TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama has proven that it's the class of the Mountain West Conference.
Now it's on to the SEC.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide followed last weekend's 41-10 dismantling of Fresno State with a 41-23 dumping of Colorado State on Saturday night inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama, now 3-0, will play the first of seven straight games against Southeastern Conference foes this week when the Crimson Tide visit Vanderbilt, which also is 3-0.
"I was pleased with the way we started out fast in this game on both sides of the ball," Alabama coach Nick Saban said, "but we didn't sustain that, and we didn't finish the game like we needed to. We certainly tried to play some other players, but we didn't do a very good job functionally and really kind of let them back in the game."
Crimson Tide defenders were not happy with Saturday's performance, as the Rams racked up 391 yards, had nearly 34 minutes of possession time and converted 10 of 17 third-down opportunities into first downs.
"That was pathetic," senior inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. "We were on the field entirely too long."
Alabama has started 3-0 every year under Saban with the exception of 2015, when the Crimson Tide suffered a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss in the third game. They still regrouped that season to win Saban's fourth national championship in Tuscaloosa and his fifth overall.
Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, the reigning SEC offensive player of the year, had his most productive game of the young season, completing 12 of 17 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 103 yards and a score. Hurts was pulled in the final minute of the third quarter but came back in to finish the game after the Rams scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"Jalen played an outstanding game tonight, both running and passing," Saban said.
The Tide essentially sealed the game midway through the third quarter, when a 65-yard interception return by Hootie Jones to the Colorado State 11 was followed two plays later by a 5-yard Damien Harris touchdown run that put Alabama up 38-10.
"We had to get it back going," Jones said. "We were getting too lackadaisical."
Alabama got out of the gate quickly for a second straight week, with Hurts running for 14 yards on the first play from scrimmage, throwing to Harris for 17 yards on the second play and then capping the six-play, 75-yard drive with a 27-yard scoring run. The Tide had gone 12 consecutive contests without scoring a touchdown on their opening possession until striking on their first drive last week.
The Rams went three-and-out on their first possession but used a 65-yard Ryan Stonehouse punt to pin Alabama at its 5. The Crimson Tide quickly converted a third-and-1 with an 8-yard Bo Scarbrough run out to the 22 and followed that with a 78-yard touchdown strike from Hurts to Calvin Ridley for a 14-0 lead.
Alabama had to settle for a 46-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal on its third possession, and punter JK Scott missed from 52 yards out on the Crimson Tide's fourth drive. The Tide led 17-0 after one quarter, racking up 216 yards while holding the Rams to 11.
Colorado State assembled a 12-play, 55-yard drive early in the second quarter and pulled within 17-3 on a 27-yard Wyatt Bryan field goal with 10:34 left in the half. On their next possession, the Rams were even better, marching 85 yards in 11 plays and pulling within 17-10 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Nick Stevens to Warren Jackson.
The Crimson Tide countered CSU's second-quarter surge with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to Robert Foster with 1:00 left in the half that made it 24-10. After owning the first quarter, Alabama managed just 85 second-quarter yards compared to 155 by the Rams.
"They have a really good offensive scheme, and they have good offensive players," Saban said. "Their quarterback did a good job for them. There were some third-and-10 and third-and-12 situations that you just have to get off the field on. They made plays that normally we make, and it allowed them to keep the ball."
Colorado State moved to Alabama's 33-yard line on the opening possession of the second half, but Stevens was intercepted by safety Ronnie Harrison at the Tide 12. Alabama appeared to go three-and-out with its first possession of the third quarter, but the Rams were flagged for an illegal substitution, and theTide capitalized with a 14-play, 88-yard drive that culminated with a 9-yard Scarbrough run to go up 31-10.
The Rams, who are coached by former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, dropped to 2-2.
"We have a lot of work to do," Saban said. "We made a lot of mental errors. We've got SEC games coming up, and I think everyone has to look around and not think so much about 'we' and 'us' but about 'I,' and 'What can I do better to make us a better a team?'
"That should be the focus that we have so that we can continue to improve."
The 78-yard touchdown from Hurts to Ridley in the first quarter marked a new career long for Hurts, who had a 71-yard score to ArDarius Stewart in last season's opener against Southern California. Ridley has at least one reception in all 33 games of his Crimson Tide career, which is the third-longest streak in the Bowl Subdivision. Sophomore tight end Miller Forristall had a 12-yard reception midway through the third quarter but suffered a knee injury that Saban believes is a torn ACL.
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