past Saturday was that it was almost like having an extra week to prepare for its next opponent, Auburn.

The offenses are similar in approach, with a mobile quarterback who can pass and a big talented receiver who is tough to match up against.

Granted, Troy Mitchell still got his passing yards, completing 23 of 39 attempts for 221 yards, and 6-foot-4 Spearman Robinson caught two touchdown passes. But Alabama, which has faced a spread offense every week but two this season, left Bryant-Denny Stadium believing that it’s already much better prepared to face Auburn than it was a year ago.

“Yes, sir,” junior safety Landon Collins said.

  • Play of the game: Take your choice between sophomore running back Derrick Henry’s two rushing touchdowns. On the 10-yard score he seemed to go through the heart of the Catamounts’ defense, and on the 23-yadrer he went around it on fourth-and-1.
  • Player of the game: Collins led the defense with seven tackles, snuffed out both an end run for a tackle for a loss and the fake field goal, and didn’t have a pass completed against him in coverage.
  • Hit of the game: Collins definitely gave Richard Sigmon something to remember when he leveled the Western Carolina kicker on the fake field goal for no gain.
  • Statistic of the game: Mitchell had just 10 rushing yards on four carries, and minus-17 including the two sacks. Overall, the Catamounts finished with 19 rushing yards, -8 with the sacks.
  • Did you notice? After Nick Saban made it very clear on the sideline that he didn’t like the play-calling on Alabama’s second trip into the red zone, followed by WCU’s interception (when a receiver appeared to run a wrong route), eight of the nine plays on the subsequent drive were runs including Henry’s 10-yard touchdown. Also, freshman JK Scott had nine kickoffs while filling in for sophomore Adam Griffith, but no punts.

Here are 10 more things of note from Saturday’s 48-14 victory over Western Carolina.

1. Explosive plays: Saban defines them as a run of 13 or more yards, or a pass of 17 or more yards. Alabama’s goal is nine per game. It had 11, but its biggest gain was the 27-yard by junior wide receiver Amari Cooper when he got hurt.

Game leaders
Chris Black 3
Tyren Jones 2
Amari Cooper 1
Derrick Henry 1
O.J. Howard 1
Cam Sims 1
ArDarius Stewart 1
Altee Tenpenny 1

Season leaders
Amari Cooper 28
T.J. Yeldon 17
Derrick Henry 12
DeAndrew White 8
Blake Sims 6

2. Officiating: We’re just going to say that Ken Williamson’s crew, which yes was from the Southeastern Conference, had a bad day. The inadvertent whistle on the fumble obviously never should have happened, there was a clear push-off on the subsequent 21-yard reception that led to a touchdown, and the receiver never had control of the ball on the 12-yard touchdown. The last one may be the most troublesome because two officials were standing right there and instant replay apparently didn’t see it in time. The late hit call on senior linebacker Trey DePriest was pretty questionable as well.

3. Mistakes index: Basically, it’s a measure of miscues, but it could arguably also be an indirect indicator of maturity and discipline. The mistakes index is fumbles lost + interceptions + penalties + sacks. In addition to the five penalties that were marked off, two more by junior cornerback Cyrus Jones (pass interference and offside) were declined and there was nullified by an offsetting penalty (Eddie Jackson’s unsportsmanlike conduct).

West Virginia 0+1+7+0 = 8
Florida Atlantic 0+0+6+1=7
Southern Miss 1+0+3+1=5
Florida 3+1+11+1=16
Ole Miss 1+1+8+1=11
Arkansas 2+0+4+2=8
Texas A&M 0+0+0+1=1
Tennessee 2+0+6+1=9
LSU 1+0+3+1= 5
Mississippi State 0+0+7+1=8
Western Carolina 1+1+5+0=7

Game-by-game opponents
West Virginia 0+0+6+3 = 9
Florida Atlantic 1+0+3+3=7
Southern Miss 0+0+6+1=7
Florida 1+2+5+0=8
Ole Miss 1+0+3+2+7
Arkansas 2+1+4+4=11
Texas A&M 0+1+2+6=9
Tennessee 1+1+4+2=8
LSU 0+1+2+2=5
Mississippi State 0+3+4+1=8
Western Carolina 0+0+5+2=7

4. Yards after the catch: Although sophomore wide receiver Chris Black more than doubled his season output, as he unofficially had 30 yards after the catch coming in, Alabama arguably had its worst showing of the season by averaging 4.52 yards. Although Cooper left the game midway through the first quarter he still finished second on the tem with 29 yards.

Game leaders
Chris Black 39
Amari Cooper 29
ArDarius Stewart 20
Robert Foster 9
Michael Nysewander 9
Total: 131

Season leaders
Amari Cooper 677
T.J. Yeldon 158
DeAndrew White 154
Kenyan Drake 102
O.J. Howard 88
Christion Jones 88
Total: 1,588 of 3,079 (51.6 percent)

Per game
Opponent, YAC, Receptions, Average
West Virginia 116/24 = 4.83
Florida Atlantic 246/26= 9.46
Southern Miss 101/17= 5.94
Florida 246/24 =10.3
Ole Miss 117/18 = 6.5
Arkansas 101/11 = 9.2
Texas A&M 173/21 = 8.23
Tennessee 167/14 = 11.9
LSU 100/20 = 5.0
Mississippi State 90/19 = 4.73
Western Carolina 131/29 = 4.52

5. Injuries: Most of Alabama’s injuries were pretty straightforward. Cooper (knee) took a low hit, freshman tackle Cam Robinson (ankle), redshirt freshman wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (knee) and senior tight end Brian Vogler (knee) were all rolled from behind. Senior fullback Jalston Fowler took a stinger and returned, while sophomore linebacker Reuben Foster appeared to aggravate his on a kick return. Sophomore defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) took a vicious chop block – sophomore Dee Liner did too later, but was not hurt. Cam Robinson’s injury was to the same ankle he recently had surgery on, and Vogler’s knee is the same one he sprained at Tennessee.

6. Most around the ball: Defensive “touches” is found by adding together tackles, assists, sacks, passes broken up (interceptions are included in that statistic), hurries, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

Game leaders
Landon Collins 7.5
Trey DePriest 5
Reggie Ragland 5
Cyrus Jones 5
Xzavier Dickson 4

Season leaders
Reggie Ragland 98.5
Landon Collins 87.5
Trey DePriest 72
Nick Perry 65.5
Jarran Reed 52.5

7. Who was thrown at? WCU went after Alabama’s cornerbacks, with all three big passing plays against Jones, who otherwise only gave up a 6-yard gain. There was botched coverage on the first touchdown and Jackson was in the right place on the 12-yard touchdown catch. We counted 18 short pass attempts (screens, receivers out of the backfield, or under the coverage), with the longest gain being just 12 yards.

8. Third-down passing: Sims completed all three of his attempts on third downs for 58 yards, and converted each opportunity. Junior Jacob Coker was 5 of 6 for 80 yards and four first downs. Sims has completed 68.8 percent of his third-down passes for 664 yards, and Alabama’s overall third-down passing numbers are significantly better than the previous two seasons.

Totals: 63-91-0 (69.2 percent), 5 TDs, 822 yards
Last season: 50-76-3 (66.14 percent), 6 TDs, 582 yards
2012 season: 56-90-2 (62.2 percent), 8 TDS, 724 yards

9. Red-zone passing: Red-zone passing wasn’t exactly a strength early in the season, but there’s been a lot of improvement. Alabama’s quarterbacks were 3-for-5 on Saturday with all three completions resulting in touchdowns and the two incompletions both dropped passes (Alabama had five overall). Consequently, the Crimson Tide’s passing numbers in the red zone are now topping last year’s totals.

Total 29-47 (61.7 percent), 12 TD, 185 yards
2013: 20-31 (64.5 percent), 11 TD, 182 yards

10 . Records chase: With three receptions for 46 yards before sitting due to a bruised knee, Cooper tied DJ Hall’s career record of 194 catches.

With 1,349 yards this season he has one of the 10 best seasons in SEC history, and is in the top three all-time.

All-time leading SEC receiving yards, single season
1. Josh Reed, 1740, 2001, Louisiana State
2. Alshon Jeffery, 1517, 2010, South Carolina
3. Jordan Matthews, 1477, 2013, Vanderbilt
4. Mike Evans, 1394, 2013, Texas A&M
5. Travis McGriff, 1357, 1998, Florida
6. Amari Cooper, 1349, 2014, Alabama
7. Cobi Hamilton, 1335, 2012, Arkansas
8. Carlos Alvarez, 1329, 1969, Florida
9. Jordan Matthews, 1323, 2012, Vanderbilt
10. Craig Yeast, 1311, 1998, Kentucky

All-time SEC receiving yards
1. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt, 2010-13, 3,759
2. Terrence Edwards, Georgia, 1999-2002, 3,093
3. Amari Cooper, Alabama, 2012-14, 3,085
4. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, 2009-11, 3,042
5. Josh Reed, LSU, 1999-11, 3,001

Running back T.J. Yeldon, who did not play, still needs 465 rushing yards to break Shaun Alexander’s career record of 3,565.