Finally, Alabama Coach Nick Saban got what he wanted: a complete game, albeit against his alma mater. Here’s what the top-ranked Tide coach said after Alabama 48, Kent State 0:
“The goal going into this game was to play a complete game: to start fast, to finish, and I think we probably did that as well as we’ve done all year. The players were focused. We had three straight scoring drives right off the bat. We were pleased with the fact that we got to play a lot of players. We almost played a quarter and a half with a lot of different (backup) players. Maybe there were a few more we wish we could have played, as well. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way we played.”
Saban was happy about the shutout, but happier about getting 67 men in the game. “I think it was more important that we got a lot of guys (in) to play. I don’t think (Kent State) would have scored without an opportunity to score if we’d continue to play our… starters, but it was really important to me to get the younger guys an opportunity to play. They’ll have to learn from their mistakes, but also, they’ll continue to gain confidence from some of the things that they did well.
“It was good to get a shutout. I know that all the players were happy about that, but it’s one game, and we need to play at a little more consistent standard. That was not something that was all that good a week ago (in a comeback win over Ole Miss) in terms of how we played.”
(Regarding the 67 who played, the game book showed 66, but it was noticed from the sidelines that senior walk-on offensive guard Brandon Moore got a snap late.)
Injury wise, it appears sophomore running back Damien Harris is the most questionable. “(Harris) has an ankle sprain,” Saban said. “He’ll be day-to-day. I don’t know what his status will be. (Receiver) Ardarius Stewart (knee) will probably start doing some work this week. It’s still questionable as to whether he’ll be ready for the (Kentucky) game. (Receiver) Robert Foster (knee) will be questionable as well. I know we had a couple of other guys (Bo Scarbrough and Calvin Ridley) come out of the game, but they went back in the game, and they really didn’t have a problem.”
Saban was asked about the passing game without Stewart on a day when his quarterbacks combined to go 22-for-34 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. “I thought that we got (senior tight end) O.J. Howard a little more involved today,” Saban said. “He made a couple of explosive plays (to finish with 60 yards on three grabs). That’s what we needed to do. I thought we threw the ball effectively. I think our pass protection needs to continue to improve, because sometimes they got pressure in the pocket that we’d rather they not be doing, so the quarterbacks can have time to throw the ball. I was pleased with the job the guys that played receiver today did, and I thought the quarterbacks did a pretty good job today.
“It was the plan to play (backup quarterback) Blake Barnett some in the second quarter, regardless of how the game was going, for his development as a quarterback. He may have to play at some point in time down the road. He did some good things when he was in there. I thought Jalen (Hurts) did well.”
Hurts threw for 164 yards on 16-for-24 passing. Barnett added 55 yards and went 4-for-7. Each threw a touchdown pass.
Overall, the offense racked up 502 yards on 80 snaps. That’s the type of execution Saban likes to see. “It was much better,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to emphasize. I think we only had one false start today, which was monumental. I thought we did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage, had good balance on offense, and did a pretty good job of executing overall.”
When Harris left early with his injury, true freshman Joshua Jacobs answered the bell with 97 yards rushing on 11 carries, scoring twice. Said Saban: “(Jacobs) did a nice job today. B.J. Emmons (51 yards, eight carries) got to play a little bit more. We would have played Bo (Scarbrough) more, but he got a little banged up. He could have gone back in and played, but we left him out. He’s got a thigh bruise. Those three guys will be the guys that have to get the reps if Damien (Harris) is unable to go, but they have all played a significant amount and I think they can do a good job for us.”
Asked about true freshman linebacker Mack Wilson’s touchdown catch while in at fullback near the goal line, Saban said, “Mack Wilson has been playing in goal line and short yardage situations all season. That (fullback) is his position. That’s what he plays in that formation. That was not really a play that was necessarily for him, but it was for whoever was in that positon to complement the other things that we did.
“(Wilson) made a nice catch, and I’m happy that he was able to score a touchdown. I’m also happy that he was able to play a significant amount on defense as well, which will certainly help his development. “
Asked about the four-catch, 54-yard performance by first-time starter Cameron Sims, Saban said, “Cam Sims did a nice job. He’s finally healthy, and he’s getting a lot of opportunity now with some guys out. We’ve always had a lot of confidence in Cam. He made a great catch (of 31 yards), and the quarterback (Hurts) made a great throw on a back shoulder throw on the run. Cam’s a big guy whose got great hands and great range as a ball-catcher, and certainly somebody we feel can be very productive for us. It was good to see him make some plays today, and I’m sure that will enhance his confidence in the future.”
Video of Nick Saban post game press conference for Alabama-Kent State game by A.P. Steadham