No. 2 Alabama rolls over Vanderbilt in SEC opener


CW / Lexi Hall

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) prepares to throw a pass in the Crimson Tide’s 55-3 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores on Sept. 24 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

With three top-25 contests coming up, the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide focused on the task at hand: putting the Vanderbilt Commodores and the first conference game of the season in the rearview mirror. 

The Crimson Tide defeated Vanderbilt 55-3 at Bryant-Denny Stadium on the final Saturday night in September. 

“I think we’re getting closer to playing the way we like to play,” head coach Nick Saban said. “We have to continue to focus on moving forward and improving. I think the team played really well. I think this is probably the closest we’ve come to playing to [the standard].” 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Alabama dominated as soon as they entered the field of play. The Crimson Tide outgained Vanderbilt 628-123.  

The Commodores (3-2) never reached the red zone. 

Alabama (4-0) came out strong, scoring three touchdowns on its first four possessions of the game. As in weeks past, the Crimson Tide avoided the running game. It didn’t stop the passing game from having success. Quarterback Bryce Young led an air assault on Vanderbilt throughout the night, racking up 385 yards and four touchdowns through the air.  

“It felt good to hit some big plays,” Young said. “As a unit, I was happy we were able to have the success we did. I feel a really good connection with our receivers — they work really hard.” 

Wide receiver Ja’Corey Brooks, who has been a minor contributor this season so far, exploded for 117 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Ja’Corey [Brooks] certainly didn’t disappoint tonight — [he] made some catches,” Saban said. 

 It was another game with a score for wide receiver Traeshon Holden. 

“Anybody can have a big night,” Brooks said. “I want to see a night where we all have two touchdowns.” 

“It was kind of our plan to spread these guys out more and attack them in the secondary,” Saban said. “[The] receivers played really well in the game.” 

At some point in the season, Alabama will have to effectively run the football. As it did against the University of Lousiana-Monroe last week, the Crimson Tide was able to pick up some yards on the ground late in the game — but that doesn’t speak to the effort from the entire four quarters. Lead back Jahmyr Gibbs recorded just three carries. Running back Jase McClellan saw the bulk of the work, rushing for 78 yards on 11 attempts. 

True freshman running back Jamarion Miller arrived in the game late, rushing for 63 yards and two touchdowns — the first two of his college career.  

Next week, Alabama will enter Fayetteville against an Arkansas team built to defend the run. The good news? The Razorbacks rank near the bottom in pass defense thus far in 2022. So at least for one more week, the Crimson Tide’s offense may have success — solely based on the passing game. 

The Alabama front seven continues to dominate its weekly opponent, holding the Commodores to just 14 rushing yards. The pressure was on Vanderbilt quarterback AJ Swann all night, with the Crimson Tide picking up five sacks, eight tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr. had two and a half sacks of his own — a season-high. 

Anderson only had two sacks in the first three games after taking down the quarterback 17.5 times last season. 

“I always feel like it’s me versus me,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of hard — we were so good last year.” 

Linebackers Henry To’o To’o and Deontae Lawson led Alabama in total tackles with six apiece. 

“Henry is a perfect fit for the position,” Saban said. “He’s instinctive — he’s a great communicator.” 

The Commodores went 1-for-13 on third down. 

“I think this group [the defense] plays really well together,” Saban said. “We’ve got experienced players at linebacker and safety. The one thing we haven’t done is created a lot of turnovers, which is something we’ve been harping on. I’ll take this type of defense without turnovers, but I’d like to see us get more turnovers and win the turnover battle in games.” 

After leading the Crimson Tide to a school-record 262 punt return yards a week ago, Kool-Aid McKinstry picked up where he left off, returning four punts for 91 yards. He fumbled twice — the Commodores recovering one of them. As a team, Alabama fumbled the ball four separate times, jumping back on three of them. 

UL-Monroe and Vanderbilt aren’t the toughest of foes. The schedule heats up beginning next week, starting a stretch of three straight contests against ranked opponents. 

The first will be a date in northwest Arkansas with the 10th-ranked Razorbacks. Arkansas (3-1) will be coming off a 23-21 loss against No. 23 Texas A&M on Saturday night. 

Kickoff from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville is set for Saturday, Oct. 1 at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]