ARLINGTON, Texas — This game was over the second USC fired Lane Kiffin and made him catch a ride home from a private airport near LAX three years ago.
Kiffin, Alabama’s offensive coordinator, downplayed the importance of facing his former employer when asked about it at the start of Alabama’s fall camp. But it was clear Kiffin wanted revenge and it showed with him calling pass plays while up by more than 30 points in the fourth quarter.
These are the type of beatdowns typically reserved for FCS teams looking for a payday. It didn’t take long for this matchup to become a lopsided affair as No. 1 Alabama pounded No. 20 USC 52-6 inside AT&T Stadium Saturday.
Alabama’s offense struggled early but found a rhythm midway through the second quarter and never slowed. Alabama started redshirt freshman Blake Barnett at quarterback, but quickly made the change to true freshman Jalen Hurts after just two series.
Hurts so good
Hurts fumbled his first snap. He threw an inexplicable interception. Hurts’ debut was still about as good as Alabama could hope from a true freshman on this rather monstrous stage. He accounted for 4 touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing).
Hurts completed 6 of 11 passes for 118 yards. Hurts’ best attribute is his ability to extend and make plays with his legs. He can create other opportunities when plays break down. Hurts can also be a serious threat on designed runs, which Alabama utilized on Saturday.
He’ll need to cut down on the turnovers and be more efficient. Still, it was a solid outing from the true freshman.
How will Alabama handle the competition going forward? Did Hurts do enough to secure the job, or does Barnett still have a fighting chance?
Alabama’s defense smothers Trojans
USC gained 78 yards in the first quarter. The Trojans would add only 116 the rest of the way. Alabama’s defense was two or three steps ahead of USC on every single play.
Alabama held USC’s offense to a grand total of 194 yards. That’s impressive against anyone and it’s especially impressive versus a top-20 opponent.
This game demonstrated that the defense is going to have to win games early until the offense figures out what it’s doing at quarterback and in other areas. This defense is capable of doing that.
Damn this defense is fast.
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) September 4, 2016
Harris the feature running back
Everyone expected Bo Scarbrough to be Alabama’s workhorse at running back, but it was Damien Harris who got the start. Harris played well and showed impressive footwork. Harris rushed for 138 yards on 9 carries. He broke off a 73-yard run. Scarbrough had 11 carries, but only averaged 3.3 yards per touch.
If Harris continues to play like this, Alabama’s offensive balance will improve. The offensive line play should get better as the season progresses. Having Hurts at quarterbacks makes defenses have to respect the threat of the read option.