What we learned: Alabama gets glimpse of the future in rout of Kentucky
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For six games, Alabama didn’t delve much into its depth on offense. Sure, there were blowout wins. However several of the Crimson Tide’s budding stars didn’t get much of an opportunity to show out.
Game No. 7 was different.
Alabama’s 66-3 victory featured several firsts as three true freshmen netted their initial touchdowns with the Tide. Backup quarterback Bryce Young and running backs Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams all received extended playing time in the second half. The freshman trio didn’t disappoint, providing a promising glimpse into Alabama’s future offense.
Young made an immediate impact after entering the game for starter Mac Jones on Alabama’s final possession in the third quarter. The five-star freshman hit receiver DeVonta Smith for 35 yards on his first snap of the game. Six plays later, Young rolled to his right on third-and-goal from the 18-yard line, evading a defender before finding Smith for a touchdown.
“The pass from Bryce, I didn’t have no choice but to catch it,” Smith said of the touchdown from Young. “I turned around and it was right there on my hip.”
Roydell Williams was the next freshman to find the end zone, punching the ball in from 2 yards out to give the Tide a 56-3 lead. The Hueytown, Ala. native ended his night with 10 carries for 30 yards. Meanwhile, Jase McClellan had the best numbers of the three freshmen, rushing for a team-high 99 yards with a touchdown on 10 carries. The Aledo, Texas native’s final carry of the night came on a 19-yard touchdown run off the left end.
“Jase and Roydell, I try to give them as much game as possible, tell them what to expect from the game, how things are going to happen,” running back Najee Harris said. “To see them succeed today in all their stuff is almost as if you’re proud of your brother to all of them.”
Following the game, Nick Saban highlighted the importance of extended playing time for the freshmen, stating it would be beneficial to them moving forward. The head coach also said the touchdowns serve as both self-gratification to the players who scored them as well as a boost to the rest of the team.
“I think that the players on the team really kind of demonstrate the emotion that everybody has when those young guys do something because everybody is rooting for them,” Saban said. “Everybody wants to see them do well. It’s great for them that they get the opportunity, and it makes me really happy to see them go out there and have production. Everybody wants to score a touchdown, and I think that’s great.”
After slow start, Alabama’s defense proves it’s getting better
The first-half stat sheet didn’t tell the whole story.
On paper, Alabama held Kentucky to just 32 yards on the ground while entering the break up 28-3. However, that included a muffed snap by Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson that resulted in a loss of eight yards as well as a sailed snap on a field goal which lost 36 more.
Despite an ability to capitalize on long drives, the Wildcats were moving the ball against the Tide earlier. That was evident by their 20:40 to 9:20 advantage in possession heading into the half.