KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Josh Jacobs was the first member of the Crimson Tide to touch the ball Saturday at Neyland Stadium, and then numerous times after that.
The Alabama running back received the opening kickoff and returned it 42 yards before he was tackled, and his work was far from done. Seconds later, he was on the field with the offense. He was given the ball four times and picked up 30 yards, setting up the Crimson Tide’s first scoring drive.
“It reminded me of high school,” Jacobs said after Alabama’s 58-21 victory over Tennessee. “That’s the only way I can explain it.”
The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native was a four-star recruit out of McLain High School. He finished his career there with 5,372 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns.
Jacobs began playing for the Crimson Tide right away as a freshman in 2016 and hasn’t stopped.
Against Tennessee, Jacobs carried the ball 12 times for a game-high 68 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 5.7 yards per run and was not responsible for any loss of yardage.
“I feel great,” he said. “Yeah, I feel great.”
Saturday marked Jacobs’ third career start. It was his first this season. He found out three hours before the game.
Kickoff was the junior’s first impression, but that was on special teams and he always does that. His first offensive play was a 16-yard carry, his longest run of the day.
“He’s worked so hard and done a lot of things to put himself in that position,” tight end Irv Smith Jr. said. “He took advantage of it.”
Jacobs just didn’t want to mess up. He didn’t.
Damien Harris, who didn’t enter until Alabama’s fourth offensive series, had just three carries for 12 yards. He did score on a 3-yard run in the first quarter.
“Damien didn’t start for internal reasons,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “Let’s just put it that way.”
As a team, Alabama rushed for 218 yards on 42 carries. Brian Robinson Jr. was the Crimson Tide’s second-leading rusher with 13 attempts for 60 yards. Najee Harris followed him with nine rushes for 50 yards.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts scored Alabama’s fourth and last touchdown on the ground. It was a 21-yarder in the third quarter.
Jacobs returned two other kicks. He had a 3-yard return in the second quarter and an 18-yarder in the third quarter.
Watching him run, Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher described Jacobs as shifty, quick and explosive. Jacobs credits his pre-college days for that, too.
“I would say it’s more natural,” Jacobs said. “Just growing up, being younger and playing with people around the neighborhood, you learn body movements. You learn body positions. That’s probably the biggest thing, and then trying to perfect it.
“And not letting the defense know what you’re doing. Not being predictable. I’ll personally try to run somebody over one play so the next time I see the, they’ll think that’s what I’m doing, and I’ll juke them.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.