Offense picks up steam after sluggish first half


CW / Joe Will Field

James Benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

ATLANTA – It was a tale of two halves for Alabama’s offense in its 42-3 victory over Duke. 

The offensive stats tell the story. In both halves, the Crimson Tide totaled over 200 yards of total offense, most of which came through the air. Despite the amount of offensive production, the yards did not translate on the scoreboard right away

“I thought we got off to a bit of a slow start in terms of our ability to execute,” coach Nick Saban said. “Not because of lack of effort or attitude and I think as the game went on, I thought we played better and better.” 

The score was 14-3 at the half, but due to penalties and different personnel on the field such as Jerome Ford, it took four drives for Alabama to find the end zone. Ford started over Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. due to a reported suspension. Ford tallied just nine rushing yards before Duke forced a fumble on Alabama’s 25-yard line which required a momentum-stopping defensive effort to prevent points from going on the board. 

In the first drive of the second quarter the offense finally got some points on the board as redshirt junior Miller Forristall found himself open in the flat with the end zone in sight. After catching a pass from Tua Tagovailoa, the tight end from Cartersville, Georgia broke a few tackles and waltzed his way to his first career touchdown in an Alabama uniform. 

“It’s so cool coming back to my hometown, having friends and family here and catching a touchdown-the first touchdown of the season as well. It felt great,” Forristall said.

After Robinson scored a late touchdown in the second quarter,  Tagovailoa found his other tight end to begin the third quarter, capping off a 65-yard drive with a play-action pass that had redshirt sophomore Major Tennison open in the corner of the end zone.  

“[Duke] is a 4-2-5 team which means they play nickel all the time, sometimes when you have the ability to play some bigger guys on the edges it is helpful,” Saban said. “Hopefully we will continue to utilize those things and play a physical style upfront that we would like to be able to play, which we did at times today but at times we weren’t what we needed to be.”

Despite the slow start and a feeble running attack, Alabama was able to adjust by throwing the ball to multiple different receivers. One of the major targets was junior Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy finished with the game with a career-high 10 catches for 137 yards and one touchdown. His receiving touchdown in the third quarter was the 17th of his career, tied for the fourth most in program history. 

“It’s a great feeling,” Jeudy said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates or my coaching staff. It’s a great team and we executed plays. I did a good job of just running my routes to get open.”

In order for Jeudy to continue to rack up catches against a stingy Duke secondary, he needed an efficient quarterback to get him the ball on time. Tagovailoa was the embodiment of efficiency, going 26-of-31 for 336 yards and four touchdowns.

Tagovailoa seemed comfortable enough to go to other options if Jeudy was not open. Sophomore Jaylen Waddle finished his night with five catches and 90 yards while DeVonta Smith, who did not play in the first quarter, caught five passes for 54 yards and one touchdown. 

“I think [offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian] did a great job calling plays,” Tagovailoa said. “Knowing that they took a lot of the deep things away from us, we had to keep it short. We worked in field. We spit the ball out on a little arrow route or bubble route and [our receivers] made the plays.” 

Alabama has its home opener against New Mexico State next Saturday and while the score looks lopsided, Saban and the rest of the team are quick to share that there are many mistakes that need to be corrected. 

“There’s obviously a lot of things we can improve on,” Saban said, “and that’s certainly what we’ll focus on here in the week to come.”