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AP photo by L.G. Patterson / Alabama running back Najee Harris carries the ball during the first quarter of Saturday's game at Missouri.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Since taking over as the University of Alabama's football coach in 2007, Nick Saban has never lost a season opener.

Then again, he'd never had one like this.

Yet despite an offseason largely scrapped by the coronavirus pandemic and a delayed start to the season, Saban's second-ranked Crimson Tide looked just fine as they began their 10-game league-only schedule Saturday night in a Southeastern Conference matchup at Missouri.

Mac Jones threw for 249 yards and two scores in less than three quarters of work, and Jaylen Waddle and Najee Harris had dynamic performances on offense, helping Alabama roll to a 38-19 victory over the rebuilding Tigers.

"I think from a team standpoint, when you play a first game, you sort of figure out who you are," Saban said after finally taking off his mask. "You figure out where you, and the last thing is, 'What do I have to do to get better?' Everybody on our team has a lot of maturity in what they need to do to get better."

Oh, there are areas to improve. The Tide had a few too many penalties, a few too many breakdowns on defense, and they allowed Missouri to finally get its up-tempo offense going against their backups in the fourth quarter.

They still looked every bit a national title contender, though.

Waddle finished with eight catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and Harris ran for 98 yards and three more scores, helping the Tide spoil the debut of Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz and win their 27th straight game against an SEC East opponent in front of a COVID-19-curtailed crowd of 11,738 fans at Faurot Field.

TCU transfer Shawn Robinson, who started for the Tigers over Connor Bazelak, threw for 185 yards and a score. Bazelak also got a few series and was equally ineffective against Dylan Moses, Patrick Surtain II and the rest of the Tide defense, which kept Drinkwitz's creative offense out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter.

Bazelak had a touchdown scamper on the final play of the game.

"I saw a lot of fight. I really did," Drinkwitz said. "I thought those guys answered the bell. I don't think it was an issue of not being good enough at all. I thought our guys fought."

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AP photo by L.G. Patterson / Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, center, pulls down a catch between Missouri's Tyree Gillespie, right, and Ishmael Burdine, left, during the first quarter Saturday evening in Columbia, Mo.

Alabama's long wait to start the season actually began with a thud — a three-and-out possession. But after the Tide forced Missouri's offense into a three-and-out series, Jones began to find his wide receivers downfield and the Tide got rolling.

At one point, the only question was who was going to score their touchdowns.

Harris had the first on a short plunge, and Waddle hauled in 18-yarder for the second a few minutes later. Waddle looked like he had another on the Tide's ensuing possession, but a review ruled he hit the pylon before crossing the goal line, and Harris wound up poaching the touchdown, his second of the game.

Waddle eventually got his second, too, when he hauled in a spectacular 23-yard grab in double coverage that sent Alabama into the locker room with a 28-3 lead. In fact, the only slip-up to that point for the Tide came at the end of that play, when Waddle's cleats slipped on the asphalt through the end zone and he landed on his rear.

"Waddle is a great player. He gets open — that's his job — and he does a great job doing it," Jones said. "We've had a great relationship going back to summer, 7-on-7s, getting that chemistry with him, all the late nights at the indoor (facility). He's going to get open and do his job. He makes plays."

Harris added his third touchdown on a twisting 8-yard run early in the second half, allowing Saban to see what freshman quarterback Bryce Young and the rest of the Alabama backups could do. They moved the ball in fits and starts, but it was Missouri that finished the game on a high note with a touchdown on the final play.

"We played very well the first half, but the second half we need to finish," said Moses, a Butkus Award finalist two years ago who missed all of last season to an injury. "But it's our first game. We just need to improve."

Alabama won its fifth straight against Missouri and has now won 92 straight against unranked foes. Just about all their stars got into the act, too. DeVonta Smith added eight catches for 89 yards, Moses spent most of the night in the Tigers' backfield, and Surtain jumped on a fumble to keep things rolling at the start of the second half.

Missouri defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison was absent because of COVID-19, and defensive quality control analyst Grant O'Brien filled the role. O'Brien also will handle those duties next weekend at Tennessee.

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