Alabama blows out Western Carolina 66-3 on Senior Day
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama needed a win. After back-to-back weeks of anguish and agony, the Crimson Tide was able to bring some positivity to a soggy Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, providing hope heading into a more meaningful matchup next week.
Led by new starting quarterback Mac Jones and an opportunistic defense, the Crimson Tide easily dismantled Western Carolina 66-3. Jones, who stepped into the starting spot after Tua Tagovailoa dislocated his hip last week, completed 10 of 12 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
After undergoing hip surgery in Houston earlier this week, Tagovailoa was in attendance for the game. He generated perhaps the loudest ovation of the day when he was carted onto the field before kickoff. Saturday also served as Senior Day for Alabama as the Crimson Tide recognized 18 seniors. Those pregame festivities produced more interest than the game itself.
Despite getting off to a somewhat underwhelming start on offense, Alabama was able to jump out to a big start early thanks to Xavier McKinney. The junior safety recorded interceptions on each of Western Carolina’s first two possessions, taking his second pick 81 yards for a touchdown. McKinney then forced a fumble on Western Carolina’s third possession to set up another Crimson Tide touchdown drive.
Alabama’s first offensive possession sputtered out in the red zone as the Crimson Tide was forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Joseph Bulovas. However, as Jones slowly found his rhythm, Alabama’s high-powered offense began to roll.
The right-hander hit DeVonta Smith on a bubble screen for a 57-yard touchdown on the Crimson Tide’s second possession. He then connected with Jerry Jeudy on a 44-yard deep ball to set up another scoring drive. Jones added two more scores through the air in the second quarter, delivering a 12-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris before finding Jaylen Waddle on a screen which the receiver took 57 yards to the end zone. The redshirt sophomore completed his final seven passes of the first half with four of them resulting in 35 or more yards as Alabama entered the break with a commanding 38-0 lead.
Taulia Tagovailoa replaced Jones on Alabama’s second drive of the third quarter. The freshman quarterback had already appeared in four games for the Crimson Tide this season, meaning that Saturday’s game put him over the limit in order to attain a redshirt this season. Earlier this week, head coach Nick Saban said Alabama decided not to redshirt Taulia this season after his older brother, Tua, got injured.
Taulia finished the game 2 of 3 for 35 yards and a touchdown. He recorded his first career touchdown pass when he hit Smith on a 15-yard screen on his first throw of the game. Smith finished the game with four receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Waddle led the Crimson Tide with 101 yards on three catches. The speedy receiver nearly added another touchdown with a 49-yard punt return in the second quarter.
Alabama gained 231 yards on the ground as freshman Keilan Robinson led the way with 92 yards on eight carries, including a 46-yard touchdown run. Starter Najee Harris had 66 yards and touchdown on 14 carries to go with his 12-yard score through the air. The two touchdowns marked his fifth straight multi-score game.
Alabama’s defense allowed Western Carolina to move the ball early. However, the Catamounts could never capitalize as they turned the ball over five times on the day. Senior safety Jared Mayden joined McKinney with two interceptions, both of which were followed up by touchdown drives. Meanwhile, redshirt senior Anfernee Jennings tallied 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries.
The Crimson Tide played without a quartet of injured players as wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (bruised ribs), as well as defense linemen Raekwon Davis (ankle), D.J. Dale (knee) and Phidarian Mathis (undisclosed), did not dress out. Ruggs watched the game next to Tua in the cart. The two left to applause in the third quarter after Alabama extended the lead to 59-0
Saturday’s victory marked the Crimson Tide’s 12th straight 10-win season. Alabama (10-1, 6-1 in the SEC) will travel to Auburn next week for the Iron Bowl. The game will serve as the Crimson Tide’s last chance to impress the College Football Playoff committee.