The offense made some explosive plays throughout the game, but it was clear the unit wasn’t clicking at the start. The offensive line struggled to get push, and the group missed assignments in pass protection. Both quarterbacks looked nervous early. The offensive coaching staff didn’t do their part to help the players settle in.
But things flipped in the second quarter. Alabama went on a 38-0 scoring run that was sparked by true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts accounted for 4 touchdowns (2 rushing, 2 passing). Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett looked more comfortable after re-entering the game. He threw a touchdown pass to receiver Gehrig Dieter in the fourth quarter. Damien Harris carried the running game in his first career start.
Alabama still needs to clean up a few things, but the pieces are there for Alabama to field another top offensive attack under coordinator Lane Kiffin. This offense could be very potent once the team figures out the quarterback situation.
USC gained 90 yards on its opening two drives. The Trojans added just 104 offensive yards the rest of the night. Nothing worked for USC.
Alabama’s secondary blanketed the Trojans’ star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (1 catch, 9 yards). USC averaged a meager 2.9 yards per play.
Take away all of Alabama’s offensive touchdowns and the Tide still beats the Trojans because of Marlon Humphrey’s interception return for a score. Alabama had 3 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and one takeaway. Alabama’s defense may have to carry the team early on as the offense figures things out.
USC has talent at its skill positions, but Saturday’s contest showed just how far USC still has to go in order to compete for national championships.
Special teams: A
There weren’t a ton of opportunities for the specialists outside of punter JK Scott. Scott booted five punts for an average of 47 yards per kick. He pinned three of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
Kicker Adam Griffith made his only field goal of the night. That’s a good sign because there was a lot of talk coming out of Alabama’s fall camp about how Griffith struggled in practice. Griffith also made all seven of his extra-point attempts.
Punt returner Calvin Ridley fielded all of his punts cleanly. True freshman Trevon Diggs had a decent kick return to open the game.
The defensive coaching staff had the players prepared for everything. Outside of the big passing play on the first drive for USC, Alabama’s defense held down the Trojans. Keeping a top-20 opponent out of the end zone is impressive.
The offensive staff was a little too cute at the start. There were too many side-to-side runs (jet sweeps) and not enough between the tackles. That’s likely because the coaches wanted to feature the receiver group as much as they can.
Alabama is that student getting by on natural ability at this point, but as the tests get harder, the Crimson Tide will need to clean up some of its mistakes.
“If you want to know the truth about it, I wasn’t pleased with the way we played.” That was Nick Saban’s response when a reporter asked Saban how good he thought his team could be.
Saban knows the success in the first game doesn’t automatically carry over throughout the rest of the season. He wants the players to remain on edge and be working to improve.
Look for Saban to coach the team even harder heading into Week 2.