A productive first half by Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron led to an abundance of second-half playing time for the Crimson Tide backups.
The top-ranked Tide took care of business Saturday afternoon against winless Georgia State, scoring touchdowns on their first five possessions before adding a field goal late in the half on their way to a 45-3 drubbing. McCarron completed his first 12 passes before finishing 15-of-16 for 166 yards and four touchdowns.
McCarron was not only efficient but patient, as his longest completion went to tailback Kenyan Drake for a 23-yard touchdown early in the second quarter that made it 28-0.
"All our throws in the first half were underneath routes because they weren't giving us anything deep," McCarron told reporters afterward. "We have to get used to that. Teams are going to play us that way because they know what type of deep threats we have out wide.
"They're going to make us play long, sustaining drives and move the football on them."
The Crimson Tide will jump back into Southeastern Conference play this week with a trip to Kentucky.
McCarron's 93.8-percent accuracy rate was the highest in Alabama history for a quarterback with at least 15 completions. It broke the 84.2-percent clip Ken Stabler had when he completed 16 of 19 passes during a 17-7 win over Ole Miss in 1966.
Alabama backup quarterback Blake Sims was nearly as efficient when he entered the game, with the 6-foot, 202-pound redshirt junior completing 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Sims completed just 5 of 10 passes for 77 yards all of last season.
"Blake has made a significant improvement as a quarterback," Tide coach Nick Saban said in his postgame media session. "This is probably the first time that he really played where we allowed him to run the offense. When we put him in there today, I said I didn't want to run any quarterback runs. He needs to run the offense just like he has to play."
Redshirt freshman Chris Black led Alabama's receivers with six catches for 54 yards, but redshirt junior DeAndrew White provided the highlight with a one-handed grab for a 10-yard score late in the first quarter. It was a spread-the-wealth day for the tailbacks, with T.J. Yeldon rushing six times for 51 yards, Drake five times for 40 yards and Derrick Henry five for 50.
Alabama's defense held the Panthers to 15 yards on 22 carries to move up to sixth nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of 85.8 yards a game.
"Defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays," Saban said. "We played a lot of guys and rotated a lot of guys around. One time we didn't have a corner. The first play of the second half, we had a guy who thought he was just in the nickel, but he was really supposed to be in regular two.
"Some of those things got a little sloppy at times, but I think the benefit far outweighs the consequence in terms of the experience that our guys were able to gain."
Saturday's game lasted two hours and 53 minutes, which was an hour shorter than Georgia's overtime win at Tennessee.
Alabama started four true freshmen Saturday, with defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson getting his first career start, defensive back Eddie Jackson getting his third, tight end O.J. Howard his fourth and snapper Cole Mazza his fifth. ... Another true freshman, tackle Grant Hill, got his first action this season. ... The Crimson Tide had 15 different players tally receptions. ... In two meetings against Georgia State, the Crimson Tide have outscored the Panthers 108-10.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...