Alabama sophomore corner Marlon Humphrey heard the chatter from Southern California players early during Saturday’s game.
He responded the only way he knows how.
Facing a second-and-9 from the Alabama 32-yard line, USC ran a jet sweep to wide receiver Stephen Mitchell Jr. As the junior receiver prepared to turn the corner, Humphrey introduced himself, landing a thumping tackle that leveled Mitchell for a loss.
“We’re not supposed to talk to the other team,” Humphrey said. “Saban doesn’t like it, so you make a big play, speaking with your pads always speaks better.”
Due to the team’s high profile, Alabama players are used to extracurricular activities from opposing players. By now, Crimson Tide players pretty much know how to handle it.
However, there are times that test the Tide.
Late in the second quarter, sophomore cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick helped bring down USC returner Adoree’ Jackson on a kickoff. While Fitzpatrick was on the ground, USC defender Jabari Ruffin stomped on his groin after the play had been whistled dead. The normally reserved corner was quick to get up and had to be held back by teammates after the incident.
Ruffin was later ejected from the game. USC head coach Clay Helton has since suspended Ruffin for the first half of this week’s game and ordered the senior defensive end to write an apology letter.
“I actually didn’t see what happened until after the the game,” Humphrey said. “I just saw Minkah trying to run at the guy. I was kind of surprised to see Minkah do that, but after I saw the replay I was very surprised and definitely understood why.”
The emotions carried on later in the quarter, as sophomore safety Ronnie Harrison and senior safety Eddie Jackson were seen getting into an altercation on the sidelines. During his news conference Monday, Saban said Harrison had let his emotions get to his head and Jackson was trying to calm him down.
“(Harrison) said something, and Eddie said ‘Hey man, this is not what we do, we don’t talk to the other team.’ And Ronnie got all upset, not necessarily at Eddie, he was just emotionally upset about the trash talking and Eddie saying something to him,” Saban said. “You know, these two guys have a lot of respect for each other. They’re really good friends. I think the lesson to be learned is that when you have a teammate who is caring about you and trying to help you, the response should be ‘Thank you,’ not ‘Screw you.’”
Jackson wasn’t the only player preaching maturity on the sidelines. Several Alabama veterans realize how frustrating it can be when the other team is talking trash on the field. That’s where Tide leaders step in and remind younger players to stay composed and shrug it off.
“Everybody is going to be fired up to play us,” said junior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton. “We just have to play ball like Coach Saban always talks about, because trash talking isn’t going to win you games.”
Instead, Alabama used its play to do the talking, hitting the Trojans hard on the field and on the scoreboard. After trailing 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Tide went on a 38-0 run en route to a 52-6 victory. The loss was the Trojans’ worst defeat since a 51-0 loss to Notre Dame in 1966.
Those numbers, plus a few more bruising hits resonated louder than any words could.