Jalen Hurts powers Alabama to big win over Fresno StateBy Matthew Speakman | 09/10/2017 6:55pm
Alabama’s offense needed to bounce back in its home opener against Fresno State, and it didn't take them long to do just that. The Crimson Tide scored on the second play of the game when Jalen Hurts took a carry to the right side and cut it up field for a 55-yard touchdown. Alabama’s offense only got stronger from there on its way to a 41-10 victory over the Bulldogs.
“(Hurts) had quite a few runs that were very effective,” head coach Nick Saban said. “...He was very efficient throwing the ball. So, I think the combination of those two things make us better. Hopefully, we’ll gain a bit more rhythm in some other areas.”
Hurts’ run to start the game was a sign of things to come for the Crimson Tide. He was the spark and made Alabama’s offense move early. After his early touchdown run, he then led Alabama to two more touchdowns on two-straight drives. He hit receivers in tight coverage and made defenders pay with his legs.
Hurts was the bulk of Alabama’s production in the first half, finishing the second quarter 12 for 13 for 112 yards and a touchdown, while also adding 119 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
“That can be a big momentum changer, coming out fast,” Hurts said. “Every offense in college football, that’s their goal. Come out fast and score, no matter who the opponent is. That’s what we did today.”
Hurts passed the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in his career against the Bulldogs. He ended the game with a career-high 154 yards on the ground. Hurts’ quick execution helped Alabama improve its offense from week one on the ground and through the air.
Alabama’s second touchdown marked personal landmark for one Alabama player. Tight end Hale Hentges caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Hurts. It was Hentges' first touchdown in his three years at Alabama. Hentges said it was his first touchdown since his senior year at Helias High School in Jefferson City, Missouri.
“When you have such a great offense like this with so many weapons and pieces, if you don't get the ball that can be a great thing,” Hentges said. “A lot of times that means other people are getting the ball. The fact that someone puts the trust and faith in you to get that job done is a great feeling.”
Some young players got the opportunity to get game experience against Fresno State. Early in the second quarter, freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got the opportunity to come in and play with the first-team offense. Tagovailoa went 2 for 3 on the drive with 15 yards, but took a sack on third down to stall the drive. He finished 6 for 9 for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Saban said Tagovailoa had a solid game, but still has room to improve.
“I thought he did a pretty good job in the game,” Saban said. “Obviously, he will learn from it. He took a sack when he shouldn't have taken a sack...I think he did a lot of good things and made some accurate throws.”
Tagovailoa was always going to go in late in the second quarter, according to Saban. Saban said it was a part of the game plan and that Alabama was going to stick to it no matter what the score was.
Saban also added that Jalen Hurts was made aware of this decision. Hurts said he wanted to support Tagovailoa getting his first game experience.
“We knew Tua was going to come into the game, and I was very supportive of it,” Hurts said. “Obviously, you never know when I could go down and get hurt. He needs that experience. I think he did a good job.”
Najee Harris was another highly anticipated player that saw increased action today. Harris carried the ball 13 times for 70 yards, including a 25-yard scamper in the second half. Harris showed power and speed, as well the ability to make defenders miss.
“He did a great job of just being ready,” Harris said. “In games likes this, young guys can get in. We had a good lead, so he did a great job of being ready when his number was called. That’s something we take pride in. Whenever our number is called at the running back position, we just do whatever we can to make the play.”
Next, Alabama will be back at home to take on Colorado State. That game will kickoff at 6 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Even though Hurts had a big day and the offense improved, he believes the offense still has strides to make.
“It wasn't a perfect game,” Hurts said. “I wasn't 100 percent or none of that. We had some mistakes offensively...We want to be the best we can be. It’s not about personal stats or the individual. It’s about playing to the standard.”