Alabama sophomore Jaylen Waddle entered the Western Carolina game leading the nation with an average punt return of 23.9 yards.
Against the overmatched Western Carolina Catamounts, Waddle added to his impressive feat with two returns for 67 yards (33.5 average) and just missed his second punt return touchdown of the season in the second quarter.
Waddle fielded a Western Carolina punt at the Alabama 48 and darted through and around the Catamounts for what appeared to be a 52-yard touchdown return. However, on a review by the officials the instant replay revealed Waddle stepped out of bounds at the 3.
“I don’t know what happened,” Waddle said. “I tried to dive for it. I tried to get it all.”
Two weeks ago, Waddle returned a punt 77 yards against LSU for his first special teams touchdown this season.
“I just try to be confident back there and take chances when I can,” Waddle said. “It’s a quick decision. You have to know what you want to do with it really fast. I guess when I get the ball I just do a good job of knowing what to do with it and making people miss. That’s what I try to do.”
For the second time this season, UA held an opponent to 2 of fewer yards per carry. Western Carolina ran 34 times for 67 yards.
The other instance came when Southern Miss ran 32 times for 52 yards, averaging 1.63 yards per carry.
This being the second time Alabama has done it is behind its usual pace: it has done this four or more times in each of the last four seasons. Alabama entered the day ranked tied for 45th in the nation in yards per carry allowed (3.86), a number that dropped to 3.69 after Saturday’s performance.
Alabama honored 18 seniors before kickoff: Defensive back Connor Adams (Sugar Land, Texas), defensive backs Shyheim Carter (Kentwood, La.), linebacker William Cooper (Huntsville), defensive linemen Raekwon Davis (Meridian, Miss.), defensive back Trevon Diggs (Gaithersburg, Md.), wide receiver Mac Hereford (Birmingham), wide receiver Jalen Jackson (Waldorf, Md.), linebacker Anfernee Jennings (Dadeville), defensive back Sean Kelly (Cary, N.C.), linebacker Terrell Lewis (Washington, D.C.), running back DeMarquis Lockridge (Columbia, Tenn.), defensive back Jared Mayden (Sachse, Texas), defensive lineman Tevita Musika (Milpitas, Calif.), wide receiver John Parker (Huntsville), tight end Daniel Powell (Aliceville), defensive back Loren Ugheoke (Huntsville), defensive lineman Taylor Wilson (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and offensive lineman Matt Womack (Hernando, Miss.).
Alabama picked off WCU quarterback Tyrie Adams four times. The last time an opponent threw four picks against Alabama was Texas A&M in 2015 with Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray combining for the four picks.
Xavier McKinney intercepted the first two with Jared Mayden getting the others. It’s the first time a pair of Crimson Tide defenders had multiple picks in a game since that same A&M game. (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Eddie Jackson).
Alabama almost had five picks but defensive back Josh Jobe couldn’t hang on to a pass early in the third quarter.
Not his day
When he wasn’t turning the ball over, Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams had success running the run-pass option and triple option. In the first half, he connected on all four targets to tight end Owen Cosenke for 46 yards and three first downs. But three turnovers and two sacks were too much to overlook and Adams was pulled for backup Will Jones with four minutes left in the second quarter. Adams started the the second half but was intercepted by Jared Mayden on his first two pass attempts.
Najee Harris scored his seventh receiving touchdown of the season, extending the school record he already set with his 19-yard score against Mississippi State.
His receiving touchdowns output is already beyond the scope of the UA record book, but also beyond that of many SEC teams this season. Ole Miss’ leading receiver, Elijah Moore, entered Saturday with five touchdowns. Harris entered Saturday as the nation’s only running back with five or more receiving touchdowns.
He now has receiving touchdowns in three straight games.
Michael Southern, Brett Hudson, Edwin Stanton and Tommy DiCostanzo contributed to this report