The matchup that college football long anticipated came to fruition, and it went as expected. The only question among the 100,000-plus fans in Bryant-Denny Stadium wasn’t answered until late in the third quarter.
How long are you going to leave Tua Tagovailoa in the game against New Mexico State?
Any concerns about second-ranked Alabama’s focus were soothed on the game’s first snap, when Tagovailoa lateraled to Henry Ruggs III, and the Montgomery native sprinted 75 yards for a score.
In a name-the-score mismatch, this one lived up to its billing. Alabama built a 38-0 halftime lead en route to a 62-10 mauling.
There were legitimate takeaways.
An explosive Alabama offense proved it could strike fast or take a methodical approach. Witness a 10-play drive for the second score on a sweltering day. The caveat: This was against New Mexico State.
Concerned about depth at running back? Freshman and fourth stringer Keilan Robinson showed receiver speed, juiced 74 yards for a score on his third career carry.
And freshman kicker Will Reichard nailed field goal attempts of 48 and 49 yards dead solid perfect. The rush of wind through the stadium after the first one wasn’t a force of Mother Nature, but a collective sigh of relief from Crimson Tide fans who’ve witnessed a decade of place-kicking foibles.
Alabama’s 2019 schedule has been derided by critics, and New Mexico State’s arrival pretty much proved the point. The only thing the two programs have in common: helmets a shade of red with numerals on the side.
There are four- and five-star differences across the field, and none is more telling than the gap at quarterback. Tagovailoa wasn’t surgically precise, as he was a week ago, but he was efficient in throwing for three touchdowns and running for another.
He departed the game safe and sound with Alabama in command, 45-0, making way for backup Mac Jones. While you understand Nick Saban’s desire to keep his starters sharp, it’s Plan B and C behind Tagovailoa that, frankly, need the work more.
Hopefully, a renewal of this rivalry will be a long time coming.