No. 1 Alabama beats No. 3 Florida State
ATLANTA — Alabama got at least a little payback against the ACC for its last-second loss to Clemson in the national title game a season ago, beating Florida State in what was billed by the Chick-fil-A Kickoff as the “Greatest Opener of All Time.”
No. 1 Alabama forced three turnovers, sacked Deondre Francois three times, blocked two kicks and held No. 3 Florida State to 40 net yards rushing in a 24-7 victory Saturday night before 76,330 at the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Calvin Ridley caught a 53-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion from quarterback Jalen Hurts, while Damien Harris had an 11-yard run in addition to a blocked punt as the Crimson Tide did enough offensively to complement their defense and special teams.
“This was obviously a great team win for us,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It took everything we had in all facets of the game, the way we played defense, the turnovers that we got, the difference in special teams in terms of a blocked field goal, a blocked punt, as well as a turnover on a kickoff return that gave great field position.”
It was a painful loss to FSU in more than just the score. Francois left the game in the fourth quarter after injuring his left leg on a sack by Ronnie Harrison, ending a night in which he was chased countless times while completing 19 of 33 passing for 210 yards and a touchdown.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher didn’t have an update on his sophomore quarterback’s status after the game.
“Until we diagnose it and see, I’m not a doctor, I’ve learned to wait until they say,” Fisher said. “Unfortunately, he’s hurt, though.”
Hurts completed 10 of 18 passes for 96 yards and carried 15 times for 55 yards. The Crimson Tide had 173 yards rushing, with Harris gaining 73 on nine carries.
“Damien did an outstanding job,” Saban said. “He has practiced really well and had an outstanding camp. ... He had some big runs for us.”
Harris’ blocked punt set up a 25-yard field goal by Andy Pappanastos, and Harris’ touchdown run followed a Seminoles fumble on the ensuing kickoff as Alabama took charge in the third quarter.
Keith Holcombe fell on Keith Gavin’s fumble after a hit by Dylan Moses, and Hurts completed a two-point pass to Ridley after Harris scored on the first play.
“Those were big critical plays in the game,” Fisher said of the blocked punt and kick-return fumble.
Pappanastos was 3 of 5 in field-goal attempts, hitting from 33 yards out midway through the fourth quarter to complete the scoring after Francois was intercepted on consecutive series.
Florida State led 7-3 early in the second quarter when Francois finished a 90-yard drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Auden Tate.
Alabama answered with a 53-yard bomb from Hurts to Ridley later in the second quarter and led 10-7 at halftime when Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked a 37-yard field-goal attempt by FSU’s Ricky Aguayo in the closing seconds.
Pappanastos kicked a 35-yard field goal on Alabama’s second drive for the only scoring in the first quarter after missing from 42 yards on the first possession.
Francois was 14 of 22 passing for 162 yards in the first half, but FSU managed just 24 net yards on the ground. Alabama, which didn’t commit a turnover in the game, had 101 yards rushing and 91 passing at halftime.
“I think field position was controlled a lot by special teams in the game, which was very good,” Saban said. “Obviously some of the areas that we probably weren’t as happy with is consistency on offense. (We) didn’t make a lot of explosive plays.”
NOTES: It was the first time since the advent of the Associated Press poll that teams ranked No. 1 and No. 3 played to open the season. Teams ranked No. 1 and No. 4 had played twice. ... DE Raekwon Davis, shot in the leg last weekend, had one of Alabama’s three sacks. ... Alabama LBs Rashaan Evans (groin), Terrell Lewis (elbow), Christian Miller (biceps) and Anfernee Jennings (ankle) were hurt during the game. ... Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is 5-0 against former assistants. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU. ... Alabama, 5-0 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, will play Duke in 2019. ... The Crimson Tide defeated Clemson in 2008 to begin the event. ... It was the first appearance for FSU. ... Alabama and FSU have won five of the past eight national titles, four by the Crimson Tide.