Rapid Reaction: Relax, folks. Half of Alabama still plenty scary enough
Alabama’s revenge tour? Activated. Delayed, but activated.
The Crimson Tide opened the 2019 season with numerous All-SEC caliber performers sidelined or suspended Saturday, but all that did was shift the stats, start Twitter overreactions and slow the carnage against Duke.
The “how” and “what” portion of the program remained unchanged as the No. 2 Tide eventually carved up the overmatched Blue Devils 42-3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But you didn’t need to be Nick Saban to find a few issues.
Alabama was shut out in the first quarter — matching the number of times that happened all of last season. The Crimson Tide eventually woke up and did what most expected.
Tua Tagavailoa was healthy and once his suspended buddies returned, predictability ensued — even if his first 2 TD passes of the season were to tight ends.
Najee Harris was suspended, well, long enough, but he returned to open the second quarter and Alabama scored on its first possession with him. Terrell Lewis also was suspended, well, long enough, but had a sack on his first defensive possession. Brian Robinson was suspended, well, long enough, but he scored Bama’s second TD.
All of that happened in an eventful 2nd quarter, even though all 3 reportedly were suspended for the first half. Details …
Tagovailoa threw just 1 touchdown in the first half but added 3 more after intermission as Alabama pulled away in the second half.
If only all of their battles against ACC teams went this way, right?
The Clemson shadow looms large, and fair or not, that’s how every Alabama game will be judged this season.
If you’re a fan of another Playoff contender and looking for any glimmer of hope, this game provided a few reasons for optimism. But the reality is, Alabama’s young linebackers played well against another Power 5 program. Duke gained just 4 first downs in the 1st half, the competitive half. Twice the Tide stuffed 4th-and-short attempts, once near the end zone. Sure, Will Reichard missed his first 2 collegiate kicks, but both were from at least 48 yards and bounced off the uprights. And Alabama negated at least 2 huge gains with unnecessary penalties that had no effect on the play other than wiping it out.
Point being: Alabama stopped itself more than the Blue Devils did. Saban said as much at halftime, and calmly said they would fix it.
The Tide did. The defense got stops and forced 3 turnovers in the second half. Tagovailoa added TD tosses to Major Tennison, DeVonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy in the 3rd quarter. It was the 7th time Tagovailoa threw 4 TD passes in a game. He left after that, completing 26-of-31 passes for 336 yards.
The backups entered and little changed. Jerome Ford, who started due to suspensions, finished it with a 37-yard TD run.
Alabama’s opener resembled most trips to Atlanta. Stuck in traffic with enough reasons to gripe, but ultimately you get where you’re going unscathed.