TUSCALOOSA— For the first time this season, No. 1 Alabama wasn’t leading at halftime. Its offense had sputtered to 209 yards and 10 points, while its defense had allowed 10 points to The Citadel …
TUSCALOOSA— For the first time this season, No. 1 Alabama wasn’t leading at halftime. Its offense had sputtered to 209 yards and 10 points, while its defense had allowed 10 points to The Citadel Bulldogs, after not allowing a point in the month of November.
However, the Tide owned the second half, picking up a 50-17 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium, in the warm up for next week’s Iron Bowl.
“I think when you’re not mentally ready to play a game, I don’t care who you’re playing…, that you really go out there to be the best player you can go out there to be,” coach Nick Saban said. “You don’t go out there with some external factor like who you’re playing against to motivate you.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead at the start of the second half.
Tight end Miller Forestall fumbled the opening kickoff, and they took over at the Alabama 31-yard line. They were forced to attempt a 45-yard field goal after moving the ball three yards on the drive. The kicker missed the field goal, and Alabama never looked back.
The Tide came out in the second half on fire, gaining 220 yards of total offense, 196 of which came through the air.
After having a lackluster performance against Mississippi State and in the first half against The Citadel, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found his stride. The sophomore threw for 196 yards in the third quarter, finishing with 340 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.
He finished with three passing touchdowns and added a rushing one from one-yard out.
Once Alabama led by 10, Tagovailoa hit tight end Irv Smith at the Alabama 43-yard line. Smith juked out a Bulldog defender and sprinted 57 yards to the end zone. The touchdown was Tagovailoa’s 31st passing touchdown of the season, which is an Alabama single-season record.
“A lot of credit does belong to my teammates,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity that we’ve done as an offense to have gotten to this point. Thirty-one touchdowns — that’s cool, but we still have another game to finish off this season and another game after that. We’re more focused on finishing the season the right way.”
Tagovailoa’s other two touchdowns went to the true-freshman Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa found him between two Citadel defenders for a 21-yard catch for the first one, while he dropped the ball right in the corner of the end zone for the second.
Waddle finished with 90 receiving yards. He and Henry Ruggs both finished with a career-high six catches.
The Crimson Tide’s defense faced a rushing offense that was averaging just under 292 yards a game. It nearly reached that average as it ran for 275 yards. It also found the end zone twice.
The 275 yards is the most Alabama allowed this season and is the most since it lost to Ohio State in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.
The Citadel’s leading rusher was Dante Smith, who ran for 130 yards on nine attempts. He also finished with both touchdowns. Both of Dante Smith’s touchdowns were longer than 40 yards.
The Citadel runs the triple option, so it can be hard for a defensive player to follow the ball, but defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said that wasn’t the biggest problem of facing the triple option.
“It is really just about playing the ball, dominating your man,” Williams said. “The problem was going against the cut blocks, so you just have to make sure to get your hands down.”
Alabama is back in action on Saturday, Nov. 24 as it hosts Auburn in the Iron Bowl.