It couldn’t have started any worse for Alabama true freshman Jalen Hurts. It couldn’t have ended any better, either.
After fumbling a handoff on his first collegiate play, Hurts rebounded, leading Alabama to a 52-6 win over Southern California on Saturday in the Crimson Tide’s season opener at AT&T Stadium.
Hurts finished the day completing 6 of 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He added 32 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett got the start but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Barnett struggled to move the ball on his first two possessions, going 2-for-3 for 3 yards. Alabama was forced to punt on both possessions.
Hurts came in on the Tide’s third possession, instantly giving the ball away on a muffed handoff to sophomore running back Damien Harris.
“When the first quarter was over, I was wondering to myself, ‘Was this a good plan or a bad plan?’” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Both players were a little shaky in the beginning, but I think Jalen, each series that he played, got more and more comfortable.”
Hurts appeared to get his confidence back on the next possession, as he hit sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley for a 10-yard pass on third-and-10. While Alabama eventually had to punt on the drive, the play created momentum for Hurts.
Facing a third-and-13 on the Tide’s next possession, Hurts hit junior receiver ArDarius Stewart for a 39-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 7-3 lead with 7:46 left in the half.
From there, the Tide rolled.
Alabama scored on four of its next six possessions, while sophomore cornerback Marlon Humphrey added another touchdown on an 18-yard interception return.
Hurts, a Texas native, led the way for Alabama. The true freshman found a wide-open Stewart for a 71-yard touchdown to put the Tide up 24-3 with 13:43 to play in the third quarter. He then rushed in a pair of touchdowns later in the quarter from 7 and 6 yards out to give the Tide a commanding 38-3 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Tide added a 2-yard touchdown run from sophomore Bo Scarbrough and a 45-yard touchdown pass from Barnett to senior receiver Gehrig Dieter to complete the blowout.
Sophomore running back Damien Harris led the Tide in rushing with 138 yards on nine carries, including one for 73 yards. Scarbrough had 36 yards on 11 carries. Stewart was Alabama’s top receiver with four catches for 113 yards.
Barnett finished the day 5 of 6 passing for 100 yards, while junior Cooper Bateman came into the game late and was 1-for-1 for 5 yards.
After the game, Saban failed to name a starting quarterback, leaving the competition open for at least another week.
“I made a decision for this game that whatever we do at quarterback, it was for now,” Saban said. “We made a decision today for now, and that’s the only decision we made. I’m not speculating on what we are going to do in the future.”
As stellar as Alabama was on offense, the Tide’s defense was equally stout. Alabama held the Trojans to 194 yards on offense. Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen led the way with four tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups. Senior linebacker Ryan Anderson had five tackles and a sack, while junior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton had five tackles, including two for a loss.
The Tide held highly touted USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to just one catch for 9 yards in the game. Trojans quarterback Max Brown finished the game 14-for-29 with 101 yards and an interception. Ronald Jones II led the Trojans in rushing with 46 yards on seven carries, with all of his yards coming on a 46-yard run.
“I think that we had a really good plan for these guys, and I think the players did a really good job of executing,” Saban said. “But we would not have been able to execute that way if we could not stop the run... We were able to do that, really to my surprise. I thought we were going to have to put more guys in the box, which would have opened up some of their outside throws and throwing the ball down the field.”
Alabama will return home to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on Western Kentucky (1-0) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Hilltoppers beat Rice 46-14 in their opener on Thursday.
USC—FG Boermeester 47, 12:33.
BAMA—Stewart 39 yd pass from Hurts (Griffith kick), 07:54.
BAMA—FG Griffith 29, 03:30.
BAMA—Humphrey 18 interception return (Griffith kick), 02:46.
BAMA—Stewart 71 yd pass from Hurts (Griffith kick), 13:53.
BAMA—Hurts 7 run (Griffith kick), 11:01.
BAMA—Hurts 6 run (Griffith kick), 06:00.
USC—FG Boermeester 41, 02:38.
BAMA—Scarbrough 2 run (Griffith kick), 13:16.
BAMA—Dieter 45 yd pass from Barnett (Griffith kick), 09:34.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Southern Cal, Jones 7-46, Ware 6-22, Darnold 3-9, Davis 2-5, Davis 7-2, Browne 4-(minus 3), Tilbey 1-(minus 17). Alabama, Harris 9-138, Scarbrough 11-36, Hurts 9-32, Jacobs 4-20, Emmons 6-18, Stewart 1-17, Bateman 1-(minus 9), Barnett 4-(minus 10).
PASSING—Southern Cal, Browne 14-29-1-101, Darnold 4-8-0-29. Alabama, Hurts 6-11-1-118, Barnett 5-6-0-100, Bateman 1-1-0-5.
RECEIVING—Southern Cal, Rogers 2-45, Burnett 4-26, Mitchell 4-22, McNamara 2-10, Smith-Schuster 1-9, Davis 1-6, Davis 2-5, Petite 1-5, Jones 1-2. Alabama, Stewart 4-113, Dieter 1-45, Howard 3-39, Sims 1-12, Ridley 2-9, Greene 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.