ATLANTA — Bryce Young didn’t take long to prove he’s the man to lead No. 1 Alabama in its quest for another national title.
Young became the first Crimson Tide quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in his starting debut and the defending champions romped past No. 14 Miami 44-13 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Saturday.
After sending another batch of stars off to the NFL, it looks like Nick Saban‘s team simply reloaded for another run at the title.
Young, a sophomore from Southern California, completed 27 of 38 passes for 344 yards – a performance that even managed to please his demanding coach.
“I thought Bryce did really, really well,” Saban said. “The poise he played with, the command he had. He kind of took what the defense gave him and really directed the offense in a positive way.”
Young opened with a 37-yard touchdown pass to John Metchie, hooked up with tight end Cameron Latu on a pair of scoring plays and buried the Hurricanes with a 94-yard TD strike to Jameson Williams early in the third quarter.
“He did a great job of getting the ball to the right guy at the right time in the right place,” Saban said of Young.
Before Young, Mac Jones and Joe Namath had been the only quarterbacks to throw three TD passes in their first starts for Alabama.
“There was a lot of anticipation,” Young said. “It was definitely fun to be out there with my guys.”
Speaking of stellar debuts, Williams had four receptions for 126 yards in his first game for the Tide after transferring from Ohio State.
The Crimson Tide also turned in a dazzling defensive effort at the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, sacking D'Eriq King four times, forcing him into three turnovers and stuffing him on a goal-line stand
Alabama led 27-0 before Miami crossed midfield. King and the Hurricanes simply made too many mistakes to compete with perhaps the greatest dynasty in college football history.
Coach Many Diaz tried to put his best spin on the performance.
“College football is famous for its overreactions after Week 1,” he said. “We don’t get our story written one game into the season.”
After romping to Saban’s record seventh national title with a 13-0 record, the Tide came into the season with some big holes to fill.
Alabama had a record-tying six players taken in the first round of the NFL draft, including Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, star quarterback Jones and defensive stalwart Patrick Surtain II.
Of course, Saban is never short on five-star recruits. The quarterback job went to Young, a dual threat who was highest-rated quarterback prospect ever signed by the Alabama coach.
After spending a year learning the ropes behind Jones. Young was clearly ready to take over.
He made the short throws. He made the long throws. He threw it away when necessary. He used his legs to avoid getting caught very often behind the line.
“When you have that many guys who have not played that much, with a new quarterback and all that, you’re never quite sure how they will respond in competitive situations,” Saban said. “I thought we did a great job in the game. I was very encouraged.”
King was 23 of 30 but produced only 173 yards passing, spending much of his time trying to escape the fearsome Alabama rush. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Alabama linebacker Christopher Allen left the game early in the second quarter with a foot injury.
He may be done for 2021.
“Allen has a pretty significant foot injury,” Saban said. “We’ve got to further evaluate it, but it looks like he may be lost for the season.”
Alabama: The Tide picked up where it left off, blowing out another ranked opponent. Saban’s team has no apparent weaknesses, but made just enough mistakes to give the coach something to bark about in practice next week.
Miami: The Hurricanes had a chance to show they’re ready to compete with the nation’s truly elite programs in Diaz’s third season. They failed miserably, looking like they will again challenge for nothing more than a mid-level bowl.
GIVE BACK THE CHAIN
Nothing went right for the Hurricanes, who even wound up looking foolish for handing out their sparkling gold turnover chain after an apparent fumble recovery.
Miami appeared to gain possession after Alabama running back Roydell Williams coughed up the football just before he hit the turf. Despite being down 27-0, the Hurricanes celebrated on their sideline by putting the chain around the neck of Kam Kinchens, who knocked the ball loose.
But a video review showed that Williams managed to recover his own fumble while sprawled on the turf. The call was overturned, Alabama retained possession and Kinchens had to give the chain back to one of the equipment managers, who returned it to a secure box on the Miami sideline.
Alabama has its sights on a return trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in December for the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Even Saban, who never looks ahead, tipped his hand.
“Maybe we can come back again later this year,” he said.
Alabama, an overwhelming choice for No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll, isn’t going anywhere after its impressive victory. Miami can expect to fall, maybe a few more places than it would have with a better effort.
Alabama: Hosts FCS school Mercer next Saturday in what should be another laugher.
Miami: Faces Appalachian State next Saturday in the Hurricanes’ home opener.