Mac Jones on starting QB role for Alabama: 'I don’t think anything changes'
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mac Jones doesn’t know if he received any extra calls or texts this week. His phone was off, so if he did he didn’t see them.
The redshirt sophomore generates quite a bit more attention now that he holds the starting quarterback role for Alabama following Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending injury. Although, if that resulted in any extra pressure, Jones didn’t show it.
“I don’t think anything changes. It’s 100 yards long, 53 1/3 (wide),” Jones said referring to the dimensions of the football field. “You step in there, it’s a new face at quarterback, and you just try to be yourself and let the guys rally around you like they did. So, you know, take the pressure off your shoulders and let the guys make plays like they always do.”
The crowd inside Bryant-Denny roared as Tagovailoa was rolled out on a cart before kickoff. The former starter had surgery in Houston on Monday after dislocating his hip against Mississippi State. Many questioned if Alabama’s high-powered offense, as well as its playoff chances, left the field with him last week in Starkville, Miss.
Saturday, Jones gave the Crimson Tide faithful something else to cheer about while injecting a bit of hope into a season previously deemed in doubt.
After a somewhat slow start, the right-hander completed his final eight passes en route to finishing the day 10 of 12 for 275 yards and three touchdowns during Alabama’s 66-3 victory over Western Carolina.
“I though he threw the ball well,” head coach Nick Saban said. “We knew that the way they play defense that we were going to have to take some shots. He did a good job of throwing the ball to grass on some of those posts where they’re chasing guys. So I thought he threw the ball well, and he was accurate on the deep ball. I know we missed one, but we just want to keep building on his confidence and our confidence in him that he’s going to go out there and do his job well.”
There were times during Alabama’s first drive where it appeared to miss Tagovailoa. Playing against a inferior FCS defense, the Crimson Tide failed to move the ball in the red zone as Jones sailed a pass over the head of tight end Major Tennison on third-and-7 from the 11-yard line to set up a field goal.
Jones then drew a few groans when he overthrew an open Jerry Jeudy on a deep ball during Alabama’s second possession. However, that would be final time any of his passes hit the turf.
The quarterback’s big day began on a simple screen pass as he play-actioned to running back Najee Harris before turning to hit DeVonta Smith to his right. The speedy receiver did the rest, juking out two Western Carolina defenders before racing past two more on his way 57 yards down the field for a score.
Jones built off the success, delivering a 44-yard deep ball to Jeudy on his first pass of the following possession to help set up another touchdown. He then hit Jaylen Waddle on 37-yard pass the next possession before capping the drive off with a short toss to Harris for a 12-yard touchdown. A screen pass to Waddle later in the quarter resulted in a 54-yard touchdown as Alabama headed into the break up 38-0.
“Mac was great out there,” starting center Landon Dickerson said. “His presence was felt on the field and in the huddle. And any time on the sideline, you know he’s got a positive vibe. He just keeps going, even if something bad happens the play before, drive before, he’s just next play, move on, let’s go.”
While’s Jones’ performance Saturday was impressive, his first true test will come next week as No. 5 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 in the SEC) travels to No. 15 Auburn (8-3, 4-3) for the Iron Bowl. That game will serve as the Crimson Tide’s final opportunity to impress the College Football Playoff committee as it looks to return to the playoff for a sixth straight season.
Since Alabama will not get the chance to compete for a conference championship, it will need to show it is unequivocally one of the top four teams in the nation. Many analysts have suggested the committee’s opinion of the Crimson Tide could hinge on how it views its offense following the loss of Tagovailoa.
However, that doesn't appear to be worrying Jones too much either.
“I don’t think there’s anything to prove,” Jones said. “Honestly, I’m just trying to win as many games (as I can) and take that play by play and do your job on every play and the big-picture stuff will play out how it does.”