When staring a 20-point halftime deficit in the face, the University of Alabama placed its offense in the hands of running back Najee Harris.
His 17 offensive touches on 37 second-half plays played a big role in UA bridging the gap against LSU. The Tigers ultimately won 46-41, but Harris hit LSU for 146 rushing yards, 44 receiving yards and a touchdown each way.
“Najee has gotten a lot more confidence as he’s gone through the season, not necessarily in his ability to run the ball,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think he’s always had confidence in that part of what he does. I think it’s understanding the plays, how to hit the hole, how to read plays.
“I think the offensive line has done a better job. I don’t think this last game was one of our best, but they’ve done a much better job and I think the combination of those things has helped our running game be a little bit more consistent. Najee played, in my opinion, a great game. He was very physical, tough, did a lot of really good things in the game, some that you saw when the ball was in his hand and some when he didn’t have the ball. I was very pleased with his performance.”
Tua OK, Ray TBD
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a heavy limp as he walked off the field Saturday, but Saban said Tagovailoa did not aggravate the ankle injury that kept him out of the Arkansas game.
“He’s a little sore, as to be expected. We did all the medical research that you could do on him to find out if he did any damage or hurt himself in any way, shape or form, and he did not, so we’ll manage the soreness,” Saban said. “We may give him a day off (Monday) and sort of start him back (Tuesday) a little bit. We’ll just have to manage it day to day and he should respond each and every week.
“The situation that he’s in is very much expected, and he doesn’t have any further issues.”
The return of defensive end LaBryan Ray, however, remains uncertain. Saban said when Ray injured his foot, against South Carolina, that it would be at least six weeks before Ray got cleared to work back to football activities. It has now been eight weeks with no definite end in sight.
“He still hasn’t been cleared medically to even start practicing yet,” Saban said. “He is in a rehab mode to see when he can get maybe in a condition to come back and be able to play. We’re waiting on the medical staff for him to say it’s OK for him to do that.”
Just a show of support
Inside linebacker Dylan Moses was in full pads during the LSU game. He did not play, just three months removed from a season-ending knee injury in preseason practice, but the personal meaning of the game — as a Baton Rouge native — made Moses want to be a bigger part of the team.
“We have no intentions of playing him, nor is that any indication that he’s ready to come back and start practicing or playing,” Saban said. “That’s not the case. It was just something that he wanted to do to be a part of the team.”
It was a gesture appreciated by his teammates.
“When I saw him in uniform I was excited for him,” cornerback Patrick Surtain II said. “Even though he wasn’t going to play, it showed how much he cares about the team, how much he’s willing to go out there.”
No kickoff clarity
UA still does not know what channel the Western Carolina game will be on.
It has been a couple of weeks since the SEC released select kickoff times ahead of its usual schedule, in doing so confirming that UA’s final home game will be at 11 a.m. Monday was going to be the day the television network was confirmed, but now it won’t be confirmed until after Saturday’s games.
The game will either be on ESPN, ESPN2 or SEC Network. It will share the 11 a.m. slot with Samford-Auburn.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson