ATLANTA — No. 1 Alabama throttled No. 14 Miami on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, picking up a clean 44-13 win behind a tremendous output from sophomore quarterback Bryce Young. Making his first start for the Crimson Tide, Young completed 27 of his 38 passes for 344 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The four-touchdown performance breaks the mark set by Joe Namath and Mac Jones for the most touchdown passes in a debut as an Alabama starting quarterback.
Young, who played in nine games last year — mostly in mop-up duty — was 9 of 14 for 103 yards and one touchdown in the first quarter with the scoring strike going to veteran wide receiver John Metchie III for 37 yards. He found tight end Cameron Latu for scores twice in the second quarter and Jameson Williams on a 94-yarder — tied for the longest in program history — in the third.
That 94-yarder was huge, at least in terms of momentum. Miami couldn’t get anything going offensively and trailed 27-3 going into the locker room. Quarterback D’Eriq King moved the Canes to the 1-yard line on 13 plays to open the third quarter, but Alabama thwarted a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal to end the drive. Three plays later, Young found Williams for the back-breaker.
Alabama did find out a lot about its running game, too. Brian Robinson Jr. was a key piece of the puzzle early, rushing for 52 yards in the first quarter in his first game as the true No. 1 running back. Any questions surrounding the future of the Alabama offense were answered early in the beatdown in the Benz.
1. Young is the real deal
All eyes were on the former No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2020 as he made his debut as the Crimson Tide starting quarterback, and he didn’t disappoint. His four touchdown passes are tied for the most in Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game history with ex-Tide signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa and former Ole MIss star Bo Wallace. The stats don’t tell the whole story, though.
Young showed right out of the gate that he isn’t a run-first quarterback. Even though he’s technically a dual-threat, he showed tremendous poise keeping his eyes downfield on the first five drives of the game — all of which ended in scores. His pocket presence and comfort within coordinator Bill O’Brien’s offense was apparent from the get-go, which is a great foundation for the future.
Week 1 is the time of the year when we all get to overreact to everything. Through 60 minutes of his career as a starter, Young looks like he could be the best quarterback Saban’s recruited for the Tide. After all, he sliced and diced an experienced Miami defense despite the fact that Alabama lost three of the top five Heisman Trophy vote-getters (including the winner), the Rimington Award winner, Outland Trophy winner and Broyles Award winner. Imagine what he will do when he gets to use his legs and gets even more comfortable with his offensive weapons.
2. Alabama has a few freak shows
Poor King … he had no chance in the pocket. Linebackers Will Anderson, Jr. and Christian Harris, defensive lineman Phildarian Mathis and the rest of the Alabama front seven were all over him from the moment the Hurricanes offense took the field. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding did a great job of getting Anderson in one-on-one situations, and when Miami finally had somebody over there to help out, it freed up Harris and Co. to set up shop in the backfield.
The talk going into the game was that Alabama’s defense is not only its strength but could be Saban’s best ever. That’s like choosing between $50 steaks; no matter which one you pick on the menu, you’re not going to be disappointed. However, the speed of these dudes is next-level. If it isn’t the fastest front seven in Bama history, I’d be shocked.
There was some bad news, though. Linebacker Christopher Allen was carted off of the field in the first half with a lower leg injury and did not return. Saban said after the game that he will miss a significant amount of time. It didn’t matter much against Miami especially since Alabama has been rotating multiple linebackers since the start of fall camp. We’ll see what comes of it — if anything — in the future.
3. Miami’s defensive game plan was brutal
There were two trains of thought heading into this one for coach Manny Diaz: bring heat on Young or sit back in coverage and try to force mistakes on the back end. He chose the latter, and he chose poorly. The defensive front for Miami managed just one sack, and for the better part of the first half, was dropping eight players into coverage. What’s even more perplexing is that Diaz, who took over play-calling duties prior to the season, is known for bringing pressure from all angles in a variety of different ways.
It just didn’t make sense. It was clear that Young wasn’t deterred by the coverages, so there was no need to wait until halftime to try to make adjustments. In this case, it was clearly too late (and probably wouldn’t have mattered in the end).