ATLANTA – The challenge for the Alabama offense was right in front of it Saturday night. Just across the neutral zone was one of the nation’s best defensive lines.
The Florida State Seminoles wouldn’t stay a couple yards away. They took their toll with two sacks and five tackles for loss.
But Alabama’s offense did more. The Crimson Tide beat No. 3 FSU 24-7 thanks to some favorable field position and an offense that didn’t make fatal errors. Alabama finished with 269 yards on 60 plays.
“Obviously some of the areas that we weren’t as happy with were consistency on offense,” coach Nick Saban said. “Didn’t make a lot of explosive plays. Had some opportunities. Whether it was a lack of protection, quarterback didn’t have an opportunity to do what he needed to do. But we didn’t have any turnovers and we didn’t have any penalties. We have to do a better job of executing on a more consistent basis.”
Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts wasn’t spectacular, but he protected the ball. He was 10-for-18 passing for 96 yards passing with one touchdown. He also had 15 carries for 55 yards.
He managed to crack the defense with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley in the second quarter. That gave UA a 10-7 lead that it never relinquished.
“I thought Jalen did a good job,” Saban said. “He did what we asked him to do.”
The running game found some room as well, but never worked into a rhythm to sustain long drives and wear out the Seminoles. Even late in the game, the garnet defense kept Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough from doing too much damage.
Harris had nine carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. Nearly half of his total came on the first play of the game, a 34-yard burst. Scarbrough had 15 carries for 40 yards.
“Damien had a really good night tonight and made some big runs,” Saban said.
Plays like that were not easy to find, though. Alabama was just 3-of-16 on third downs. Even when it had favorable field position, the Crimson Tide offense didn’t always reach the end zone. UA settled for five field goal attempts on the night.
“We didn’t finish,” senior center Bradley Bozeman said. “We didn’t get our yards on first down, we didn’t get our yards on third down.
It was special teams miscues from FSU that gave the Alabama offense its greatest advantage. The Seminoles turned the ball over inside the 10 twice in the third quarter, and those mistakes became 10 points for Alabama.
“A lot of the things that could have been really good plays for Jalen didn’t turn out well because we didn’t protect very well,” Saban said. “He will tell you that he’s responsible for that because he can redirect the protection, but there were other times when we made mental errors up front and didn’t block them. Or we had people open but couldn’t get him the ball. The whole deal on offense, we have to do a better job of executing in terms of the passing game.
“They’re a pretty good front. We could complain about running the ball better, but we probably ran it good enough that we could have had the kind of balance that we wanted to have so that we could make some plays and make some throws down the field.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.