Alabama football did what it was supposed to on Saturday, beating Middle Tennessee State, 56-7 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Conference USA Blue Raiders didn’t put up much of a fight throughout the game and the Crimson Tide ran roughshod.
Before focus turns to the Texas game next week, here’s three takeaways from Saturday’s 56-7 Alabama win.
Jalen Milroe had his eyes up, even as the snap from the MTSU 21-yard line rolled toward him. When he recovered, he headed downfield, dancing around the Blue Raider defense before turning what looked like a sure sack into a touchdown run.
It was the first time the first score of an Alabama season has been a quarterback run since Brian Brugdorf did it in 1995 against Vanderbilt. Besides that, Milroe completed his first seven passes of the day, for 52 yards before finally throwing an incompletion under duress in the second quarter after a protection breakdown.
Milroe did everything he needed to do to cement his status as top quarterback in the first half. He finished 10-for-13 passing, for 112 yards and a touchdown.
That touchdown was a 47-yard, perfectly placed deep throw to Isaiah Bond. In the first drive of the second half, Milroe dropped a 48-yard pass into Jermaine Burton’s hand for another touchdown.
Overall, Milroe did exactly what Alabama fans were hoping to see from Bryce Young’s replacement. And Tyler Buchner wasn’t bad in relief either once the Tide had built a 42-0 lead, rushing for a nine-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Points, points, points
With Bill O’Brian off to run the New England Patriots, Tommy Rees was coaching his first game as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Coming in, the question about Rees was how much of his Notre Dame system he’d be able to implement in Tuscaloosa.
It wasn’t the full offensive attack that the Fighting Irish ran under Rees last season. But he did make more use of tight ends.
That was especially evident on Milroe’s second touchdown run in the second quarter. Milroe faked a handoff to Jase McClellan and took off to his right side.
After Milroe got past the first level, it was him, an MTSU defensive back and tight Amari Niblack on the outside. Niblack, nowhere near the Crimson Tide’s best blocking tight end, made that one perfectly, putting the Blue Raider on the ground as Milroe scampered into the end zone.
Alabama also didn’t have one shining star offensively. The Tide used contributions from the McClellan, Roydell Williams, Isaiah Bond, Kobe Prentice and more.
This year’s offense contrasts with the 2022 Crimson Tide’s which was carried at times on the back of Bryce Young.
Nick Saban might not say it, but it was the Middle Tennessee State game. The real test comes next week when Texas arrives at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Still, the defense looked excellent. Up front, the Crimson Tide applied pressure on Blue Raider quarterback Nick Vattiato, forcing him into poorly-timed throws and bad decisions.
MTSU didn’t manage to score until just 32 seconds remained in the third quarter. Alabama clamped down on both the Blue Raiders’ ground and passing game.
Kevin Steele was also in his first game as defensive coordinator, though he was Saban’s first DC when he came to Alabama and served in another role with the Crimson Tide defense in 2013 and 2014. Steele’s group looked aggressive and made the plays it needed to, including an interception by UAB transfer Jaylen Key.
Again, the real test likely comes next week. But the defense acquitted itself nicely in the warm-up.