Instant analysis: Alabama almost flawless in 55-0 win over Utah State

Nick Saban wants people to talk more about how Alabama is losing this season, but Saturday night’s opener didn’t offer any reason to expect Tide to slip in 2022.

Alabama beat Utah 55-0 in the school’s first season opener in 11 years at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A near-perfect win over the defending Western Conference champions ahead of a trip to Texas next Saturday will fuel a “rat poison” Saban denounced as “worse than ever” on his first broadcast of the season “.

Bryce Young threw five touchdown passes on Alabama’s seven first-half passes to tie a career high for 350 yards and 41 points at halftime. The junior quarterback also uncharacteristically ran for 100 yards after winning the Heisman Trophy to start his first season, including a 4-yard touchdown to end the opening second half — his final game.

Alabama’s defense stifled the Agis offense, which ranked the nation’s best in passing efficiency last season, allowing just 2.1 yards per game for 58 total yards and a scoreless first half.

The win was Alabama’s 53rd straight regular-season victory over a non-conference opponent, a new record in the NCAA Division IA/FBS era (since 1978). Alabama has not lost to the SEC in the regular season since Louisiana-Monroe in 2007, tied with LSU’s 52-game winning streak in 2002-16.

Offensive picks up where it left off, new faces

The last time Alabama played at Bryant-Denny Stadium, it had 671 yards and Young threw for five touchdowns in a win over Arkansas. There are some doubts about how Young will adjust after losing catches from Jameson Williams and John Medge, but there was little sign that Saturday night would be any different.

Georgia junior Traeshon Holden moved to Jermaine Burton and freshman Kobe Prentice started as Alabama catcher, combined with Young’s 20 goals. Both Burton and Holden received two relatively short touchdown passes from Young, while Prentice had the longest 25-yard throw. It was more of a short passing game from Young, who was passing for 195 yards on 18 completions, rather than a high-flying frontcourt.

But Young showed his trademark evasive ability in several games, including an early finish against Holden, and seemed more willing to tuck the ball into goal and run with it than last season. Young ran for 18 yards in the third and 12th quarter of the second, then started a touchdown with a career-long 63 yards later in the quarter. He added a 22-yard scramble late in the first half, opting not to slip but to touch at the end. Last season, Young finished with 100 rushing yards after zero yards on 81 carries (including sacks).

On the running back side, it’s been a slightly slow start for Georgia Tech’s Jahmyr Gibbs, who has been the object of near-universal praise since spring training. But Gibbs broke free in the first play of the second half, rushing for 58 yards, which accounted for a large portion of his 93 yards on nine carries. He had a 5-yard catch, a surprisingly quiet night for a player who could be a key part of Alabama’s passing this season.

Alabama rotated backup running backs Jas McClellan and Roydell Williams into the first-team offense, and McClellan passed two touchdown passes — one from Young and the other from backup Jalen Mirrow, who Replaced Young with 12:12 left in the third quarter. After his first touchdown when surrounded by offensive starters, Milo came off the bench after that. He was intercepted on his second possession and Tide was forced to tee off for the first time in the game.

Freshman Ty Simpson replaced Milrow midway through the fourth quarter, marking the five-star recruit’s debut from Tennessee.

Defense suppresses Utah’s offense

Saban said on his days entering the game that he doesn’t believe Utah is getting the respect it deserves after winning the division title and 11 games last season. But Alabama still comfortably covered a 41.5-point betting gap, and the non-Power 5 team looked beaten in every crunch Saturday night.

Part of that was evident on the defensive front, where Alabama’s starting defense limited Utah to 14 rushing yards in the first half. The Aggies had 23 yards on tiptoe to start the game, but only 35 yards for the rest of the first half. Instead of forcing any turnovers, Alabama led to the Aggies kicking six times in the first half while also making a fourth stop.

Alabama started sophomores Kool-Ed McKinstry and Tyrean Arnold at cornerback, but rotated Eli Ricks and Kyrie Jackson in the first half. Those positions, it shows they are still evaluating who to start at that position. Those four players were listed as joint starters on the season’s initial depth charts.

Utah didn’t get past midfield until the end of the third quarter and didn’t exceed 100 total offensive yards until the fourth. Utah finished for 136 yards, 10th among Saban-era opponents with 2.3 yards per game and tied for seventh-last. The Aggies scored just seven first-round attempts against Saban in Alabama, the ninth fewest.

The lockout was the 21st of the Saban era, and the 55-point margin tied Alabama’s sixth-largest margin since 2007.

Alabama has no Harrell, Latour and Adjustment Lines

Wide receiver Tyler Harrell, a fast fifth-year junior from Louisville, was not in uniform but was seen wearing a walking boot on his right foot on the sidelines. Harrell, who was limited in fall training camp with a sprained foot, has only recently increased his participation in practices.

Fifth-year senior tight end Cameron Latour did not play after warming up for the game. Latour, from Utah, missed most of fall training camp while recovering from a knee injury. Sophomore Robbie Ouzts starts in his place.

Alabama adjusted the offensive line from last Monday’s initial depth chart. Javion Cohen, listed on the depth chart as second-team left-back, starts at that position. Kendall Randolph, listed as a starter at left-back, not right-back. Emil Ekiyor warmed up in the second team at right-back instead of starting, but then saw time at right-back against the first team.

Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group.follow him on twitter @mikerodak.

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