Mac Jones performed just the way Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide players knew he could.
It didn’t hurt he got a heck of a lot of help from the defense.
Jones, Alabama’s backup quarterback, lived up to the high praise he received this week, throwing for 235 yards on 18 of 22 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions in No. 1 Alabama’s 48-7 win against Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide defense had four turnovers in the first half, including an 84-yard pick-six from Trevon Diggs in the final seconds of the second quarter. It’s his second straight game with a defensive touchdown. The three other turnovers led to 17 points.
Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa exited in the second quarter of last week’s game against Tennessee with an ankle injury, giving Jones the reins of the offense.
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) played it conservative on its first drive, which consisted of a few pop passes and a swing pass or two, to ease Jones into the flow.
The drive lasted 6:27, ending with a Joseph Bulovas 31-yard field goal. It was the second-longest scoring drive this season for the Crimson Tide.
Christian Harris’ fumble recovery and 37-yard return set up Alabama at the Arkansas 14. Jones got his second touchdown pass of the season on the next play, a 14-yard toss to Henry Ruggs III for a 10-0 lead.
Anfernee Jennings’ diving interception on next Razorback drive led to another Tide touchdown – another 14-yard pass from Jones, this time to Jerry Jeudy – to make it 17-0 in the first quarter. Najee Harris’ 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to make it 24-0 was pretty much the knockout blow.
Harris rushed for 86 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns. Alabama finished with 179 yards rushing.
Alabama scored on every drive but one in the first half, totaling 275 yards with 186 passing from Jones. Alabama held Arkansas to 127 first-half yards and held SEC leading rusher Rakeem Boyd to 37 yards. He finished with 50 yards.
Jones exited early in the third quarter after hitting Jeudy on a 40-yard touchdown pass to put Alabama up 48-0. Taulia Tagovailoa took over at quarterback and finished 6 of 8 for 45 yards.
Tua Tagovailoa, who had tightrope surgery earlier this week, is expected to be back in time for the Crimson Tide’s clash with No. 2 LSU on Nov. 9. Alabama and LSU have bye week’s before the showdown in Tuscaloosa.