TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama scored on a long touchdown pass, a pick-six and a blocked punt.
And that was just the first six minutes.
The Crimson Tide (3-0) scored on offense, defense and special teams in the first six minutes and raced to a 28-0 first-quarter lead. It was a whirlwind start against the 49 1/2-point underdog Warhawks (1-2) a week after a much closer-than-expected victory over Texas cost Alabama the No. 1 ranking.
Afterward, Tide coach Nick Saban challenged the team to play to the program’s always lofty standard more consistently.
“There’s some evidence out there that this is the standard we want to play to,” Saban said, noting that the competition gets tougher with Southeastern Conference play upcoming.
It wasn’t a seamless performance throughout for either the Tide offense or Young, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. But special teams came through, including a school-record for punt return yards.
Young completed 13 of 18 passes for 236 yards but also threw his first two interceptions of the season. He did run for a 7-yard score, where he spun near the goal line and dove across.
Anderson returned his first career interception 25 yards for a touchdown, one play after Young’s initial pick. The national sacks leader a year ago, he also got his second sack of the season.
“What can’t he do?” cornerback/return man Kool-Aid McKinstry said.
“He was probably surprised he caught it, I ain’t gonna lie,” linebacker Henry To'oto'o said. “He had a little stiff-arm and he was just watching it when they did the highlights on the board. And he was like, `I can’t believe I did that.”‘
Malachi Moore got a short scoop-and-score after Ja’Corey Brooks’ blocked punt.
Chandler Rogers completed 11 of 21 passes 96 yards for Louisiana-Monroe and was intercepted once. Malik Jackson ran for an 11-yard touchdown, set up by the Tide’s failed fourth-down attempt.
“It went like most people thought it would go,” Louisiana-Monroe coach Terry Bowden said. “They were just too good for us in every phase of the game. You could watch the video and say that’s kind of what you’re stepping into, but you still prepare for them not to play well or something to go wrong. And you have a better game.
“And as I talked to the team afterwards, they were so good in every phase.”
Jahmyr Gibbs remained the Tide’s most versatile weapon. He gained 36 yards on nine carries and caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown when he juked one defender and shed a couple of downfield tackle attempts.
The Tide outgained Louisiana-Monroe 509-169.
Louisiana-Monroe: Managed to keep a horrid start from snowballing even more for awhile and actually was only outgained 132-125 before Alabama’s final drive of the second half. Bowden is now 3-4 against the Tide, with the first six meetings as coach of rival Auburn from 1993-98.
Alabama: This one won’t mean much in the big picture for Alabama’s season, but it started out as a nice, swift rebound from the Texas game. The Tide did have a lull before a pristine Young-directed TD drive in the final two minutes before the half.
Alabama had 262 punt return yards to break a 75-year-old game record set against LSU in 1947. McKinstry flirted with scores on returns and Brian Branch produced one in the fourth quarter. McKinstry averaged 34 yards on his first four returns. Then Branch returned a punt 68 yards for a TD. Gibbs also had a 57-yard kick return.
“The blockers did their job and I can’t do anything but give them thanks for creating the lanes for me to take,” McKinstry said.
There’s no chance Alabama will overtake No. 1 Georgia on Sunday after the Bulldogs beat South Carolina 48-7. Chances are the Tide will stay put.
Alabama’s receivers, for the most part, are having quiet seasons. The tight ends, however, came up big on the final first-half drive. Cameron Latu had three catches, including a 38-yarder when he reached over a defender downfield. Freshman reserve Amari Niblack then caught his first pass, a 15-yard TD.
Alabama hosts Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference opener.
Louisiana-Monroe hosts Louisiana.