Alabama’s offense dominant in win over Missouri

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Alabama’s offense dominant in win over Missouri

James Ogletree, Staff Writer

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It didn’t take long for Alabama’s offense to resume its weekly steamrolling of whichever opponent had the misfortune of trying to stop it.

The Missouri Tigers did stop it, at least for one play of a 39-10 loss on Saturday night. But on the second, sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa saw sophomore wideout Jerry Jeudy streaking open on a post route and hit him perfectly in stride.

Jeudy outraced everybody to the end zone for an 81-yard touchdown, the seventh consecutive opening-drive touchdown for Alabama and a career long for both Jeudy and Tagovailoa.

“They were playing bracket coverage, so the safety ran with the crosser,” Jeudy said. “I just beat my man outside and won the post.”

The touchdown was Jeudy’s ninth of the year, the third-most by a receiver in the Saban era (since 2007), trailing only Amari Cooper’s 16 in 2014 and 11 in 2012.

Jeudy later set a new career high of 147 yards on a 44-yard rainbow from junior quarterback Jalen Hurts. He did so on just three catches, and has set a new career high in yards three times in seven games this year.

Fellow sophomore receiver DeVonta Smith also set a career high with 100 yards on four catches. After the last of the four, a 57-yarder down the sideline from Tagovailoa, Smith went to the locker room with what head coach Nick Saban called a pulled muscle. He returned in street clothes for the second half.

The third member of the second-year receiving trio, Henry Ruggs III, was also banged up during the game, but was back on the field within a quarter.

By far the most concerning injury, however, came to Tagovailoa — perhaps the only thing that could suck the energy out of Bryant-Denny Stadium on the night “Dixieland Delight” returned following a four-year hiatus.

After a third-quarter, third-down slide, Tagovailoa remained on the field for several minutes as trainers examined his knee, which was already in a brace due to a sprain he sustained during the week.

When he re-emerged from a lengthy stay in the medical tent, he was walking energetically and under his own power, but his night was finished nonetheless.

“Tua could’ve went back in the game, he wanted to go back in the game, I didn’t think it was worth putting him back in the game,” Saban said. “We don’t think there’s any issues or problems with it.”

To say Saturday was the sophomore sensation’s worst game of the year paints an inaccurate picture. He was still excellent, tossing touchdown passes of 81, 2 and 13 yards. Tagovailoa also had an 83-yarder called back, but he did make a few uncharacteristic mistakes.

He committed his first turnover of the year in the first quarter, a fumble on the only sack Alabama allowed in the game.

Hurts also had a nice game in relief of Tagovailoa, finishing 7-of-8 for 115 yards.

“He led us to a national championship two years in a row, shattered all kinds of records — his resume speaks for itself,” senior running back Damien Harris said. “So there’s never any doubt in our minds when he has to go in and play quarterback or any other position.”

Hurts did take a snap at another position: slot receiver. He caught a 7-yard pass from Tagovailoa in the first quarter, which elicited the loudest reaction from the crowd to that point.

Alabama’s running game amassed 184 yards on 45 carries. The 4.1 yards per carry average was the Crimson Tide’s fourth-lowest over the last two seasons, but Harris was still optimistic.

“I think our run game is improving week by week,” Harris said. “You’ve got to live with the fact that sometimes a two-yard run is a good run or a one-yard run is a good run. … It doesn’t look good on the stat sheet, it doesn’t look good for highlight purposes, but sometimes that one-yard run is all you need.”

Both facets of the offense failed to impose their will consistently in the red zone (inside the opponents’ 20-yard line). Quarterbacks finished 3-of-9 and the run game averaged less than three yards per carry, leading to three touchdowns, three short field goals and a turnover on downs on seven red-zone drives.

“They had a good front seven, probably the best we’ve seen so far,” senior offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. “They did a lot of stuff that challenged us: stunts, movements, pressures… We obviously need to clean up [the red-zone offense] and finish and score touchdowns instead of field goals.”

Alabama returns to action next week in Knoxville against the 3-3 Tennessee Volunteers.