On the one hand, all No. 2-ranked Alabama needed Saturday was Tua Tagovailoa throwing to DeVonta Smith.
On the other hand, the Crimson Tide needed more of Tagovailoa and Smith than anyone expected.
The Crimson Tide rolled to a 59-31 win over visiting Ole Miss at Bryant-Denny Stadium as both Tagovailoa, the UA quarterback, and Smith, an increasingly prominent part of the UA battalion of wide receivers, had record-setting days.
Smith shattered the Alabama single-game receiving record with 274 yards on 11 catches, including a school and SEC record with five touchdown receptions. Tagovailoa, who had tied the school record with five touchdown passes in each of the Crimson Tide’s previous two games, finally broke the record with six touchdown passes, finishing 26-for-36 for 418 yards.
“We don’t go into a game and say ‘Smitty’s going to have 11 catches for 200-something yards and Jerry Jeudy’s going to have eight catches for 80 yards,’” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said when asked if the game plan had been to target Smith as the primary receiver. “You read what the defense gives you and you throw the pass according to that. Smitty is a excellent player, he did a great job of running after the catch and he made a great catch to get his last touchdown. But we had the opportunity to make some other big plays and didn’t and we need to make those.”
Alabama scored in the first 70 seconds of the game on a 74-yard Tagovailoa pass to Smith but Ole Miss (2-3, 1-1 SEC) answered with a touchdown set up when Jaylen Waddle muffed a punt at the UA 30, then tacked on a field goal to take a 10-7 lead after the first quarter.
The Crimson Tide roared back with 31 unanswered points in the second quarter, scoring on a 7-yard Tagovailoa run and three more touchdown passes to Smith. Joseph Bulovas added a 36-yard field goal and Alabama led 38-10 at the half.
Alabama pushed the lead to 45-10 on Smith’s fifth touchdown and added scores on a blocked punt with sophomore special teams standout Ale Kaho recovered in the end zone and a 19-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Miller Forristall with 7:57 to play.
Ole Miss couldn’t keep pace but did have 476 yards of total offense, including 279 on the ground. Rebel quarterback John Rhys Plumlee rushed 25 times for 109 yards.
Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) now has an open week and will play again on Oct. 12 at Texas A&M.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurtl