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Jalen Hurts on criticism: Saban 'has my back'

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Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) talks to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (left) and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban (right)at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo | USA Today

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts isn’t interested in theories or criticisms of his passing game. When you are 15-1 as a starter, there isn’t really a need to be.

As far as Hurts is concerned, wins are the only stat that matters. The sophomore quarterback is 2-for-2 in that department this season, and he’s more than OK with that.

“We won. I’m happy,” Hurts said when questioned about some of the criticism that came his way after Saturday’s 41-10 win over Fresno State.

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Hurts completed 14 of 18 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also had a career-best 154 yards on the ground to go with two rushing touchdowns.

However, that didn’t stop complaints about a lack of downfield passing. Of Hurts' 14 completions, only two traveled more than 10 yards in the air. Much of that was due to the amount of space Fresno State defensive backs gave Alabama to work with down low, allowing the Tide to take advantage of screens and shorter throws.

Still, the lack of deep passes inevitably led to questioning. Will Alabama be able to attack teams downfield when it needs to? Does Hurts have the ability to make those kinds of throws? Why not test things out against a Fresno State team that came into the game as a 43.5-point underdog.

Hurts and Alabama have heard it all. Monday, head coach Nick Saban took it upon himself to come to his quarterback’s defense.

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“I think different players play winning football in different ways,” Saban said when asked about the criticism surrounding Hurts. “If you want to be critical of a guy for rushing 154 yards and think he should not do that so he can pass more, then that’s up to you. You can do that if you want. But we did pass for 192 yards and I think that’s the kind of balance that we want to create.

“We’re going to continue to try to help our players play to their strengths and work on any weakness that they have so that they can do better on those things.”

Those remarks did not go unnoticed by his starting quarterback.

“He has my back, and I’m happy to see that he’s taken that route,” Hurts said Tuesday. “As a leader, I continue to lead and I continue to win. And that’s what we have to do. We have to win. We’re trying to win and trying to be 1-0 every week.”

Hurts said he’s fine with Alabama’s short passing game, stating it “allows you to catch a rhythm.” Saban said the offense had a few deeper plays drawn up last week but was unable to utilize them due to lack of pass protection. The head coach stated there were “probably seven plays” where if Alabama had made a block it could have resulted in big yardage.

“Just got to be able to finish,” Hurts said. “Emphasized that a long time here in the spring, whatever it is. Just got to be able to finish. Last year, we didn’t finish the season. The last game, we didn’t finish a few plays. It’s the same stuff. We’ve just got to be able to do a better job of finishing.”

Moving into his second year as a starter, Hurts has been handed more responsibilities. The sophomore now has more leeway in making protection changes at the line and has developed a greater trust from the coaching staff. That’s a big difference from last season, where Saban admitted the team “protected” the freshman quarterback at times.

“I think the whole thing throughout the spring, I think it was a very productive spring, a very productive camp,” Hurts said. “And I think we’ve made big strides as an offense and me and coach (Daboll) having a connection. And I think we’ll only improve.”

Following a promising spring, Alabama hasn’t quite seen the same Hurts who tore apart the Tide’s first-team defense for 301 yards and two touchdowns on 16 of 25 passing during A-Day. Despite two comfortable wins, Alabama’s offense under first-year offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has seemed to choke out opponents rather than deliver the knockout blows critics are asking for.Perhaps that’s what has led to the uproar from Alabama’s insatiable fan base.

Right now, Hurts isn’t worried about that. His team his winning, his coach is satisfied — anything else is just talk.

“I don’t look into the stats and all that,” Hurts said. “The most important stat for me is getting the W, and I think we got that Saturday, so I’m fine.”

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