TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — While the rest of the country has transferred its offensive mind-set to the hurry-up, no-huddle offense, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have kept their game plan the same.
Alabama’s mantra under Saban has never varied. It wants to run the football and play smothering, sophisticated defense. Most importantly, the Crimnson Tide don’t want to get away from Saban’s process.
“I’m really pleased and proud of the way our guys competed and executed today,” Saban said Saturday after a 45-3 victory against Georgia State. “I’m sure there are a lot of things we can work on to improve, and it’s going to be important for us to start playing our best football.”
While this mantra was once the popular choice among college football’s elite, it’s now seen far less frequently. In fact, Alabama’s style of play and thought process is almost an anomaly.
But their latest victory proved anything you can do, they can do better. Senior quarterback A.J. McCarron hit his first 12 passes, a number that tied him with two others for third most consecutive completions in school history.
“I was really pleased with the way we came out, especially offensively,” Saban said. “To score touchdowns on the first five possessions and a field goal on the sixth was big. I think our players made some huge improvements.”
McCarron and backup quarterback Blake Sims connected with 15 receivers. Guys like Christion Jones, DeAndrew White, Kevin Norwood, and Chris Black made this offense look more like a no-huddle, up-tempo group than a typical Alabama offense.
“We have to get used to the way teams are playing us because of our receivers,” McCarron said. “They know what type of deep threats we have out wide. They’re going to make us play long, sustaining drives.”
McCarron wasted no time in doing just that with his offense, hitting Jones on a quick screen for an 8-yard touchdown. McCarron’s aerial assault continued throughout the first half. After completing his first eight passes, Alabama had a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter when DeAndrew White helped his quarterback keep his consecutive completion streak alive. McCarron found White in the back left corner of the end zone, but White did most of the work, making an acrobatic one-handed grab while leaping over a defender to make it 21-0.
“I felt like we came out and didn’t worry about who we were playing,” McCarron said. “We just worried about how we wanted to play. We came out and did that right off the bat.”
Midway through the second quarter, McCarron saw his streak of consecutive completions end, but that didn’t stop him from throwing. After running back Jalston Fowler pounded away on the ground, the Crimson Tide found themselves with a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Alabama normally uses its power and strength in goal-line situations, but it went with McCarron, who found Fowler for his fourth touchdown pass to make it 35-0.
That pass was McCarron’s last one of day. He finished 15 of 16 and set a school record for completion percentage in a game. He also had 166 yards.
Sims relieved McCarron and continued the onslaught. The redshirt junior entered the game with just two pass attempts all season. In a little more than two quarters, he was 14 of 18 for 130 yards and one touchdown.
“Blake has made a significant improvement as a quarterback,” Saban said. “This is probably the first time he really played where we allowed him to run the offense.”
Black, a redshirt freshman, was Sims’ primary target with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Known for his feet more than his arms, Sims brings a zone-read style of play to the offense. On Saturday, however, he joined McCarron in racking up big numbers through the air.
“I said I didn’t want to run any quarterback runs. Sims needs to run the offense just like he has to play,” Saban said.
McCarron and Sims spent the afternoon showing the country just why Alabama is No. 1 in the polls. While the Crimson Tide often likes to use their strength on the ground to wear opponents into submission, their passing game has proven the offense can go toe-to-toe with anyone.
The defense continued its same smothering play, allowing 175 yards, including only 15 rushing. It was the third-straight game Alabama’s defense didn’t allow a touchdown.
“My hat’s off to Alabama. They’re the number one team in the nation,” Georgia State coach Trent Miles said. “They did a great job of doing what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it. There’s a reason why they are who they are.”