TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts would not have been blamed for shaking his head this past week. The University of Alabama football team was off to a 2-0 start and coming off a game it had scored 41 points, and all he heard was about the downfield passing game.
Even during his midweek session with reporters some of the questions had a negative tone: “What are your thoughts on the criticism?” “Do you still feel like you’re being protected by the coaches with the play-calling?”
Here was his answer: 12-for-17 for 248 yards and two passing touchdowns, plus 11 carries for 103 rushing yards and another score as No. 1 Alabama defeated Colorado State 41-23 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“I thought Jalen played an outstanding game today,” Nick Saban said.
Against the Rams, Hurts averaged 9.4 rushing yards per attempt, 20.1 per completion, and 12.5 every time he either ran or threw the ball. He wasn’t sacked and Colorado State notched just one tackle for a loss.
Moreover, the three touchdowns moved him into a tie for seventh place with Trent Richardson (2009-11) on the Alabama career touchdown responsibility list at 43 (16 rushing, 27 passing). Considering he’s already accounted for seven touchdowns this season, he should quickly surpass Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry in sixth with 45.
“I thought we did a job executing for the most part,” Hurts said, making sure to praise the improved play of his offensive line.
“I think explosive plays come when you execute. That’s always the emphasis here, executing.”
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) September 16, 2017
Hurts opened the scoring with a 27-yard run and connected with junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a 78-yard catch-and-run to give Alabama a 14-0 lead after executing just 10 offensive plays. Senior wide receiver Robert Foster then closed the first half by showing off his speed with a 52-yard touchdown that gave the Crimson Tide a 24-10 lead.
“Saw open field,” Foster said.
“That was really nice to see,” Hurts said about Foster’s first touchdown since 2015.
— BamaVideo (@BamaVideo_) September 17, 2017
It would be easy to say that the offense sputtered between touchdown drives with a three-and-out, but give Colorado State credit for playing keep-away with scoring drives of 12 and 11 yards to pull within 17-10. Aided by a pair of turnovers, the offense scored twice more in the third quarter to essentially put the game away as Alabama scored on seven of its first nine possessions (with one missed field goal and one punt).
While the explosive plays were something that the coaches had been looking for, the most impressive completion may have been on the crossing route by Devonta Smith late in the third quarter. Hurts went through his progressions and then hit the freshman receiver for a 24-yard gain.
“He does a great job back there so I’m not really suspired by that kind of thing,” sophomore left tackle Jonah Williams said about Hurts’ overall performance.
Coming into the game, Hurts’ passer-efficiency rating was 137.3 this season, close to last year’s number (139.1).
Saturday night it was 231.96 — his best to date. He also recorded his sixth 100-yard rushing game, and second straight.
“He’s growing and he’s getting better each week,” junior running back Bo Scarbrough said. “It’s great for this team to have a dual-threat quarterback. You never know if he’s going pass, you don’t know if he’s going to run.”
Take whatever stat you want, but probably the most important one is the big zero by the first-team offense through three games. That would be the number of turnovers lost by the Crimson Tide.
Think back to last season and it’s probably the area that reflected Hurts being a true freshman the most. He had just one interception through his first five games, and then seven over the next six.
Even more telling were the fumbles, as he had 11, with five lost. He probably should have had six as his fumble against Kentucky, when he was set to pass only to lose his grip on the ball, was credited to the team. Instead, he finished tied for second for most fumbles lost last season along with six other players, one behind Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans.
Yet when asked which statistic meant more to him at the end of the day, touchdowns scored or turnovers made, Hurts had a one-word answer that made it clear what he’s all about:
Jalen Hurts talking to media after Alabama defeats Fresno State
Hurts was 14/18 128 yds (1 TD) passing & rushed 10 times for 154 yds(2 TD) pic.twitter.com/JTG33vomrt
— Ryan C. Fowler (@RyanCFowler) September 9, 2017