Fresno State ended the day on a platter but didn’t fulfill the sacrificial lamb role that many expected against No. 1 Alabama.
The Crimson Tide handled the Bulldogs 41-10 in the first game at Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall, thanks largely to a career rushing day by starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Crimson Tide scored just 13 points in the second half, however, due to a combination of some aggressive Bulldog defense and an offensive game plan that kept the ball away from UA for a reasonable chunk of playing time.
“I thought we played well (but) there’s a lot to improve on,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We’re not interested in sliding backwards.”
Hurts scored two touchdowns himself for Alabama as part of a 154-yard rushing effort (on 10 carries.) He also threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hale Hentges and led another touchdown drive that was capped by a 5-yard Damien Harris run. In the second half, Andy Pappanastos kicked a pair of short field goals and backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected on a freshman-to-freshman touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III.
Hurts’ 154 rushing yards were the most by an Alabama quarterback since Tyler Watts had 162 yards in a loss at South Carolina in 2001. He added 128 yards passing with 14 completions on 18 attempts His 15.4-yard average per carry was the third-highest single-game average ever for an Alabama rusher with a minimum of 10 carries in a game.
Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil completed 21 of 34 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.
“They hit us with a lot of screens and quarterback draws,” Saban said. “They did a good job of attacking, of sort of nickel-and-diming us.”
As a result, time of possession, usually a statistic that skews strongly in Alabama’s favor, was nearly even (Alabama had the ball for 30:42, while Fresno State’s offense stayed on the field for 29:18.)
Tagovailoa made his Alabama debut on what Saban called a “pre-planned” series in the second quarter, completing 6 of 9 passes, including the touchdown to Ruggs.
“I thought Tua did a good job,” Saban said. “He will learn from taking the sack (that ended the second quarter drive. “He did a lot of good things, made accurate throws. He have had another touchdown if the back didn’t run a wrong route earlier in the fourth quarter.”
After an injury-filled opener, things seemed calmer in that department. Guard Lester Cotton of Tuscaloosa left the game in the third quarter and, according to Saban, was “dinged a little,” but is not expected to be out for a long period.
Alabama (2-0) will be back at Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday, hosting Colorado State.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.