Playing in a familiar venue, Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley put up familiar numbers Saturday.
After being held to two catches for nine yards during Alabama’s opener against Southern California, Ridley exploded against Western Kentucky, hauling in nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.
The sophomore receiver got things started on the Crimson Tide’s first offensive play of the game, taking a shovel pass from Jalen Hurts for 28 yards. His touchdown came on a 4-yard pass from Hurts to put Alabama up 10-3 on the final play of the first quarter.
Ridley has typically done his best work away from Bryant-Denny Stadium. Last season, he racked up 431 yards and three touchdowns in seven games at Bryant-Denny. Saturday’sperformance was his second game with 100 or more yards at home while with the Tide. The other game came against Arkansas last season when he caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Tide’s 27-14 win.
“We play to a standard, and with him being in the receiving room, he knows that standard,” said junior receiver ArDarius Stewart. “We always try to play to that standard, and that’s what he did.”
Stewart continued his hot start to the season, catching five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Another week another starter
For the second straight week, Alabama started the game with a different starter at quarterback.
After replacing redshirt freshman Blake Barnett in the third series of Week 1, true freshman Hurts got the nod as starter for the Tide on Saturday. Hurts became the eighth quarterback to start for Alabama under head coach Nick Saban, who is in his 10th season with the Tide.
The true freshman did not disappoint, going 23-for-36 with 287 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Barnett came into the game midway through the second quarter but was later subbed back out for Hurts. Barnett finished the day 2-for-6 with 64 yards.
Hurts is the first true freshman to start for Alabama since Vince Sutton in 1984. Sutton’s first start came against Southwest Louisiana on Sept. 22 that year. He would later start against Vanderbilt, Georgia, Penn State and Tennessee.
Digs takes over as punt returner
Hurts wasn’t the only true freshman to be handed a starting role Saturday. Trevon Diggs took over for Ridley as the Tide’s punt returner.
Diggs returned two punts for a total of 13 yards, with his longest return coming on a 13-yard gain in the third quarter. Last week, Ridley had four yards on three returns against the Trojans.
Diggs also returned all three of WKU’s kickoffs for a total of 63 yards
Tide quiet on the ground
After racking up 242 yards on 45 carries against USC, Alabama’s running game went cold against the Hilltoppers.
WKU held Alabama to 124 yards on 39 carries, limiting the Tide to 13 yards on 16 carries at the half. Damien Harris led the way for Alabama, rushing for 45 yards on 11 carries. Last week against USC, the sophomore rushed for 138 yards on nine carries.
True freshman B.J. Emmons had six carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Bo Scarbrough rushed five times for 19 yards and a touchdown.
Heat doesn’t get to Kiffin, but Saban does
The temperature at game time was a balmy 91 degrees, but that didn’t stop Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin from donning a long-sleeve pullover for the game.
Despite struggling a times on offense, the game marked the third straight time Alabama has gained 450 or more yards. It was the Tide’s seventh straight 400-yard game, dating back to a 56-6 win against Charleston Southern last season. Mississippi State is the last team to hold Alabama under the 400 mark.
However, Kiffin didn’t escape unscathed. After Alabama fumbled late in the fourth quarter to set up WKU’s lone touchdown, Saban was seen getting into it with the offensive coordinator.
“There was no argument,” Saban explained during his post-game news conference. “Those are called ass chewings.”
Kiffin was handed a cool pay raise on Friday, as the university approved a pro-rated $1.4 million contract for this season. The contract made Kiffin Alabama’s high-paid assistant, topping the $1 million the university paid newly-hired defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. That should make up for the harsh words.
Home sweet home
There’s no place like home, at least for openers, as far as Alabama is concerned. With Friday’s 38-10 win against Western Kentucky, the Tide won it’s 15th straight home opener in Tuscaloosa.
The win makes Alabama head coach Nick Saban 10-0 in home openers with Alabama and puts the Tide at 76-11-2 all-time in such games. Alabama sold out the game with an attendance of 101,821.