Mac Jones vs. Bryce Young: Alabama's soulless domination of Mizzou means Round 1 of QB Mania begins for Tide
Here’s the thing: When you absolutely crush the life out of your opponent with a level of empathy bulldozers have for a pile of dirt, well, television talking heads have to fill time.
And when you’re No. 2 Alabama, already plenty used to the brand of soulless domination displayed at the mostly-empty Faurot Field on Saturday night, well, there’s gonna be quarterback talk in the fourth quarter.
So it was in the final frame of the Crimson Tide’s Death Star-like pounding of Missouri. Missing only the stormtrooper helmets to complete the clean, all-white kit favored by Darth Vader’s minions, the Crimson Tide had already long squeezed any hope out of the Tigers by the time Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge began musing about a certain backup signal-caller.
And by the time Mac Jones went from on-field participant to self-gratification absorber on the Alabama sideline, it was time for the Bryce Young Adulation Festival to begin in earnest.
We wade into the deep end of the Jones vs. Young pool for the second time in 2020 not simply because it is fashionable to do so (though, sure, it is fashionable to do so …) but because it’s what y’all are talking about. and by “y’all,” we don’t just mean McDonough and Blackledge — though we hope they’re reading and sharing with all their pals.
Jones vs. Young, as we pointed out in the preseason, will be the proverbial gift that keeps on giving for some time to come. As Alabama continues to administer whippings like the one Missouri took (a 38-19 Tide victory that was nowhere near that close …) Saturday night, there will be more chapters of this pointless saga to come.
Ah ha! You might have noticed that word … pointless. This isn’t an Official Position Change from where we’ve stood on Jones vs. Young previously, but anyone who honestly believes that Jones is verging on losing his starting spot simply isn’t paying too close of attention.
This is simply how it works at Alabama. You beat the living heck out of your opponents for a good half or so, then you run in your new kids to get some semi-meaningful snaps.
Don’t think for a second, either, that the 4th-quarter snaps on both sides of the football weren’t meaningful. Not just for those holding over/under 56 tickets, too, as a lack of spring football and truncated fall workouts due to COVID-19 means any football play will be analyzed in great detail by the respective coaching staffs.
For Alabama, of course, Jones was the guy to start against Missouri. And Jones was largely as he was late in the 2019 season — effective, not splashy, and productive. Jones completed 18-of-24 pass attempts for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns in just under 3 quarters of effort. Would more have been nice? Sure. But when you have Najee Harris (17 carries, 98 yards, 3 touchdowns) to hand the rock to, do you really need to pitch it all over the yard?
“It’s no surprise to me the way he played in this game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of his junior quarterback. “Mac was really good tonight. He managed the offense really well. He made lots of really good decisions. We just want to build on that and hopefully we can as an offensive unit.”
With Alabama comfortably ahead 35-6 and 1:09 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Saban had seen enough from Jones and turned to his true freshman backup. Young began his collegiate career with a handoff to Trey Sanders, but completed his first pass attempt for the Tide to DeVonta Smith for 6 yards in the final play of the quarter.
Young completed 2 more passes to Smith and had a nifty 7-yard scramble in the possession to help maneuver the Tide into the red zone, but a delay of game penalty was followed by Young fumbling the ball away during a Missouri sack. He finished 5-for-8 for 54 yards and 1 turnover.
“We probably sacrificed a little bit offensively by giving him the opportunity to do that,” Saban said about inserting Young so early in the game. “Obviously, he was a little anxious out there in terms of how he played. It will be something to learn from.”
Whatever sacrifice was lost — and, truthfully, the sacrifice was limited to those who had Alabama giving 29 points — was made up for with a few more drives in the 4th quarter. The Tide only managed 3 points in the final 15 minutes, with Will Reichard also getting some positivity out of the deal via a 34-yard field goal, but Young seemed slightly more emboldened and comfortable every time he touched the football.
“He is twitchy,” said Blackledge at one point after Young scrambled for a good gain. And then, after a Young completion, Blackledge continued with this:
“Why are they throwing the ball, you might ask yourself? Because you want him to be running the real stuff, getting real reps, for later on in the season if you need him.”
Saban, of course, confirmed that common-sense approach postgame.
“I think it will be helpful in terms of his learning curve,” Saban said. “He’s the backup quarterback, so we have to get him ready to play as well.”