Alabama scores its most points since 2019 in rout of UTC

AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton celebrates after a touchdown catch during Saturday's game against UTC in Tuscaloosa.
AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton celebrates after a touchdown catch during Saturday's game against UTC in Tuscaloosa.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's top quarterback was not available Saturday afternoon as the Mocs stepped up a level in competition with a visit to Alabama.

By the midpoint of the lopsided matchup, the Crimson Tide didn't need their starting quarterback any longer.

Jalen Milroe passed for 197 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out the second half of No. 8 Alabama’s 66-10 rout of UTC, which was listed as a 44 1/2-point underdog and fell to 0-14 all-time against Alabama.

The Southeastern Conference’s Crimson Tide (10-1) won their ninth straight game this season but got a breather from Football Bowl Subdivision opponents with the visit from the Southern Conference’s Mocs (7-4), who compete in the Football Championship Subdivision.

"The biggest thing is you can't take your foot off the gas," Milroe said. "You've got to keep going. The feedback on the sidelines was really good. Offense, defense, special teams, everyone was clicking. Everyone was communicating, and that allowed us to keep stacking good plays."

It was the regular-season finale for the Mocs, who returned after an open date that followed them finishing their SoCon schedule with a 6-2 record in league play. UTC is ranked in both FCS polls (16th by coaches and 18th by media), but with its loss two weeks ago to Furman allowing the Paladins to clinch the SoCon’s automatic berth for the playoffs, the Mocs are waiting to find out if they’ll be included in the 24-team bracket.

The entire field will be revealed during a selection show at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU. The Mocs haven’t had a losing season since going 3-8 in 2017, the first of two seasons under Tom Arth’s direction, but they haven’t made the playoffs since reaching the second round in 2016, Russ Huesman’s eighth and final season as coach. That completed a three-year run of consecutive postseason trips, and the program’s only other playoff appearance at this level came in 1984.

Rusty Wright, in his fifth season as head coach at his alma mater, and the Mocs will hope to hear their program’s name called as the recipient of an at-large bid. There will be eight first-round games next weekend, with the FCS bracket’s eight seeded teams receiving byes.

If a 12th game is in store for the Mocs, no matter the opponent, they'll certainly be on more even footing than they were Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Milroe led Alabama to a 38-7 halftime lead to continue his own personal hot streak that includes 13 total touchdowns in the past three games. He completed his first 10 passes, including bombs of 56 and 44 yards to Jermaine Burton, and finished 13-of-16. Burton caught three passes for 105 yards, all by halftime, after sitting out with an illness during last week’s game at Kentucky, where Alabama cruised to improve to 7-0 in SEC play, wrap up the West Division title and secure a spot in the league championship game.

The output against UTC was the most points Alabama has scored in a single game since 2019 in a 66-3 win over Western Carolina, another SoCon opponent.

“I’d say about 98% of the time we had the right intensity,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

UTC starting quarterback Chase Artopoeus, who has passed for 2,672 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, was ruled out Friday with an upper body injury. Luke Schomburg, a redshirt freshman who had thrown only six passes before Saturday, was 10-of-21 for 107 yards with an interception.

"Chattanooga got better today because of him," Wright said in his postgame news conference, according to a UTC release. "If that young man can go out there and play against that … I know he wasn't perfect and didn't get a whole lot of help, but if he can go out there and play like that against that group? Chattanooga football got better today."

Gino Appleberry ran 22 times for 104 yards and a touchdown for the Mocs, who made it 38-10 early in the third quarter on Clayton Crile’s 23-yard field goal before the Tide scored the game’s final 28 points. UTC’s Javin Whatley had four catches for 69 yards, much of that on a 54-yard reception.

Caleb Downs scored on an 85-yard punt return for the Tide in the third quarter. The freshman safety broke loose with a spin move after fielding the ball and took his first punt return of the season the distance.

Alabama backup quarterback Ty Simpson had his most significant playing time since a 17-3 win at South Florida in the third game of the season, when Tyler Buchner started and Milroe was benched a week after the Tide’s home loss to Texas.

Simpson had his best and worst play all at once Saturday. He raced down the left sideline for an apparent 79-yard touchdown on a scramble but had to settle for 78 yards after replay officials determined the quarterback flipped the ball out just before crossing the goal line.

“I mean, do I have to comment on that?” Saban said. “Every coach says cross the goal line and hand the ball to the official.”

The Mocs were outgained 234-13 in first-quarter yards but generated a couple of big plays to pull closer on the stat sheet. They were still outgained 574-233 overall as the Tide rushed for 315 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 9.5 yards per carry.

Josh Battle led the Mocs on defense with nine tackles (seven solos), and Jay Person’s sack was the team’s only tackle for loss.

Alabama’s Will Reichard kicked a program-record eighth 50-yard field goal and is closing in on the all-time NCAA scoring record. Reichard scored 12 points to raise his career total to 521. He’s chasing former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (530 points) for the record, with former Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon (522) just ahead of Reichard for second place.

“I don’t know of anybody that’s had a more productive career relative to what their role is,” Saban said.

Tide linebacker Chris Braswell, one of the SEC’s top pass rushers, was ejected for targeting in the first quarter after a hit on Schomburg.

Alabama, eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings, will visit Auburn next Saturday in the annual Iron Bowl rivalry game before turning its attention to the SEC championship matchup against SEC East champ Georgia. The Tide and Bulldogs will meet on Dec. 2 at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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