It’s been a difficult past two weeks on punt return for Kool-Aid McKinstry.
After dropping a punt against Kentucky a week ago which led to a score, McKinstry mishandled his second on Saturday against Chattanooga during the first quarter of play. Following a meeting with head coach Nick Saban on the sidelines, a change was made as McKinstry was replaced by freshman Caleb Downs for the rest of the game.
Saban explained his decision to make the shift to downs during his postgame press conference.
“We’ve got confidence in him,” Saban said following Alabama’s 66-10 win. “We’ve got confidence in (Isaiah Bond). I’ve got confidence in Kool-Aid, but he should have returned the first one and fair caught it. And then he shouldn’t have even fielded the second one and he fumbled it. Sometimes when you’re in that position, confidence is really, really important, and we’ve got to get his confidence back.”
Downs took full advantage of his opportunity as he made one of the biggest plays of the game when he returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown which included a shifty spin move.
What a RUN! 💪@justicehaynes6
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— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) November 18, 2023
“Caleb’s got confidence,” Saban said. “Obviously, he did a great job on the middle return he ran today. He made somebody miss and hit up the shoot, and guys did a good job of fitting and finishing on their blocks. And he only had to beat the punter and did a good job of that.”
Downs ended the day with two returns for 90 yards and a touchdown while adding seven tackles and a pass deflection on defense.
Alabama will now shift gears on Monday as it begins to prepare for its matchup with Auburn next Saturday.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77