By the time the fourth quarter of the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s win over Colorado State began on Saturday, the uniform of Rams quarterback Nick Stevens was covered in grass stains. A large rip in the middle of the back of it exposed his pads underneath. Stevens continued to fight, both running and throwing for a touchdown in the final 15 minutes.
His was a valiant effort, but it was too late. Such was the story of the Tide’s 41-23 victory.
Alabama began the game red hot. Jalen Hurts ran for 47 yards and threw for 17 more on a game-opening touchdown drive. He found Calvin Ridley on a 78-yard catch-and-run score on the Tide’s second drive. Bama’s third drive stalled but Andy Pappanastos hit a 46-yard field goal.
The Rams, meanwhile, went three-and-out on their first two drives. They then turned it over on downs in four plays after a pass interference penalty on Alabama set them up near midfield. By the time the refs whistled the first quarter complete, the Crimson Tide led 17-0 and had rolled up 216 yards to Colorado State’s 11.
The early blitzkrieg put Alabama out in front for good.
CSU, to its credit, never quit despite being clearly outmatched. Alabama’s defense relaxed just a bit too much after the dominant first quarter, and the Rams took advantage. They scored twice on drives of 12 and 11 plays, respectively, to pull within a 17-10 score late in the second quarter.
Alabama’s athleticism reasserted itself once the team was challenged, however. Hurts hit Bo Scarbrough on a swing pass the Rams had sniffed out, but Scarbrough used his size and speed to fight through tacklers to gain 11 yards. Hurts then added 11 more for himself on the ground.
Three plays later, Hurts found Robert Foster on the far sideline. Foster beelined towards the middle of the field before turning up vertical and hitting the afterburners. Colorado State’s defenders had no chance against his elite speed as he finished a 52-yard score. Then late in the first half Alabama doubled its margin with only 1:18 coming off of the clock.
Alabama dominated the third quarter, extending its lead to 41-10. The Tide used a methodical 14-play, 88-yard drive capped by a 9-yard Scarbrough touchdown; a 5-yard Damien Harris touchdown run two plays after an interception pushed Bama farther out front. Hurts gave way to Tua Tagovailoa a few plays before the end of the third, having led another highly efficient offensive outing.
Again, though, coach Mike Bobo’s bunch didn’t quit. After running just 18 plays in the third quarter, CSU went on back-to-back touchdown drives. The first went for 11 plays and the second lasted an impressive 15 plays. They were largely against Alabama backups, of course, with the game so clearly out of hand.
Tide coach Nick Saban had no complaints about his starting offense in his postgame interview on the field. He had no reason to have any. Hurts completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 103 yards on 11 carries and Scarbrough gained 5.5 yards a carry (12 for 66). Ridley was still well ahead of every other Tide receiver in targets but Foster did have his long touchdown reception in which he did most of the work.
Saban didn’t like how the offense lost its momentum with Tagovailoa in, but the true freshman is still learning. The head coach was noticeably more upset that his defense didn’t lock down the Rams more, as some of his guys habitually did not cover the correct receivers.
Still, he thought his team improved in this game, and it’s hard to argue. Colorado State is one of the best teams in the Group of Five, and two garbage time touchdowns made the final score look much closer than the game actually was. Alabama used its time wisely with this game, readying itself for the start of SEC play next week.