Hurts leads No.1 Alabama over Fresno State
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban saw the improvement he wanted to see from Week One to Week Two.
No. 1 Alabama scored touchdowns on its first three drives and coasted to a 41-10 victory over Fresno State on Saturday in its home opener in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“The big focus for our team was to improve, pay more attention to detail, play a little bit more disciplined as a team, and I think we probably accomplished that,” Saban said. “We did improve; we played better, especially on offense in this game. Now, we still have many things that we need to continue to improve on, and I think that everyone needs to know that we are uninterested in sliding backwards. We need to move forward in terms of what we need to do to continue to improve to become a better team.”
Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts ran 10 times for a team-high 154 yards and two touchdowns, including a tone-setting 55 yards burst early in the game. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 128 yards and a score, helping Alabama build a 28-3 halftime lead.
“He did a great job today,” Saban said of Hurts. “He threw the ball to the right place, was accurate with the ball, he kind of took what the defense gave.”
There wasn’t much scoring in the second half. Alabama (2-0) kept in its starters for the entire third quarter but only added a 24-yard field goal from Andy Pappanastos.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Pappanastos added a 22-yard field goal to make it 34-3 after Alabama’s offense stalled in the red zone following an interception.
Fresno State (1-1) added a late score as quarterback Chason Virgil hit wide receiver Derrion Grim for a 26-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-10 with six minutes left.
Virgil completed 21 of 34 passes for 180 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
“They’re the No. 1-ranked football team in the country for a reason,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “They’re very big, very physical, very fast. You try to contain the weapons on the field and the quarterback will get you. He ran all over us today. He’s a big, physical guy with a lot of speed. It’s hard to contain him.”
Alabama’s backups answered late in the fourth quarter as true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found freshman receiver Henry Ruggs III for a 16-yard touchdown. It was the first score for both young players.
In the first half, Alabama needed just two plays and 39 seconds to reach the end zone. First, Hurts found receiver Cam Sims for an 18-yard gain on a screen pass. Then Hurts took it himself, bursting past the defense for a 55-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
“If you’re covering guys downfield, and he can put it down and do what he can do with the football, it’s tough to defend,” Tedford said. “To have that in your arsenal makes you add some guys to the box. That leaves their receivers one-on-one with our people and they’re really dangerous, as well. I have the utmost respect for him, their offensive line and their whole team for that matter.”
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Hurts and Alabama’s offense got back to work. Following a few short plays, Hurts found wide-open tight end Hale Hentges for a 23-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 midway through the first quarter. It was the first touchdown of Hentges’ career.
Fresno State would respond. Aided by two Alabama penalties, Fresno State drove down field and added a 27-yard field goal from kicker Jimmy Camacho to make it 14-3 with four minutes left in the first.
Early in the second quarter, Hurts added a three-yard touchdown run to make it 21-3.
Late in the second quarter, Alabama running back Damien Harris scampered in for a 5-yard touchdown to make it 28-3. He rushed 13 times for 70 yards.
NOTES: Alabama starting LBs Rashaan Evans (groin) and Anfernee Jennings (ankle) were held out of the game due to injuries. LBs James Mosley and Keith Holcombe made the first starts of their careers. ... Alabama RG Lester Cotton left the game late in the third quarter and did not return. Saban said Cotton was “dinged,” but added that it wasn’t serious. ... Alabama hosts Colorado State next Saturday. ... Fresno State plays at Washington next Saturday.