ATLANTA – After a scoreless and oftentimes sloppy 1st quarter on Saturday, Alabama eventually found its offensive footing to route Duke, 42-3, in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
ATLANTA — After a scoreless and oftentimes sloppy 1st quarter on Saturday, Alabama eventually found its offensive footing to route Duke, 42-3, in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
“I thought we got off to a little bit of a slow start in terms of our ability to execute, but not because of lack of effort or attitude,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said following the game. “I think as the game went on, we played better and better as the game went on.”
By the time the final whistle blew, Alabama looked like what fans are accustomed to seeing from the Tide — 42 points and 512 yards of total offense while allowing the Blue Devils just 204.
Tua Tagovailoa, who in typical fashion didn't see any action in the fourth quarter, finished his night completing 26 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. Saban said he was pleased to see Tua be more patient and take what the defense gave him.
“There was a couple times that he probably could have thrown the ball when he handed it off, probably down and distance wise,” he said. “He usually plays well when he's patient and takes what the defense gives, so I was pleased.”
Alabama's offense came to life in the second quarter when Tua connected with tight-end Miller Forristall, who ran it in for his first career touchdown reception. Forristall wouldn't be the only tight end targeted in Atlanta as Major Tennison also made his first career touchdown grab in the third quarter.
“I think that's an area of our team that we definitely need to continue to improve, the tight end position, because we don't have really much experience at that position,” Saban said. “So hopefully we'll be able to continue to utilize those things and play a physical style up front that we'd like to be able to play, which we did at times today, but at times we weren't what we needed to be.”
Tagovailoa also completed touchdown passes to DeVonta Smith for 8 yards and Jerry Jeudy for 21 yards. Jeudy led the team in receptions with 10 catches for 137 yards and the touchdown.
Jerome Ford, who was making his first career start with Alabama's first- and second-string runnings backs — Najee Harris and Brian Robinson — suspended for the first quarter, fumbled the ball deep in Alabama territory on its second possession of the night. After getting down to the 7-yard line, the Blue Devils came up short after going for it on 4th-and-1.
Despite the losses of linebackers Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon, Alabama's defense stepped up held Duke to just over 200 yards of total offense, led by Xavier McKinney who had 8 total tackles on the night.
Will Reichard, Alabama's freshmen placekicker, went 6-for-6 on point-after attempts, but 0-and-2 on field goals – one from 49 yards and another from 48.
“Will did great,” Saban said. “He kicked a lot of touchbacks, which shows his leg strength. I think he hit both field goals that he hit, he really hit well. It's a little unlucky that both of them hit the pole, but hopefully he'll be able to gain confidence and improve on that in the future.”
With 4:51 left in the game, Ford would have an opportunity to redeem himself after his first quarter fumble when he ran in a 37-yard touchdown to put the Tide up 42-3.
Alabama is in Tuscaloosa next week to open up its home schedule at Bryant-Denny Stadium against New Mexico State. They then travel to Columbus, South Carolina for the first time since 2010 to take on the Gamecocks.