No. 2 Alabama huge favorite over New Mexico State

Field Level Media

September 03, 2019 at 10:22 pm.

Coach Nick Saban took time out from previewing No. 2 Alabama’s home opener against New Mexico State to answer a question about his former quarterback, even though he said he didn’t see Jalen Hurts’ performance in Oklahoma’s 49-31 win over Houston.

In fact, Saban gave a longer reply to that subject than he did on previewing the Aggies, who bring an 0-1 record to Tuscaloosa after losing their opener 58-7 at Washington State last weekend.

Hurts might have been the more interesting subject, considering the Crimson Tide are favored by about 55 points this week.

“Jalen set a great example when he was here when he was a player,” Saban said. “He was a good leader. He was a good performer. I also think when things didn’t go his way, he showed a lot of character as a person to try to improve himself and do everything he could to help his team. In this day and age, you don’t always see that.”

After coming off the bench to rally the Tide to a 35-28 win over Georgia in last season’s SEC title game to secure the Tide’s spot in the College Football Playoff, Hurts entered the transfer portal and ended up at Oklahoma. He accounted for six touchdowns — three rushing, three passing — in the Sooners’ win over Houston.

Saban’s present quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, acquitted himself quite well in the opener, too.

He passed for 336 yards and four touchdowns as the Tide rolled to a 42-3 win over Duke with a big second half. The Tide led only 14-0 at halftime but added three touchdowns in the third quarter and another in the fourth.

“He did a good job in the game,” Saban said of Tagovailoa.

“There were a couple of things he could have done a little differently from a decision-making standpoint. And we’ll correct those things, and hopefully we’ll continue to improve on that. We were pleased with his performance, and I think he would be the first one to say that we left some money on the table at times if we’d made a little different choices and decisions or whatever.”

Tagovailoa set a career-high for completions in a 26-of-31 passing performance.

“I felt that in the first half we should have been more explosive,” said wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who made 10 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. “But in the second half, we made up for the first half. We came back in the second half and came up with a lot of big plays.”

Saban called New Mexico State a “wide-open” team, but the Aggies managed only 317 yards of total offense in their loss to the Cougars while surrendering 618. They turned the ball over three times. Quarterback Josh Adkins was 28 of 42 for 221 yards, with two interceptions.

“The same problems that have plagued us in the past were still plaguing us (Saturday),” Aggies coach Doug Martin told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “It’s alarming to me and disappointing, but we have another great opportunity next week to play the second-ranked team in the country.

“If they are going to beat us, so be it. But we can’t help by beating ourselves if we are going to be a good team.”

Alabama true freshman defensive lineman DJ Dale is one to watch. He started his initial game and made three tackles, including a half-tackle for loss, earning SEC co-Defensive Lineman of the Week. He was part of a defense that held the Blue Devils to 107 rushing yards on 32 carries.