What. A. Game.
Time after time I could feel myself counting Alabama out. With the way they played defensively, giving the ball back to MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald with any time on the clock might as well have been suicide. A trio of questionable calls by State’s Dan Mullen gave Alabama the ball back with just over a minute remaining. The offense had finally found some rhythm but the Tide needed an answer and needed it now.
Right on cue, Jalen Hurts continued his heroics and answered the call.
A 15-yard completion to Calvin Ridley on second down looked like it was the spark Alabama needed, but a sack two plays later looked like it may spell chaos. Then, it didn’t. The Hurts-to-Ridley connection was the story all night, and when Nick Saban’s squad needed it the most on 3rd-and-15, they turned it into yet another big play – this time for 31 yards. Alabama fans around the country were sure to all have let out a sigh of relief at that moment as this huge catch-and-run put the Tide in field goal range.
Thanks to brilliant playcalling by Brian Daboll, they never needed that.
On the play following the huge Ridley reception, Jalen Hurts dropped back to pass again and this time found the true-freshman, DeVonta Smith, open down the field. Smith did the rest of the work with an impressive spin move to pull away from his defender and walk into the endzone, putting the Tide ahead for good.
— Tino Bovenzi (@TinoBovenzi) November 12, 2017
Every season there will be at least one game in which the game will fall in the quarterbacks hand. Luckily for Alabama, Jalen Hurts is as composed and confident as any in the country. On the night, he went 10-of-19 for 242 yards and a score, adding another 40 yards and a score on 19 rushing attempts. His favorite target, Calvin Ridley, had five crucial catches for an impeccable 171 yards.
The ground game took a while to get going, but when it did, the dam broke. Damien Harris led the way with 93 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. Though Josh Jacobs had a decent game in his own right (36 yards/1 TD on 6 carries), Harris was the most effective back and provided Alabama with exactly what they needed.
Defensively, there were a lot of problems. The depleted linebacker corps shifted more responsibility to the defensive line and both positions struggled. The typical run-stuffing style of play was nowhere to be found. Aeris Williams and Nick Fitzgerald had a field day on the ground, combining for 163 yards and three scores on 43 attempts (22 for Williams/21 for Fitzgerald). Nearly every time the Bulldogs ran, they seemed to find plenty of room. Keith Holcombe, who was subbing in for the injured Mack Wilson, was not the sole problem, but at times tonight he looked completely out of place. Though Dylan Moses is just a true freshman, he will need to see the field more if Alabama is to finish this season strong.
A win is a win. It was ugly, but it was still a win. Alabama has a whole lot of work to do before playing the born again Auburn Tigers, who are fresh off a huge upset of #1 Georgia. With Mercer up next on the schedule, expect anyone banged up to sit, and young guys (especially linebackers) to get a lot of extra playing time.