Alabama hopes to continue quick starts

Alabama hopes to continue quick starts

September 11th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, center, is surrounded by teammates after a touchdown during Saturday's 41-10 victory over Fresno State.

Photo by Kent Gidley Kent Gidley

Jalen Hurts set the tone for Alabama's 41-10 thumping of Fresno State on the game's second play by racing past the Bulldogs for a 55-yard touchdown run.

The run also ended a nagging trend for the top-ranked Crimson Tide (2-0), who had gone 12 straight games without scoring a touchdown on their opening possession. The last time Alabama had crossed the goal line on its first drive before Saturday afternoon was last September against Kent State, when Hurts ran it in from 20 yards out in an eventual 48-0 rout.

"I think that can be a big momentum changer, coming out fast," Hurts said. "Every offense in college football has the goal to come out fast and score no matter who the opponent is, and that's what we did today."

During the 12-game stretch without an opening touchdown, Alabama did manage first-possession field goals a year ago against Texas A&M and Mississippi State, but by late last season, its struggles early in games were becoming evident. The Tide didn't even score in the first quarter of last November's game against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and tallied two second-quarter touchdowns to lead the Mocs just 14-3 at halftime.

In its final three games last season — against Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship contest, Washington in the Peach Bowl national semifinal and Clemson in the title game — Alabama opened by going three-and-out all three times. Against Florida and Washington, the Tide lost yardage on their initial drive.

So much for scripted success — until now.

Alabama opened this season with a 24-7 win over Florida State in Atlanta's Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, where its first play from scrimmage was a 34-yard Damien Harris run. The Tide came away empty that possession when Andy Pappanastos missed a 42-yard field goal, but they came back on their second possession and took a 3-0 lead when Pappanastos made a 35-yarder.

On Saturday, Alabama's first play was an 18-yard pass from Hurts to Cam Sims, and the Tide wound up scoring touchdowns on all four first-half possessions in which Hurts quarterbacked.

"Starting the game out fast like that was a good sign for us," Harris said. "Sometimes you can come out slow in games like these, and we just wanted to come out fast. It's a part of that fundamental execution that we focus on all week.

"It's a really good sign coming out fast, scoring fast and continuing to put points on the board."

Tide tidbits

Alabama has won 66 consecutive games against unranked opponents since losing the 2007 Iron Bowl to an Auburn team that finished that season ranked 15th. ... The Crimson Tide have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 games, with Georgia's Nick Chubb the most recent. ... Hurts has thrown for 3,004 yards in 17 career games.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.