The box score looked like an old SEC relic that jumped into the DeLorean in 1982, set the timer for 40 years in the future and landed at Razorback Stadium on the 1st day of October 2022.

It certainly wasn’t the plan when Nick Saban got his morning wakeup call at the Fayetteville team hotel. But football and life are oftentimes about on-the-fly adjustments, and Saban had to completely adjust his game plan last Saturday to help make sure his team escaped Arkansas unbeaten and ready to tackle its possible new existence without Bryce Young.

Because The Nightmare actually happened.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner went down with a right shoulder injury early in the 2nd quarter, when Young scrambled and Alabama transfer Drew Sanders — of all people — yanked him down at just the wrong angle. Young’s 1st pass attempt after that sack on the next possession produced The Wince that sent a fan base into a frenzy. Suddenly, Young was screaming in frustration and probably some pain and in the medical tent, and it was time to adjust everything in-game, against a ranked team, in front of that rabid Red Out that wanted to see everything come undone for Bama at that moment.

But it didn’t. Not even close.

Instead, all of the chaos and madness and uncertainty adrenalized the Tide. They took a deep breath. They collected themselves.

And they adjusted.

They tore apart the game plan that had produced just more than 200 yards of total offense in the 1st quarter, before The Wince, and they got down to the business of running the football and doing it again and again. Young had thrown for an eye-popping 173 yards in a little more than a quarter. He was on pace and seemingly destined for a record-breaking passing afternoon. Then his former teammate Sanders got in his way and changed everything.

When Young left the game writhing in pain after that incomplete pass with 10:54 left in the 2nd quarter, the Tide had run the ball 12 times while Young had thrown it 13 times, completing 7 passes with a touchdown and an interception. He also had an 8-yard TD run late in the 1st quarter that gave Bama a 14-0 cushion, before the afternoon went haywire and backup quarterback Jalen Milroe officially introduced himself as much, much more than just your typical backup quarterback.

At that moment, with a 2-touchdown lead but with plenty of game left, it was on Milroe to keep the train on the tracks, to make sure the moment wasn’t too big for him, to make sure the afternoon didn’t turn into a disaster because Young wasn’t on the field anymore. The bulky, 6-foot-2, 212-pound freshman from Katy, Texas, had to do it his way if it was going to get done at all, and Saban had to make sure he tailored the Non-Bryce Young offense to Milroe’s strengths.

From that very moment, the Alabama offense was going to turn into a smash-mouth, in-your-face attack with Milroe as another running back playing the quarterback position. It had to be this way because Milroe isn’t a seasoned passer, at least not yet. The Tide became 1-dimensional, but it didn’t mean they couldn’t be successful. It didn’t mean Arkansas’ defense was off the hook because the substitute teacher had taken over the controls.

And when Kool-Aid McKinstry set Milroe up rather nicely on his 1st possession after a 45-yard punt return to the Hogs’ 17, the substitute teacher went to work. And that meant the running game, suddenly Alabama’s new calling card, went to work. Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs, already becoming a central figure in the Tide’s offense before Young went down, immediately took over with back-to-back runs of 7 yards to the Arkansas 3-yard line.

Milroe’s moment had arrived. On the next play, he pranced into the end zone for a touchdown, his youthful exuberance overflowing. This wasn’t garbage time with half the stadium gone. The Red Out at Razorback Stadium was witness to a temporary changing of the guard of Alabama’s way of doing things. It was 21-0 Tide with 8:29 left in the 2nd quarter. It was still very early, and Alabama was nowhere near to the finish line on an exhausting day of twists and turns.

A 3-and-out gave the ball right back to Milroe, and he looked shockingly comfortable being at the centerpiece of everything while everyone was wondering how Young was doing. With Gibbs as his wing man, Milroe started the arduous process of trying to convince the college football world that Alabama wasn’t going to fall apart with You Know Who not there. After Milroe connected with fellow freshman Isaiah Bond on a 23-yard pass, Gibbs ripped off a 6-yard run, then rumbled for another yard before Roydell Williams ran it 3 straight times to the Hogs’ 14.

