football Edit

Alabama steams past USC 52-6 behind Hurts

Fbirecsx4nr1f9zhepf0
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts jumps into the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown run during the second half against Southern California Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (Tony Gutierrez | AP)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If there was a quarterback controversy on Saturday night, it was simply buried under everything else.

No. 1-ranked Alabama opened the 2016 season in dominant fashion, crushing No. 20 Southern Cal 52-6 at AT&T Stadium. The Crimson Tide did so despite changing quarterbacks midway through the first quarter, with true freshman Jalen Hurts taking over and leading a historic rout, the worst opening-game loss in USC history. Hurts completed six of his 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns and added two more touchdown runs in his Alabama premier. Sophomore Damien Harris added 138 yards rushing on just nine carries.

"It was a great win for our team and our program," Saban said. "We got off to a shaky start but finally settled down on offense a little bit."

Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett started the game for Alabama, the first freshman to start for a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team. However, he came out after two ineffective series and Hurts made an inauspicious debut, losing a fumble on his first play for the Crimson Tide.

"When the first quarter ended, I was wondering if this (alternating quarterbacks) was a good plan or a bad play.

"This was a for-now decision. But that's what it was -- for now."

The UA defense bailed Hurts out, stifling USC on a three-and-out. As the game segued into the second quarter, Alabama's offense never smoothed out to a rich consistency but Hurts did settle down and produce some big plays that put Alabama into the end zone.

Hurts threw his first career touchdown pass with 7:46 remaining in the first half, finding ArDarius Stewart for a 39-yard touchdown that put Alabama ahead 7-3. On the ensuing possession, Harris' 46-yard run set up a field goal. Less that a minute later, Marlon Humphrey picked off a Max Browne pass and returned it 18 yards for a score, giving the Crimson Tide a 17-3 halftime lead, although not quite winning Saban's approval.

“We’re just not executing very well on offense. We’ve had no consistency (on offense)," he said at the half. "We’ve had a couple of big plays, but we’ve got to block them better up front – we’re not getting much movement.

"I didn’t like our intensity coming out in the game," Saban said.

That wasn't an issue in the second half as Alabama scored five more touchdowns on Hurts' two runs, a 2-yard carry by Bo Scarbrough and a 45-yard pass from Barnett to transfer Gehrig Dieter.

The Crimson Tide held USC to just 194 total yards, including 64 on 30 rushing attempts.

"The question is, as you go through the season, is whether we have the depth to sustain that," Saban said. "Last year, we had 15 guys we could put in on the front."

"We played a very good team today and they played uk to their potential," USC coach Clay Helton said, "and the cold, hard truth is we didn't play up to ours. But credit (that) to Coach Saban and Alabama."

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.