ATLANTA — Going left wasn’t an option, neither was right. Up the middle was downright impossible.
Alabama did not let Florida State run the ball. The Crimson Tide suffocated the line of scrimmage and ultimately walked away from Saturday night’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game with a 24-7 victory over the Seminoles.
“I tried to get them going early and just tell them we need to create our identity as a D-line,” defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne said. “Create a new line of scrimmage every time we play.”
The front was solid. Florida State finished with only 40 rushing yards on 27 carries. No one was able to crack 10 yards on a single run. Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois was also sacked three times thanks to Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, defensive back Ronnie Harrison and defensive lineman Raekwon Davis.
Safe to say the Alabama was solid up front, but the identity that the defensive line wants to establish remains in progress.
“I think we tried to do it,” Payne said, “but we’re going to keep at it.”
Since they couldn’t produce anything on the ground, the Seminoles found a few holes in the Crimson Tide’s secondary. Francois completed 19 of his 33 passes for 210 yards.
Florida State’s sole touchdown came on a 3-yard pass Francois delivered to wide receiver Auden Tate in the second quarter. Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatick was covering Tate.
“We busted a couple coverages,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We were really lucky early in the game. We cut people loose two or three times.”
Things improved in the second half.
Alabama defensive back Levi Wallace had a third-quarter interception. Linebacker Mack Wilson snagged another early into the fourth quarter.
So, pass coverage improved. Another example: the three consecutive incomplete passes Francois had during the third quarter. That didn’t happen during the first half.
Also, the longest pass Francois produced was a 38-yarder in the first quarter.
“Well, we had a tremendous respect for Florida State’s offense: the balance that they usually create running the ball and passing the ball and making explosive plays,” Saban said. “I think the combination of them only making one explosive play in the game and their inability to consistently run the ball was something that was a real benefit to us.”
Alabama’s defense did take a hit, though. After the game, Saban updated the status on multiple players, all linebackers. Rashaan Evans has a groin injury, Terrell Lewis has an elbow injury, Christian Miller has a biceps injury, and Anfernee Jennings has a sprained ankle.
Overall, Hamilton led the defense with eight total tackles. Defensive back Anthony Averett has six. Fitzpatrick and Lewis each had five.
“We did OK,” Hamilton said. “We busted a lot of things. You can expect that for the first game, but other than that, we held them at seven points and we got the win.”