How Alabama football QB Bryce Young's brilliance showed outside of touchdowns vs Miami

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

ATLANTA — Looking at Alabama football quarterback Bryce Young's touchdowns is the easy way to point out that he had a good debut. He threw four of them, after all. 

And that number is noteworthy; He's the first Alabama quarterback to have four passing touchdowns in his starting debut, according to ESPN Stats and Info. The guys who previously held the record? Mac Jones and Joe Namath. Not bad company for the sophomore quarterback. 

Those touchdowns are the backbone of highlight reels, but they only tell part of the story of Young's success. 

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The plays he made that don't have easy-to-spot stats tied to them show why he receives the hype that he does. 

"I was really impressed with the way he played in the game," Alabama football coach Nick Saban said. "The poise that he played with, the command that he had. He kind of took what the defense gave, and he really directed the offense in a really positive way." 

Let's start with a long shovel pass he made early in the first quarter. Needing 4 yards on third down, Young rolled right and had a long pause in which he could look all over the field and make his reads with no one close to tackling him. Instead of forcing the ball downfield, where Miami seemed to have everyone covered, Young flicked the ball to Jase McClellan in the flat. The play gained 6 yards for the first. 

It wasn't flashy, but it got the job done. Even for an Alabama offense that has the makings of being explosive again (see the 94-yard touchdown to Jameson Williams), Young making the smart play instead of the big play at times will serve him and the Crimson Tide well. 

"He plays like a veteran out there," Saban said. 

Some of Young's most impressive work came while facing a pass rush. Miami managed to get after him at times, somewhat a product of how the Alabama offensive line blocked. But Young often found a way to make the most of the situation. 

During one play in the first half, the Hurricanes' pass rush got to Young, but before he could be sacked, he managed to get the ball to tight end Cameron Latu's feet. No, it wasn't a reception, but Young avoided a significant loss and managed not to get called for intentional grounding with an eligible receiver in the area. 

There's also the throw he made on the move to Williams toward the end of the first quarter, converting a third down with two Miami defenders about to crash into him. 

"Our whole goal was just to get him off the spot, really, and make him scramble," Miami defensive end Zach McCloud said. "He did a lot better at that than we originally anticipated." 

Speaking of intentional grounding, Young managed to avoid it again while running around in the end zone in the third quarter. Alabama had stopped the Hurricanes on fourth-and-goal from the 1, a big win for the Crimson Tide, but that put the offense in a tough spot. 

The officials determined that Young threw the ball outside of the pocket, making it not intentional grounding. Had Young not managed to get outside the pocket and put the ball past the line of scrimmage, the play would have resulted in a safety. 

Instead, Alabama managed to score on a 94-yard touchdown pass the very next play, all but squashing Miami's hope of altering momentum in any way in the second half. 

Young wasn't perfect. For example, he probably shouldn't have tried to force that pass to Slade Bolden with three defenders near the receiver in the end zone. But as far as debuts go, Young's performance included significantly more good than bad. 

"For me, it was just trying to do my best to help the team," Young said. "That’s what it has always been. That’s what it is going to be for all season." 

If this is what it's going to be for all season, good luck opposing defenses. 

Young's brilliance extends past his touchdown passes. 

Contact Alabama football reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly