Updated at: 09/21/2013 10:06 PM
By JOHN ZENOR
(AP) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Colorado State coach Jim McElwain left his old stomping grounds with a loss, and likely a measure of respect for his team from two-time defending national champion Alabama.
The Rams (1-3) contained the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s running game and were nursing hopes of a huge upset before allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 31-6 loss Saturday night.
"We challenged our guys to come in here and go toe-to-toe," said McElwain, who was offensive coordinator for Tide national championship teams in 2009 and 2011. "I think the guys on the other sideline have earned some respect for Colorado State Rams and how hard we played the game."
The Crimson Tide (3-0) led just 17-6 after Colorado State managed two third-quarter field goals.
"We were ready to go in the fourth quarter, our emotions were through the roof," Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson said. "By that time we realized we were playing with the No. 1 team in the country and we realized that we can play with them. I don’t think the score at the end of the game shows how close it really was, because I felt like it was a lot closer."
AJ McCarron passed for 258 yards and threw a 30-yard touchdown to DeAndrew White in the fourth quarter for Alabama, which scored one touchdown on special teams and another on fourth down.
"I felt like as a whole, we didn’t really execute to our full abilities," Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "That’s not an SEC opponent that we just played and the win really wasn’t what it should have been. So I felt like we kind of got away with a win. We didn’t dominate that win."
Kenyan Drake set up one touchdown with a blocked punt returned 15 yards by Dillon Lee and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run for the Tide. Alabama managed only one offensive touchdown and no third-down conversions in the first three quarters a week after winning a 49-42 shootout over Texas A&M.
Trey DePriest stripped the ball from Grayson and recovered the fumble early in the quarter.
The next play after the fumble, McCarron laced a perfect strike to White in the end zone and restless Alabama fans had something to cheer about.
The Tide was without several key players, including receivers Amari Cooper (toe) and Kevin Norwood (unspecified injury), guard Anthony Steen (headache), cornerback Deion Belue (turf toe) and safety Jarrick Williams (eye).
McCarron completed 20 of 26 passes but also was intercepted on an ill-advised throw. T.J. Yeldon ran seven times for 49 yards while Christion Jones caught nine passes for 90 yards.
Yeldon was held out of the first quarter after getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct against Texas A&M. He apologized in a statement Monday for making the "money" and double throat slash gestures after a touchdown.
He had a 38-yard run on his first carry midway through the second quarter but the running game produced only 66 yards on 21 carries. That was the fewest rushing yards by the Tide since South Carolina held them to 36 yards on Oct. 9, 2010.
"Offensively, we couldn’t run the ball with any consistency or effectiveness," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Grayson completed 24 of 38 passes for 228 yards for the Rams, who managed just 51 yards on the ground. Rashard Higgins had seven catches for 71 yards and Joe Hansley gained 82 on six receptions.
The Tide outgained Colorado State 338-279 in total yards after running up 568 yards a week ago.
Alabama backup quarterback Blake Sims hit Chris Black for a 14-yard touchdown pass to add to the lead with 1:13 left.
McElwain’s Rams didn’t reach Alabama territory until midway through the third quarter and then did it two straight drives.
The Tide defense did come up with stops both times. Jared Roberts kicked field goals of 45 and 31 yards to cut the Tide’s lead to 17-6.
Landon Collins pulled Grayson down on a keeper on third down to force the second kick.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)