Jones leads offense to highest point total of the season

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Jones leads offense to highest point total of the season

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones (middle) had plenty to smile about in Alabama's 66-3 win over Western Carolina. (CW / Madelyn Verbrugge)

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones (middle) had plenty to smile about in Alabama's 66-3 win over Western Carolina. (CW / Madelyn Verbrugge)

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones (middle) had plenty to smile about in Alabama's 66-3 win over Western Carolina. (CW / Madelyn Verbrugge)

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones (middle) had plenty to smile about in Alabama's 66-3 win over Western Carolina. (CW / Madelyn Verbrugge)

James Benedetto | @james_benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

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When Alabama walked out of the tunnel for its final home game of the season, junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was not seen is normal spot in the order behind coach Nick Saban. Instead it was redshirt sophomore Mac Jones who, for the second time in his career, would lead the Crimson Tide offense at quarterback.

Despite wearing a different jersey number and throwing the ball from his right hand rather than his left, Jones commandeered the same offense as Tagovailoa and had similar results. Jones was efficient, completing 10 of 12 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in Alabama’s 66-3 win over Western Carolina.

“I thought [Jones] threw the ball well,” Saban said. “We knew the way we played defense that we were going to have to take some shots. He did a good job of throwing the ball to grass on some of those posts, when they are chasing guys. So I thought he threw the ball well, he was accurate on the deep ball, I know we missed one but we want to just keep building on his confidence and our confidence in him.”

Jones indeed looked confident under center and with his receivers throughout the game against the Catamounts. After the first drive saw more carries for junior running back Najee Harris than throws by Jones, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian dialed up a deep pass, which Jones overthrew to junior wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who was open after beating the safety.

The miss did not rattle Jones’ confidence. On the next play, the quarterback found junior DeVonta Smith on a screen pass who proceeded to take the ball 57 yards for a touchdown.

“I mean you step in there, a new face at quarterback and you just try to be yourself and let the guys rally around you like they did,” Jones said. “… I don’t think anything changes. [The field] is 100 yards long and 53 and 1/3 [yards wide].”

Jones’ ability to find a rhythm with his receivers played a role in the offense tallying the highest point total of the season. Fellow sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was one of the benefactors from this rhythm, as he caught all three of his targets, totaled a season-high 101 receiving yards and recorded a touchdown. Waddle said after the game that it was nice to see Jones out on the field in a real game scenario.

“When I first got here, [Jones] was my quarterback so me and Mac were always gelling together,” Waddle said. “So that’s always good to have right now so I think that will come in handy.”

As the Iron Bowl looms in the distance, Saban reiterated the importance of getting players like Jones confidence ahead of Alabama’s matchup against in-state rival Auburn.

“We got to play a lot of players who played a significant amount of time,” Saban said. “I think this experience will obviously help their development and will help us down the road, but now we have to get focused on what’s ahead and I’m sure our players will be able to do that.”