Rapid Reaction: Alabama's offense just keeps rolling along
Someday, someone will invent a non-SEC team that dares to come to West Alabama and take on the Nick Saban Death Star on their home turf.
But Saturday, amid all the SPF-45 and water-fog fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Force that is the Alabama Crimson Tide steamrolled yet another victim. This time it was Southern Miss, who trucked up the road a piece to absorb a 49-7 beating that was equal parts impressive and entirely expected in the current era of Bama blowouts.
Tua Tagovailoa, who appears to be in a season-long dance with former teammate Jalen Hurts for the Heisman Trophy, displayed his wares early and often against the Golden Eagles.
Alabama’s sweet Hawaiian prince needed just 1:13 to put the Crimson Tide ahead 7-0, hitting Henry Ruggs III with a 45-yard RPO dart to wake up the sweating home faithful with one swing of the left arm.
Not satisfied with that connection, Tagovailoa let Ruggs show off his world-class speed on the Tide’s next possession: hitting the junior on a 74-yard bomb to make it 14-0. At that moment, Tagovailoa’s QB rating was 533.8.
Southern Miss tried to incorporate the same offensive formula that frustrated Alabama against South Carolina: Quick plays and lots of throws. That strategy backfired in the first quarter, as an intentional grounding call negated one decent drive and Trevon Diggs intercepted Jack Abraham on another.
Although Tagovailoa finally mixed in an incompletion toward the end of the first 15 minutes, the Tide continued to torch Southern Miss in the air. A gorgeous 25-yarder to Jaylen Waddle set up Alabama in the red zone, and then nobody covered Najee Harris in the flat on a wide-open 5-yard TD.
One possession later after a Southern Miss punt, Tua and the Tide simply showed off. A quick pitch to Ruggs gained 17, Jerry Jeudy got his number called for 18 after a Brian Robinson 4-yarder to keep the Golden Eagles honest, and then Jeudy found nearly a full acre of open turf in the right corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. That gave Tagovailoa 16 passing TDs against just 22 incompletions all season.
As the weeks wear on, it seems apparent that Alabama has resigned itself to non-stop Air Ball. Taking what the defense gives is one thing. But taking whatever the heck fancies you by force is another. The Crimson Tide overwhelmed Southern Miss with their pinpoint passing game — averaging an otherworldly 13.2 yards per play midway through the second quarter and causing TV commentators to begin comparing WR speed to grizzly bears and Usain Bolt.
It isn’t fair, this Crimson Tide offense. Efforts like this make one think that Tagovailoa and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian have all the cheat codes hard-wired on their PlayStation controllers and just like mashing them at random to make each other giggle.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Alabama. The Tide somehow got a kicker hurt, as Will Reichard left the game in the first half with a lower-leg injury — bringing on former K1 Joseph Bulovas to handle the kicking duties. And nose guard DJ Dale got his right leg rolled up late in the first half and had to leave the stadium early for a more comprehensive evaluation, adding yet another defensive injury to what has been a steady procession of them.
Not to mention that Southern Miss had the temerity, the GALL, to put together a 6-play, 74-yard scoring drive late in the first half — as Abraham hit De’Michael Harris on a 4-yard TD pass to temporarily cut the deficit to 21 points.
Tagovailoa didn’t need much time to make that disappear in the second half, as he hit Jeudy on a 20-yard toss for his 5th TD pass of the game — equaling his own school record that has stood for an entire seven days.
Robinson’s 6-yard TD gallop midway through the third quarter made it 42-7, and that meant the end of the afternoon for Tagovailoa. The final numbers: 17-for-21, 293 yards for a gaudy 276.7 QBR. Tagovailoa is now fifth on Alabama’s all-time passing yards list — getting there playing more or less 2.5 quarters per game as a full-time starter. The season numbers: 87-of-112 for 1,300 yards and 17 TDs … against 25 incompletions.
If you don’t think someone is running Bryant-Denny Stadium steps this week to account for those 25 drops, well, you haven’t been paying enough attention to Saban’s level of detail.
The Tide tacked on a couple more touchdowns and backup QBs Mac Jones and Taulia Tagovailoa got some snaps, but by then the objective was clearly earned. This effort was a warning shot to the remaining Alabama opponents out there — the LSUs and Texas A&Ms and the Auburns of the world who think they have what it takes to step to the king.
If you want to walk the aisle and step in the ring, be sure to take your best shot.
Because Alabama is waiting, and you best not miss.