The Alabama-Duke game was well into the third quarter last Saturday, but DeVonta Smith finally found his way into familiar territory.
The south end zone of Mercedes Benz Stadium wasn’t quite home, sweet home for Smith but it is the patch of artificial turf where he made college football history as a freshman, catching the game-winning pass from Tua Tagovailoa in overtime as Alabama defeated Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship for the 2017 season.
Last Saturday’s touchdown wasn’t quite as dramatic, even though it was the same Tagovailoa-to-Smith combination. By the time Smith caught the eight-yard scoring pass, it pushed Alabama to a comfortable 28-3 lead. That may have been due, at least in part, to the fact Smith, along with three other teammates, sat out the first quarter as part of discipline imposed by Nick Saban for an undisclosed rules transgression.
Smith didn’t go into detail when he met the media Tuesday but said the punishment was appropriately eye-opening.
“I think it was something that we all learned from,” Smith said. “I don’t believe any of us would want somebody else to do that again. It was a learning experience. We made a mistake and we’re going to learn from this.
“I would say it definitely taught me a lesson, but it also opened up the things we were trying to do on offense,” Smith said. “I saw things, looking from the sidelines, like what Coach Sark (new UA offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) was really trying to do, the schemes he’s trying to do, the meaning of everything from the run plays to the pass plays to the RPOs.”
Smith, who had five catches against Duke, raised his career totals to 55 receptions for 907 yards and 10 touchdowns, solid production from a player who shares touches with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle.
“It’s a good group,” Smith said. “Some things that Jerry can do, everybody is not able to do. It’s like he’s got some spider senses when somebody’s around him. He’s gifted.
“Sometimes we will be watching film in meetings and we’ll just start laughing at something he does, We’ll be like ‘what was that?’
“But we all have our role to play. We’ll do different things depending on the team we are playing. You can’t just be “red” (four wide receivers) all the time. But we will all get our chances.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt