Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams settled under the tumbling kick and was off to the races.
One-hundred yards later, Williams was celebrating in the end zone, and his new team, top-ranked Alabama, was on its way to a rout of Southern Miss.
Any notion that the Crimson Tide would have an emotional hangover after last week’s near-miss against Florida dissipated immediately. Quarterback Bryce Young threw dimes. Roydell Williams cracked the 100-yard rushing mark by halftime. And the defense stalked Southern Miss’ true freshman quarterback Ty Keyes for most of the night.
Building on a 35-point lead at intermission, Alabama cruised to a 63-14 victory before a stress-free audience at Bryant-Denny Stadium that included a Williams’ return encore in the fourth quarter.
It was the Tide’s crispest performance of the young season, albeit against a vastly overmatched foe.
And it was a homecoming to forget for Golden Eagles coach Will Hall, the former Harlon Hill winner as North Alabama’s quarterback and a one-time head coach just down the road from Tuscaloosa at West Alabama.
He’ll have better days.
Maybe like the night enjoyed by Young. In just his fourth start, he was near perfect. He completed a record (by percentage) 20 of 22 passes to eight different receivers, going horizontal, vertical and points in between. A quarter of his tosses went for TDs before he ended his night with his first interception of the season, a carom that was claimed in midair by the Golden Eagles just shy of their own goal line.
He also had the benefit of having tight end Jahleel Billingsley out of the doghouse and back in the main rotation. Young and Billingsley connected on a picture-perfect 16-yard strike to produce the first offensive touchdown of the game.
And with starting running back Brian Robinson held out with a rib injury, Jase McClellan got the start with Williams filling in as understudy. Having only appeared sparingly this season, Williams looked primetime ready. His second carry resulted in a 55-yard run. And his fourth, a short touchdown.
While Southern Miss’ offense is a work in progress, the defense had a reputation for stinginess. Allowing only 17 points a game, Alabama shredded that stat midway through the first quarter.
The only mystery during Alabama’s NCAA record 100th consecutive win over an unranked foe was how long it would take Nick Saban to begin subbing liberally. The answer: The fourth quarter.
That immediately paid dividends for Southern Miss and the oft-harassed Keyes, producing the second score of the night with a clock-eating touchdown drive.
Opportunities for the Tide’s offensive backups were limited, due to Southern Miss’ ability to hold on to the ball late. But reserve quarterbacks Paul Tyson and Jalen Milroe tag teamed to produce Bama’s final score of the night.
No doubt, Saban will find plenty to correct. He’ll have roughly a week before No. 13 Ole Miss arrives for a CBS showdown.