Nick Saban spoke and Alabama football listened: The result was a 63-14 beatdown of Southern Miss | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Before it started, it was over.

Jameson Williams’ 100-yard return of the opening kickoff happened so quickly that Nick Saban didn’t even have time to get angry. Given how quickly the core in the coach’s internal nuclear reactor can melt down, that’s saying something. But his wish list for Alabama’s 63-14 win over Southern Miss was checked off pretty quickly. 

From a talent standpoint, USM, at the start of a long rebuild under Will Hall, never had a chance. Maybe the one-in-a-million would have lasted longer than it did had the Golden Eagles not won the coin toss and elected to defer. Those are the chances you take, and understandable enough since USM is probably better on defense than it is on offense. But the fast backfire put USM in a instant hole and the bottom was a long way down. 

WATCH: Jameson Williams returns opening kickoff 100 yards for TD

It wasn’t just a long kickoff return that Saban was looking for, certainly not after Alabama extended that lead to 21-0 in the first quarter. There were echoes of the 21-3 lead in the first quarter at The Swamp the week before. That lead would didn’t hold up, and one of Saban’s preaching points for the entire week had been the necessity for Alabama to keep its foot on the gas until the opponent was thoroughly run over.

FINAL:Takeaways from Alabama's rout of Southern Miss: Jameson Williams has jet speed

REPORT CARD:Alabama football vs. Southern Miss report card: A speedy reason why special teams earns a top grade

WATCH BOTH RETURNS:Alabama football's Jameson Williams returns opening kickoff for touchdown vs Southern Miss

Williams took care of that, too, with his second touchdown return early in the fourth quarter serving as both a thrilling moment and just the sort of overkill that Saban had been asking for. Brian Robinson Jr. didn’t even have to get off the bench as he rested sore ankles and others filled in at running back. 

Nothing was perfect. No game ever is. Saban didn’t seem especially upset about Bryce Young’s first career interception, a tight-window ball that popped out of Williams’ hands and was pulled down by a Southern Miss defensive back. He was a bit less amused by two illegal blocks that wiped away two good punt returns by freshman Jo Jo Earle, a recurrence of an issue that has been a problem for the Crimson Tide for a couple of years now. 

Sep 25, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) and Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) celebrate a touchdown against Southern Miss at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Still, it seemed like the most important thing that could happen this week did happen. Saban spoke, loudly, and the team listened. On an afternoon of craziness and near-craziness, coasting to a relatively easy and cleanly-played victory wasn’t a bad result at all.

The two teams that still stand above the others appear to be Alabama and Georgia, and while people outside of this little corner of the United States may get frustrated at the possibility of seeing them play twice, there will be some new blood in the playoff field for those looking for that. Even if Clemson solves its offensive problems and marches the rest of the way to another ACC title, it is tough to see enough strength of schedule juice remaining for the Tigers to overcome two losses.

Alabama and, for that matter, Georgia aren’t out of those woods quite yet. The SEC remains very good, if unpredictable. Who would have foreseen, just a month ago, that the highest hills for the Crimson Tide might not be the perennials like Florida and Texas A&M but Ole Miss and Arkansas instead? 

For one Saturday night, Saban didn’t have to worry about things, even if he wanted to have some ammo to take into Monday’s press conference. It shouldn’t be needed. There are no more reminders needed, not for the month of October. 

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt