Instant Analysis: Alabama nearly perfect with 55-0 victory over Utah

Nick Saban wants people to talk more about how Alabama will lose games this season, but Saturday night’s opener provides little reason to expect the Tide to slip away in 2022. did not.

Alabama dominated Utah State from start to finish, beating Utah State 55-0. This is the first season opener for Bryant to play at his Denny Stadium in 11 years.

A near-perfect win over the defending Mountain West champions ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Texas fueled “rat poison,” which Saban denounced on his first radio show of the season as “worse than ever.” right.

Bryce Young tied a career-high by throwing five touchdown passes in Alabama’s first-half seven drives, reaching 350 total yards and 41 points by halftime. Running for an uncharacteristic 100 yards to start his first season, including a 4-yard touchdown to end the opening drive of the second half.

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

The win was Alabama’s 53rd consecutive victory over a non-conference opponent in the regular season and set a new record in the NCAA Division IA/FBS era (since 1978). Alabama, who has not lost from his SEC in the regular season since Louisiana vs. Monroe in 2007, lined up with his 52nd straight win in LSU’s 2002-16 streak.

The offense picks up where it left off, with a new line-up

Gaining 671 yards the last time Alabama played at Bryant Denny Stadium, Young threw five touchdowns in the win over Arkansas. There was some doubt about how Young would adjust after losing Jameson Williams and John Mechee’s receiving production, but there was little sign of anything changing on Saturday night.

Jr. Torshon Holden, Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and freshman Kobe Prentice started for Alabama at receivers and combined 20 targets from Young. Both Burton and Holden caught two relatively short touchdown passes from Young, but Prentice had the Tide’s longest reception of the night for 25 yards. It was Young’s short-strike game with 195 total passing yards on 18 completions, not a high-flying downfield offense.

But Young has shown his trademark ability to run into the pocket on several plays, including an early completion to Holden, and has also shown more willingness to shove the ball and run with it than he did last season. It looked… Young ran for 18 yards in the second quarter for 3 and 12 yards, then ran for a career 63 yards later in that quarter to start a touchdown drive. He added a 22-yard scramble late in the first half and chose not to slide, but made contact at the end. Young finished with 100 rushing yards last season after zero yards on 81 carries, including sacks.

At running back, it’s been a bit of a slow start for Georgia Tech’s Jamar Gibbs, who has been the object of near-universal admiration since spring practice. However, Gibbs broke free on the first play of the second half with 58 yards rushing for the most of 93 yards on nine carries. He recorded his 1 catch for his 5 yards and was a surprisingly quiet receiving night for a player who could be a key part of Alabama’s passing game this season.

Alabama rotated backup running backs Jace McClellan and Roydell Williams into the first-team offense, and McClellan caught two touchdown passes. After throwing a down, Millow then played in backup. He was intercepted on his second possession, forcing the Tide to punt the drive for the first time in the game.

Milroe made the debut of a five-star recruit from Tennessee when he was replaced midway through the drive by freshman Ty Simpson with about eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Defense overwhelms Utah offense

Saban said days into the game that after winning a conference championship and 11 games last season, he doesn’t believe Utah State is paying it the respect it deserves. They easily covered the 41.5 point betting spread against a non-Power 5 team who looked underwhelmed at every turn of the night.

Part of that was evident along the defensive front where Alabama’s first defense limited Utah State to 16 yards on 14 first-half attempts. Gained 23 yards, but had only 35 remaining in the first half. Alabama did not force a turnover, but instead caused the Aggies to punt six times in the first half and also made a four-down stop.

Alabama started sophomores Kool-Aid McKinstry and Therion Arnold at cornerbacks, but rotated Eli Ricks and Kyrie Jackson to those spots in the first half. These four of his players were listed as co-stars in the first depth chart of the season.

Utah didn’t get through midfield until late in the 3rd quarter and didn’t get over 100 total offensive yards until the 4th quarter. Utah State finished with his 136 yards. This was his 10th-lowest by Saban-era opponents and tied for seventh-worst with 2.3 yards per play for him. The Aggies only scored seven first downs, the ninth-feeest by an opponent against Saban in Alabama.

The shutout was the 21st in the Saban era, and the 55-point gap is Alabama’s sixth-largest since 2007.

Alabama to play without Harrell, Ratu, tweaks

Wide receiver Tyler Harrell, a speedy fifth-grade junior from Louisville, didn’t wear a uniform, but sat on the sidelines with a walking boot on his right foot. Harrell only recently increased his participation in practices after his ankle sprain limited his fall camp activities.

Fifth grade tight end Cameron Ratu didn’t play after getting ready for the game in his uniform. The Utah native Ratu missed most of fall camp while recovering from his knee injury. Sophomore Robbie Ouzts started in his place.

Alabama has tweaked its offensive line from what was on the initial depth chart last Monday. Javion Cohen, who is listed as the second team’s left guard on the depth chart, started from that spot. Kendall Randolph, who is listed as a left guard starter, started at right guard instead. Emil Ekiyor warmed up for his second team at right guard instead of starting, but then spent time at right guard on the first team’s line.

Mike Rodak is an Alabama Beats Reporter for Alabama Media Group. follow him on twitter @michelodak.

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