No. 1 Alabama Football Opens SEC Play with Dominating, 59-0, Win at Vanderbilt
A stout running game coupled with a stifling defense led the No. 1 University of Alabama football team to a 59-0 win at Vanderbilt in the Crimson Tide’s Southeastern Conference opener.
Alabama (4-0, 1-0) rolled up 496-rushing yards, the most in head coach Nick Saban’s UA tenure, to go with a program-best 38 total first downs in the victory. The Tide collected 677 total yards of offense and came away with six rushing touchdowns, two receiving scores and a field goal to tally the final score.
Junior running back Damien Harris led the rushing attack with a career-best 151 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns. Junior running back Bo Scarbrough added 79 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdowns. Seven other Alabama players rushed the ball, including another rushing touchdown by freshman running back Brian Robinson, Jr.
Playing exclusively in the second half, freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa tallied 103 yards on 8-of-10 passing and two touchdowns, one to rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and the other to another freshman wide receiver Devonta Smith.
The Crimson Tide defense limited the Commodores to 78 total yards of offense, including a stingy 40 yards on the ground and 38 passing yards. Senior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton led the defense with five tackle, including two solo stops.
One play after Vanderbilt’s opening drive was extended by a penalty, junior defensive back Ronnie Harrison brought it to an abrupt end, intercepting a tipped ball at the UA 31-yard line. It was Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur’s first pick of the season.
Alabama moved the ball into Vanderbilt territory on its opening drive, including 22-yards rushing by Harris on three attempts and a 10-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts to junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley, before senior JK Scott came in to punt, sending the ball 36 yards to pin the Commodores inside the five-yard line.
The Tide kept Vanderbilt pinned deep, forcing a three-and-out on the home team’s second drive. Alabama took over on the Vandy 47-yard line after an 11-yard punt return by sophomore defensive back Trevon Diggs. Hurts opened the drive with an 11-yard pass to sophomore tight end Irv Smith, Jr. Senior wide receiver Cam Sims picked up the next first down after grabbing a tipped ball from Hurts out of the air and picking up 11-yards. From there it was back-to-back runs by Scarbrough into the end zone for the first score of the game. Scarbrough picked up 19 yards on his first carry of the game followed by the six-yard touchdown run. Senior place kicker Andy Pappanastos came on and drilled the point after to make it 7-0 with 6:16 left in the first quarter. It marked the first time Vanderbilt trailed in 2017.
After a six-play, 16-yard drive by Vanderbilt resulted in another punt, Alabama wasted no time in doubling the score to 14-0 on a short third drive. It was all Harris over the two-play, 35-second drive. Starting at the UA 30-yard line, Hurts found Harris for a nine-yard pass. Harris then picked his way through a crowd at the line of scrimmage on the next play before sprinting 61 yards up the middle for the touchdown. Pappanastos made the extra point kick to extend UA’s lead with 3:32 left in the first quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage, sophomore linebacker Anfernee Jennings forced a fumble that was recovered by senior defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand at the VU 36. The Tide took advantage of the second turnover of the game when Harris closed the drive with a two-yard touchdown run up the middle. Pappanastos’ extra point made it 21-0 with 42 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Harris finished the first quarter with 85 yards on six carries and two touchdowns to lead the Tide.
After forcing another Commodore punt, Alabama marched down the field for the score in its longest drive of the game. After drives of seven or fewer plays in its first three touchdowns, Alabama took 13 plays to move 75 yards for its fourth consecutive scoring drive, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Scarbrough. Pappanastos’ extra point made it 28-0 with 9:09 remaining in the first half. In addition to Scarbrough’s second touchdown of the game, Harris passed the 100-yard mark during the drive, totaling 103 with more than nine minutes left in the second quarter.
A three-and-out by Vanderbilt was followed by Alabama’s first punt since the Tide’s first drive of the game. The Commodores followed that by their fifth punt of the half.
Another 13-play drive by Alabama covered 71 yards and ended in a 22-yard Pappanastos’ field goal to move the score to 31-0 with under two minutes to play in the half. The Tide outrushed the Commodores 249-32 in the opening half thanks in large part to Harris (109 yards and 2 TDs) and Scarbrough (72 yards and 2 TDs) who combined for 181 yards and four touchdowns.
Alabama outgained Vanderbilt 323-49 in the first half with Harris leading the way with 109 yards on nine attempts. Ridley led all receivers with 31 yards through the air on three catches
Harris opened the second half with a 15-yard rush, keying an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that he finished off with a two-yard touchdown rush, his third score of the game. Pappanastos hit the extra point to make the score 38-0 less than three minutes into the second half. At the end of the first drive of the second half, Harris had a new career-best 149 yards on the ground.
After another three-and-out possession by Vanderbilt, Tagovailoa came on at quarterback in the Tide’s second drive of the second half, which ended with a 34-yard touchdown strike to Jeudy. The extra point by Pappanastos moved the score to 45-0.
Tagovailoa came right back after another three-and-out by the Commodores and hit Devonta Smith in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown. The freshman quarterback showed off his athleticism on the play, completing the pass after a mad scramble in the backfield to avoid what looked to be a sure Vandy sack. The four-play, 58-yard drive, finished off by a Pappanastos point after, moved the score to 52-0. It was Smith’s first career touchdown.
The Tide was driving when the third quarter ended. With Tagovailoa still in at quarterback, Alabama started the fourth quarter on Vanderbilt 29-yard line. Robinson raced 17-yards into the end zone on the third play of the fourth quarter for the first touchdown of his career. Pappanastos’ extra point with 13:26 left in the game resulted in the final score.
Alabama returns home to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday to take on Ole Miss at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.