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Quarterback Jalen Hurts sets Alabama passing record in career starting debut

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (No. 2) attempts a pass against Western Kentucky at Bryant-Denny Stadium: Marvin Gentry - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Jalen Hurts wants to be the starting quarterback, and he continues to put relentless pressure on head coach Nick Saban to be named. He got the nod over Blake Barnett on Saturday, and set an Alabama record for passing yards by a true freshman in his first career start.

Hurts saw the majority of reps against Western Kentucky, completing 23 of 36 pass attempts for 287 yards and two touchdowns. His output surpassed Brodie Croyle’s mark in 2002 (285, Arkansas) and Vince Sutton’s in 1984 (167, Tennessee). He displayed solid touch on three timing routes to Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter, with all three coming in excess of 40 yards.

Having enough air under the ball was an issue on a few throws; however, the Crimson Tide’s receiving corps left 14 points on the field. Hurts placed two throws in the hands of Dieter and tight end O.J. Howard, but neither of the two secured the ball for a touchdown.

All five of Alabama’s scoring drives on offense came with Hurts at quarterback. He guided the team to a perfect 5-for-5 on red zone opportunities, while converting nine of 18 third downs.

If it weren’t for two sacks from Omarius Bryant and Joel Iyieguniwe (-15), Hurts would have had 34 rushing yards on 11 carries. He completed 63.9 percent of his throws and despite Saban admitting to him making some quality decisions, he still feel uneasy about naming someone as the starter.

“I think we need to watch the film and make that decision,” Saban said.

“I think the people around him, whoever plays quarterback here, need to play better. We just need to do a lot of improving and I’m focused on what we need to do to improve, rather than who’s going to be quarterback right now. Whoever it is, they need to improve.”

Hurts, a four-star prospect, has completed 29 of 47 passes for 405 yards with six total touchdowns (two rushing) in two games. He’s helped Alabama punch the ball into the end zone on eight of its first nine red zone opportunities this season. He’s distanced himself from Barnett in the Tide’s 38-10 win over the Hilltoppers, and anticipates getting the start against Ole Miss next week at Oxford, Miss.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama MagazineYou can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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