When junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith walked off the team bus and into Bryant-Denny Stadium, he had no idea that he would have a record-breaking game.
Smith finished the game with 11 catches for 274 yards and five touchdowns, breaking the previous record for receiving yards in game set by Amari Cooper and setting the record for most touchdowns in a single game. Despite the accolades, Smith reiterated that it was just another game.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘in the zone,’ I would call it, ‘coaches called the plays and I was in the right spot at the right time,’” Smith said.
Despite giving credit to the coaching staff and the rest of his teammates, Smith’s record-setting day against the Rebels also had a lot to do with his ability. His first catch of the day went for a 74-yard score as the wide receiver eluded three Ole Miss defenders en route to the end zone.
Coach Nick Saban said that Smith did a great job of running after the catch throughout the game and was left open because of his speed.
“[Smith] works so hard, so it is just outstanding to see him go crazy like that,” sophomore Jaylen Waddle said of his fellow receiver. “I was rooting for him all day. I wanted him to get more, I wanted him to reach 300 [receiving yards]. That is just the type of player he is, in practice [he] works hard and he is first in almost everything we do, so to see him go out and perform like that, it was great.”
Despite Smith’s 11 catches on 12 targets, Alabama’s offensive game plan remained the same according to Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa said that he did not realize the game Smith was having until he caught three touchdowns in the first half.
“It was what the defense gave us,” Tagoviloa said. “… He was the person that was open pretty much all of the time so I just gave him the ball.”
Tagovailoa also had a big game, thanks in part to Smith but also his ability to read the Ole Miss defense. The junior went 26-for-36 for 418 yards through the air and seven total touchdowns, breaking his own record from last year’s Iron Bowl.
After back-to-back games where Tagovailoa tied the school record for most touchdowns thrown in a single game, he finally eclipsed the mark throwing his sixth touchdown to Miller Forristall in the fourth quarter.
“[Tagovailoa] is never satisfied,” redshirt junior Chris Owens said. “He could throw eight touchdowns in a game and he’ll find something that he needs to do better or that we need to do better as an offense. Having someone like that who is really talented but never satisfied, just makes everybody else want to improve their game as well.”
Owens said he hopes Tagovailoa enjoys the win and the performance, but if there was any indication of such enjoyment, it didn’t show after the game.
Tagovailoa and Saban said that the offense needed to control the pace of the game better than it has in the past few weeks. Saban remarked that despite it being productive, being able to control the game and help give its defense a break is paramount going into the bye week.
“I think our tempo needs to pick up,” Tagovailoa said. “When we stay in what we are in, the defense is looking to the sidelines, so [we will be working on] snapping the ball when they are not set and just the execution of the offense as well.”