Midway through the second quarter Saturday, Alabama backup quarterback Blake Barnett found Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard crossing in front of Kent State’s secondary. Barnett hit Howard in stride, and the senior took it to the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown as part of Bama’s 48-0 win.
Almost everyone can remember the two touchdown pass receptions by Howard in the College Football Playoff national championship game win over Clemson. But can you remember the last time Howard had a touchdown reception in a regular season game? You have to go back to his freshman season, 2013, when Howard had two TD catches, one against Arkansas and one against LSU.
For the day Saturday, Howard had three receptions for a game-high 60 yards, and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban took note, saying he was pleased to see Howard get involved and to make some explosive plays.
Granted, it was against Kent State, but Alabama’s statistical domination was perhaps even more than what had been expected.
Alabama had 16 first downs, Kent State 5 (2 rushing, 2 passing, 1 by penalty).
The Tide had 46 rushes for 285 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, while the Golden Flashes had 30 runs for 82 yards, 2.7 per try.
Bama quarterbacks completed 22-34 passes for 217 yards, Kent State 7-16 for 84 yards.
In total offense it was Alabama 80 plays for 502 yards, 6.3 yards per play, Kent State 46 plays for 166 yards, 3.6 per play.
Bama did not fumble, while the Golden Flashes fumbled twice and lost one (caused by Anthony Averett, recovered by Ronnie Harrison).
Yellow flags were mostly kept in pockets. Kent State was not penalized, while Bama was called only twice for a total of 20 yards.
The Golden Flashes managed to convert on third down only once in 13 opportunities. Bama was good on 6-14 tries. Kent State did succeed on one of its two fourth down tries, and Alabama was good on 2-3 fourth down attempts.
In the Red Zone (inside the 20), Alabama scored on all four opportunities – three touchdowns and one field goal – while Kent State failed to score on its only trip into the Red Zone.
Bama had a seven-minute advantage in time of possession, 33:33 to 26:27.
Eight men ran the ball for Alabama Saturday – six tailbacks, quarterback Jalen Hurts, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Freshman Joshua Jacobs led the rush attack with 11 carries for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns, followed by freshman Hurts with 7-54 and 1 TD, and a third true freshman, B.J. Emmons, with 8-51. Walk-on Derrick Gore had 6-45, soph Bo Scarbrough 3-19 before leaving with an injury, and starter Damien Harris 4-18, also before leaving with an injury.
Hurts completed 16-24 passes for 164 yards and 1 TD, Blake Barnett was 4-7 for 55 yards and a touchdown, and Cooper Bateman 2-3 for minus 2 yards.
Cam Sims got a starting job at wide receiver because ArDarius Stewart was sittting out the game with a shoulder injury. Sims had 4 receptions for 54 yards, including a very fine catch on a 31-yard reception that set up a short touchdown. O.J. Howard had 3-60 and a TD, freshman Trevon Diggs 3-23, Derek Kief 3-17, Joshua Jacobs 2-23, B.J. Emmons 1-17, Gehrig Dieter 1-10, Bo Scarbrough 1-6, Calvin Ridley 1-5, freshman linebacker Mack Wilson 1-1 for a 1-yard touchdown, Hale Hentges 1-1, and Derrick Gore a catch for no yards.
JK Scott punted twice for a 49-yard average, a 46-yarder that looked like a shank, and a typical Scott effort that went 53 yards and was fair caught.
The Golden Flashes did not have a punt return. Alabama did.
Xavian Marks, a track star and a backup running back, got his first opportunity as a punt return man. Although he was criticized for letting a couple of Kent State punts hit the ground and roll deep into Tide territory, after a short conversation with Saban following the second of those, Marks made sure of his catch. And his run. He had 4 runbacks for 90 total yards, highlighted by his electric 75-yard punt return for touchdown.
Reuben Foster led the Tide defensively with 2 primary, 5 assists, including being involved in a sack. Backup linebacker Keith Holcombe had a nice game with 4 primary stops, 2 assists. Other tackle statistics:
Hootie Jones 2 primary, 2 assists; Ronnie Harrison 3-0, Levi Wallace 2-1, Minkah Fitzpatrick 1-2 (in on two sacks for 13 yards in losses), Christian Miller 1-2, Dakota Ball 1-2, Jonathan Allen 0-3, DaRon Payne 2-0, Anfernee Jennings 1-1, Eddie Jackson 1-1, Terrell Hall 1-1, and Tim Williams 1-1 and in on a sack. Those with one primary stop each were Mack Wilson, Aaron Robinson, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Anthony Averett. Those with one assist each were B.J. Emmons, Ryan Anderson (who was also in on a sack), Marlon Humphrey, Dalvin Tomlinson, Raekwon Davis, and Da’Shawn Hand.
Bama did not have any pass interceptions or pass breakups, but did have six quarterback pressures – two each by Tim Williams and Anfernee Jennings and one each by Da’Shawn Hand and Christian Miller.
Video of O.J. Howard post game interview Alabama-Kent State game by A.P. Steadham