Timing is everything.
Jalen Hurts‘ first touchdown pass against Colorado State came right on time to Calvin Ridley. The junior receiver caught the ball in stride on a slant and never missed a step as he beat his man for a 78-yard touchdown.
The second touchdown throw was an exact delivery as well. Hurts hit Robert Foster on a 9-yard hitch route. The receiver turned upfield and saw a running lane, burning past the Rams’ defense for 52 yards on the way to the end zone.
“Jalen played an outstanding game today, run and pass,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “If we’d have left those guys in there I think they would have continued to do a good job in the game.”
Hurts finished 12-for-17 passing for 248 yards with two touchdowns. He rushed for 103 yards and another score. For the third straight game, he finished with no turnovers.
Saban liked Hurts’ first two games, but sought improvement from the quarterback and the teammates around him. He got that against Colorado State. His offensive line didn’t allow a sack, and both his touchdowns came on long catch-and-runs from his wide receivers.
“Explosive plays come when we execute better,” Hurts said. “That’s always an emphasis here, execute and try to get that done.”
That was Foster’s first touchdown reception since he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Alabama’s third game of 2015. It was his only catch on the night, but it was a memorable one.
Colorado State had cut the lead to 17-10 with the game marching towards halftime. The Rams would have received the ball to start the second half within one possession before Foster put his foot in the ground and found running room.
“It felt great,” Foster said. “I was excited to have an opportunity again. I’m blessed to have an opportunity. I’m blessed to have an impact on the team.”
Hurts could have continued to compile numbers, but left the game late in the third quarter. He finished with more passing yards on Saturday than he had in the first two games combined. It was the most passing yards he’s had since the Iron Bowl last year.
Freshman wide receiver DeVonta Smith registered his first career reception on Hurts’ final pass, going for 24 yards. Hurts re-entered on Alabama’s final drive, handing the ball off and milking the clock.
Eight different players caught passes and two more were targeted. Tight end Miller Forristall had one catch for 12 yards, but left the game in the second half with an apparent knee injury. The prognosis was a season-ending ACL injury, but Saban said that won’t be confirmed until Sunday.
Backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was 1-for-4 passing. The offense posted a field goal on the drive that he substituted for Hurts, then went three-and-out on his only full possession. That prompted Saban to put the first team offense back in the game for the final drive.
Hurts didn’t need to complete any more passes on that possession. The time for that had passed.
“We have a lot of good playmakers on the perimeter, whoever it is,” Hurts said. “I expect them to make a play and they did a good job of doing that.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.