Written by Ernie Casanova
As the first week of college football started to unfold, we got a glimpse of how crazy things can get and the first few contests to go down to the wire. We saw multiple upset scares and also witnessed some shocking losses to already begin the season. As for the Alabama Crimson Tide, that’s just something they aren’t willing to entertain. In a matchup full of competitive potential, Alabama simply overpowered the Louisville Cardinals every step of the way here in Orlando, FL by a score of 51-14 to win the Camping World Kickoff.
QB Tua Tagovailoa began the first quarter as the starter for Alabama, going 7 of 10 for 110 yards. He was favoring the hands of WR Devonta Smith, who had 3 catches for 72 yards by the end of the first quarter. While Tagovailoa did have a fumble scare early on, he brushed it off and kept showing Coach Saban as to why that call was made eight months ago, and why it was made again tonight. With five receivers already recording a reception in the first 15 minutes, this Louisville defense was having nothing but fits trying to prevent Tagovailoa from extending the play. It just simply wasn’t working.
Alabama started their possession in the second quarter with a 49-yard bomb to WR Jaylen Waddle from Tagovailoa. Quickly after, running back Najee Harris pounded it in for a one-yard TD to pad their already large lead of 21-0 with 11 minutes still left in the first half.
With 8:05 left in the second quarter and Alabama up by three scores, Coach Saban decided to insert Jalen Hurts at quarterback. He previously stated leading up to the game that both would play, and that’s exactly what happened. Hurts finished the half going 2-6 for 36 yards, but Tagoviloa stepped in for the last drive as Saban ultimately wanted to get more points before the end of the quarter. Seconds later, Alabama took a convincing 28-0 lead into the locker room at halftime as Tagoviloa completed a 25 yard TD pass to WR Jerry Jeudy. This is where the phenomenon reached new heights inside of Camping World Stadium, delivering a final blow before the half to leave the spectators in awe. Tagovailoa finished the half 11-15 for 195 yards and was responsible for three touchdowns.
Louisville was having major issues on both sides of the ball all game. First-year starting QB Jawon Pass was looking good on the stat sheet to begin the contest, completing 10-19 passes for 100 yards, but was having issues consistently bringing the team upfield. He threw a costly interception that turned into a touchdown for the Tide and wasn’t receiving enough help from his backfield. The Cardinals’ leading rusher was Pass himself with 11 yards at the end of the first half, and WR Trey Smith led the receiving corps with 31 receiving yards on two catches.
The team also struggled to convert on third down, going 1-6 by the half’s end. As Cardinals’ head coach Bobby Petrino began to lose his cool on the sideline, you can tell that this team was having trouble getting into sync, especially on substitution as Louisville went into the locker room at the half committing five penalties, with four of them being called for illegal substitution.
“Yeah,” said Petrino of the penalties. “We had an issue on the offense where we were calling out a formation that’s also a personnel grouping. So the personnel grouping ran out on the field– true freshmen — so that was one of the issues. And then we had a couple on the field goal that, you know, we can’t have that. That was something — I think that when Jonathan went down, you know, we got a little bit off on our substitutions and communication of the substitutions out on the field. So not a good guy to lose early in the game because, you know, he’s been the leader of our defense.”
Throughout the third quarter, nothing much had changed. Alabama was still cruising, and Louisville didn’t get their first points on the board until there was 6:27 left in the third quarter. Pass completed a 12 yard TD strike to Kemari Averett after a 10 play 75-yard drive to show some life. Minutes after, Alabama RB Josh Jacobs returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown to end all speculation of any comeback and silenced the Cardinal supporters. Pass finished the night going 20-39 with 252 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with one being a pick six to put Alabama up 51-7 in the fourth quarter. WR Seth Dawkins led the receiving corps with three catches for 68 yards while Averett was responsible for both touchdown receptions and 60 yards receiving. It was a display of madness for the Cardinals, but it’s only one game into the season and they carry a massive amount of potential.
Much of the game slowed down as Alabama brought in some of their backups to ease up the pace. Hurts re-entered the game for good and calmly led the pack for the rest of the evening. Running backs Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs tallied over 45 yards each on the ground tonight, while Najee Harris had the lone touchdown out of the group. WR Devonta Smith had the hot hand with both quarterbacks as he caught four passes for 99 yards, while WR Jerry Jeudy finished with both touchdown catches on 64 yards receiving. Hurts finished 5-9 for 70 yards as he wasn’t asked to do much.
Tagovailoa finished the night arguably winning the starting job going 12-16 for 227 yards with two passing touchdowns and one running. He also tallied up 26 yards on five rushes.
“Tua played well and made some really good throws — I mean, really
good throws, very accurate throws, put the ball right on guys. When they had halfway decent coverage, he made good decisions for the most part. We’ve got him to get — get him to get two hands on the ball. He’s too loose with the ball in the pocket, and he’s going to get the ball knocked out of his hand. You know, those are the kind of things that I’m talking about that doesn’t get you till it gets you. So you’ve got to fix
them before it gets you. But he played well. I think he executed. He did what he was supposed to do. He read the right thing. He was well prepared in the game. I think the offensive coaches did a really good job of preparing for what they were going to see, we pretty much saw what we thought we were going to see, and for the most part did a pretty good job of executing against it.” Saban stated after the game. He seems pretty confident in his ability and looks to utilize Tagovailoa the best possible way for as long as he can.
Alabama accumulated a total of 519 offensive yards, committed 11 tackles for loss and also attained three sacks. They held Louisville to a below average total of 16 rushing yards and held them to 4-14 on third down conversions. Still, Saban wasn’t happy with some of his team’s on-field actions.
“But I also think that it’s pretty obvious that we had way too many penalties, a lot of
undisciplined-type penalties, and if you look at the challenges of the season ahead — and I watched TV today. Did anybody else watch TV today? There’s a lot of good teams in our league. I watched TVs for the last couple of days. There’s a lot of really good teams in our league. And if we’re going to meet the challenges of the future, we need to do a lot of these things a lot better and way too many mental errors, really on both sides of the ball, but more on defense. And you know, undisciplined-type penalties, basically gave the team a touchdown, just gave them a touchdown, stopped them on third down twice and had penalties two times in a row. I mean, you do that against a good team in a close game, you know what’s going to happen.
It was an all-around dominant performance, and Alabama convincingly started their title reign on a good note. With the competition surrounding the NCAA, fans are in store for a spectacular and competitive season from the SEC and conferences all over.