No. 1 Alabama has no mercy for Mercer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Top-ranked Alabama easily took care of business in its Iron Bowl tune-up on Saturday, dominating Mercer 56-0 on Senior Day at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed all seven of his pass attempts for 180 yards and three touchdowns, leaving the game in the second quarter because of the big early lead. The Crimson Tide (11-0) led 35-0 at halftime against the Bears of the Football Championship Subdivision.
“There were two things we wanted to try to accomplish today and I was pleased with the way we did both of them,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
“I wanted our players to play with a standard to try to create momentum as we move forward in the season here. Everyone understands the challenges we have ahead of us and the importance of all those games.
“The second thing is we really wanted to do a good job for the last game with the seniors that played here today.”
Alabama played plenty of backups in the second half, but the offense mostly kept rolling.
Late in the third quarter, backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found senior Cam Sims for an 8-yard touchdown pass. It was an impressive play as Sims had to drag his toes in the back of the end zone to make it 42-0.
“I think every senior, every senior walk-on, we dressed every player that was eligible for this game and tried to get every senior in the game and I think we accomplished that,” Saban said. “It will be a best memory for them.”
A little over a minute after Sims’ score, Alabama reached the end zone again as freshman Brian Robinson high-stepped in for a 6-yard rushing touchdown to make it 49-0.
Tagovailoa continued to lead the charge. Five seconds into the final period, Tagovailoa threw a fade pass to receiver Derek Kief for a 13-yard touchdown to make it 56-0.
No. 1 Alabama plays at No. 6 Auburn next Saturday with the SEC West title on the line. Mercer (5-5) completed its season.
Calvin Ridley caught three passes for a 103 yards and a touchdown. Bo Scarbrough led a deep, balanced running game with five rushes for 54 yards.
Hurts marched Alabama down the field for a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive on its first possession, capped by an a 8-yard pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr. It was Smith’s third touchdown reception of the season.
After Mercer missed a field goal on its first possession, Hurts went back to work. He lofted a perfect pass to running back Josh Jacobs for 38 yards. That set up a 3-yard touchdown run from freshman running back Najee Harris to make it 14-0.
“Obviously it was not the result we wanted, but when you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country and you don’t execute the way you need to execute on offense and defense, you get exposed,” Mercer coach Bobby Lamb said.
“We were exposed today early. Alabama is very powerful on offense and they have a great offensive line, a great system, and we couldn’t seem to slow them down.”
On Alabama’s third possession, Hurts found a streaking Ridley for a 66-yard touchdown.
Alabama’s defense helped out as safety Hootie Jones undercut a route for an interception. That set up Hurts’ third passing touchdown of the day as he hit Jacobs with a shovel pass for a 7-yard score to make it 28-0 early in the second quarter.
Hurts’ day was done early after that drive.
“I thought we moved the ball well enough on offense in the first half; however, we’d get across the 50 and we’d stall a little bit,” Lamb said. “The three turnovers really hurt. I thought we started playing a little bit better in the second quarter on defense, but there is a reason that Alabama is Alabama.”
NOTES: Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) was held out of the game. Fitzpatrick has been dealing with a hamstring injury in the past two weeks. He was replaced by senior Tony Brown. ... Alabama LG Ross Pierschbacher (ankle) was held out of the game. He was replaced by senior J.C. Hassenauer. ... Mercer DL Dorian Kithcart left the game and did not return. ... Alabama true freshman LB Dylan Moses, thrust into a bigger role because of injuries, made a team-high 11 tackles, including four for loss, plus an interception.