This wasn’t the wide-open attack run by Young for the past season and a half, and that was entirely OK. Because it was working.

As he has done so many times already this season, Gibbs showed his dual-threat ability out of the backfield, snagging a 17-yard pass from Milroe to the Hogs’ 7. Then when a penalty backed the Tide up and put Milroe’s poise to the immediate test, he passed glowingly, hitting JoJo Earle for a 22-yard touchdown on 3rd and 18. Milroe could’ve settled for a field goal and a 24-0 lead. But he didn’t, and it was 28-0 after a 10-play, 59-yard drive that answered a lot of questions and no doubt silenced a lot of doubters.

This was Milroe’s offense now. A mostly in-your-face offense from yesteryear, the kind that doesn’t exist on a lot of college football fields these days. The kind you need a time machine to fully appreciate. It’s a style born out of necessity because Milroe isn’t anywhere close to being ready to be a pass-first quarterback, and that’s OK, too. He was ready for the big stage last Saturday and, for Saban and panicked Tide fans, that’s all that mattered.

When Arkansas made its furious rally in the 3rd quarter and got within 28-23, Milroe didn’t cave. With the Tide facing 3rd and 15 at their own 20-yard line early in the 4th quarter, Milroe made the biggest play of Alabama’s season, bigger than any play Young had made to this point. He dropped back and nothing was developing, so he made something develop. He darted down the middle for a 1st down and then burst outside to the right and rumbled all the way to the Hogs’ 3. Milroe rumbled because that’s the way he runs — he rumbles, unlike Young, who glides. Two plays later, Jase McClellan was in the end zone, the Tide had stunted Arkansas’ push and Milroe was on the way to preserving the day and the season.

He had help from the dazzling Gibbs, who put the game firmly out of reach with 2 dizzying touchdown runs of 72 and 76 yards. It was an electrifying ground display from Milroe and Gibbs, who served notice that they can form quite the tag team going forward for however long Young is out.

Or if Young is out at all. On Wednesday, Saban provided another update on the most important right shoulder in the state of Alabama during his weekly teleconference.

“I’m sure that everybody wants an update on Bryce, so I’m going to give it to you,” he said. “He’s doing some things in practice, and he’s still listed as day to day. No decision is going to be made until he decides, and we decide, from a medical staff standpoint, whether he can go out there and functionally do his job.”

While it’s encouraging Young is at least participating in practice, that he’s involved in some ways, top-ranked Alabama has a game in exactly 2 days against an unranked but very capable Texas A&M team at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In prime time, on CBS, on center stage. Maybe Young puts his Superman outfit on underneath his crimson and white and gives it a go? But it’s highly questionable right now, with such little time to go until game time.

And if Young can’t go? Well, Alabama knows it has a guy in Milroe who is far from a finished product but ready for the challenge. Everyone saw what they saw in Fayetteville. It really was an admirable job that Milroe did. He only completed 4 passes, but all of them seemed big. He had the touchdown pass to Earle, and he didn’t throw an interception. He didn’t give Arkansas and that wild crowd anything to chew on, and his impressive 98.6 QBR proved that.

He was in control and mostly under control. He ran the ball 6 times for 91 yards, including the moment-of-truth 77-yarder, and threw it only 9 times, and that’s the way it’s going to go for Bama for as long as Young can’t go. Gibbs piled up 206 yards rushing, highlighted by the 2 long TD runs. He ran it a season-high 18 times, which was double the number of his previous season high in carries. Gibbs had 25 carries combined in the season’s first 4 games.

When the dust settled last Saturday, the Tide had run the ball 42 times and thrown it only 22 times, with 13 of those pass attempts coming from Young. Bama ran for a season-high 317 yards compared to just 238 yards passing, again, with most of those yards coming courtesy of Young.

Clearly, there was a seismic philosophical shift with Milroe at the helm, and everybody survived the earthquake in Fayetteville. This will be the Tide’s temporary new reality until their world goes back to normal and Young returns.

For now, that DeLorean from a bygone era will stay double-parked outside Bryant-Denny.