What does one expect when Alabama, the No. 1 team in college football, hosts Kent State, a team expected to finish last in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference?
Win the game, of course, and, actually, win it comfortably.
Check. It was Alabama 48, Kent State 0. And that was accomplished with Alabama scoring just one time in the second half after a 41-0 advantage at intermission.
Get plenty of playing time for back-up players.
Check. Second and third team players got a good share of the game action, including all four quarterbacks getting snaps. A half dozen running backs, defenders only the most observant followers would have noticed, and linemen more anonymous than usual getting game time swelled the participation chart to 68 men.
(That also explains why the 41-0 halftime lead was extended by only one score in the second half.)
Not get anyone hurt.
Ahem. Repeat, not get anyone hurt.
Well, most of those who got banged up in a game that means nothing were back in action, but there may be a question about Damien Harris, who just happens to be Alabama’s starting tailback. Harris suffered an ankle sprain and it may be a few days before the extent of the injury is known according to Bama Coach Nick Saban.
Alabama’s thorough domination of the Golden Flashes improved the Crimson Tide to 4-0.
Bama returns to Southeastern Conference play next Saturday. It will be Homecoming at Alabama. The Crimson Tide will host the Kentucky Wildcats at 6 p.m. CDT (ESPN televising).
Games like the non-conference game against Kent State (now 1-3) may be a snippet of what to expect in the future for college football, even at places like Alabama. Television mandates the time of games, and an 11 a.m. kickoff on a day in which the temperature is in the mid-90s against an overmatched opponent might speed along the process of fans electing to pass up the stadium experience.
Saban had preached all week that he wanted to see his team start fast and finish strong. Bama opened the game with an 8-play, 70-yard drive that took just 2:46 – not counting the time Damien Harris was getting treated on the field after being injured on the fifth play of the drive after running to the Kent State 45. Quarterback Jalen Hurts finished it up. He connected with tailback Joshua Jacobs for an 8-yard gain, then Hurts went at right end for back-to-back runs of 17 and 20 yards, the last for a TD. Adam Griffith would hit the first of his four extra poiint kicks (Andy Pappanastos would kick the final two) for the 7-0 lead.
Kent State put a little scare into the Tide, but the Golden Flashes missed a field goal try and Alabama was again able to make a long drive, 10 plays for 79 ytards taking only 2:51. Jacobs started it with a 16-yard run and a Hurts pass to Cam Sims – starting in place of the injured ArDarius Stewart – for 31 yards to the 1 made it easy for Jacobs to get his first career touchdown and make it 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Tide closed out the quarter with another scoring drive 4 plays for 55 yards and a 21-0 lead.
Along the way, Hurts had a pass tipped by a Kent State defender, but it went right into the hands of O.J. Howard for an 18-yard gain. Jacobs finished the quick march with his second touchdown run, a 24-yard dash up the middle to make it 21-0.
A Tide drive that started late in the first quarter and ended early in the second stanza was good enough only for a field goal. After getting first and goal at the Kent State 7, it ended up fourth down from the 11 and Griffith was good on a 29-yard attempt that upped the Tide lead to 24-0.
On the first play after the kickoff, Tide cornerback Anthony Averett forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Ronnie Harrison at the Kent State 24.
The first experiement with a quarterback change didn’t go well. Blake Barnett, who earned the start for the season-opener against Southern Cal, entered the game for a four-play drive that included an incomplete pass and two sacks for losses of seven yards. Griffith saved something with a 48-yard field goal and a 27-0 lead.
Xavian Marks was getting work as the punt return man (there were 9 of them by the Golden Flashes), but he wasn’t always taking care of job one – catch the ball. Kent State punt hit the ground in front of him and went 48 yards to the Alabama 39.
This time, Barnett moved the team forward. It took just five plays to go 61 yards for the touchdown, with Barnett making a fine pass to O.J. Howard crossing for a 34-yard TD that made it 34-0.
When Alabama’s JK Scott finally got a chance to punt in the third quarter, it looked like a bad deal. Scott shanked it, but the ball hit the ground and a nice bounce made it a 45-yard effort. A few plays later, it was Kent State’s turn to punt again. It was obvious that Saban had a conversation with Marks following the punts Marks allowed to hit the ground.
Marx didn’t let the next one bounce. He took it at his 25, made a couple of gunners miss, then took off upfield, avoiding tacklers until only the punter remained in his path. That proved to be no obstacle and his 75-yard TD made it 41-0.
Hurts was at quarterback only for the first possession of the second half, and the freshman quarterback made it count. Starting t the Bama 24, Hurts led the Tide on a 13-play, 66-yard drive that had an unlikely ending.
Bama freshman middle linebacker Mack Wilson is an up blocker when the Tide is in goalline offense. That’s where Alabama was on its first possession of the second half. Bama drove to a first-and-goal just inside the 10. Hurts scrambled to the 1. On second down, he made the pass to Wilson for the score.
With 6:17 to play, the scoring was over
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Kent State just missed avoiding the shutout. On a fourth-and-goal from the Alabama 7 with 10 minutes to play, Golden Flashes quarterback George Bollas raced for the left side of the end zone, but was stopped inches short of the goalline by Tide linebacker Christian Miller. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but overturned after video review.