Alabama rushing rebounds against New Mexico State

T.G. Paschal/BamaCentral
Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After a week of criticism regarding its running game against Duke, Alabama came out in force on the ground Saturday against New Mexico State.

The combination of consistent fresh legs and a solid offensive line helped contribute to the successful rushing efforts.

Last week against Duke, Alabama was only able to manage 145 rushing yards, with two touchdowns on the ground.

This time the Crimson Tide rushed for 318 yards between a wide receiver, four different running backs and junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The rushers combined for four rushing touchdowns on the day and Alabama more than doubled both its yardage and touchdown counts.

The Crimson Tide started right of the gate with a lateral to junior wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on the first play of scrimmage. Ruggs took it to the house for a 75-yard touchdown run.

The second rushing touchdown of the game came from Tagovailoa, who scrambled out of a collapsed pocket for a 25-yard touchdown in the final minutes before halftime.

Junior running back Najee Harris was business as usual, with an 8-yard rushing touchdown halfway through the third quarter.

Another highlight of the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack against the Aggies was freshman Keilan Robinson, who finished the game with 80 yards on five attempts, with his first touch as a college athlete being a 74-yard touchdown run.

“We’ve been wanting to bring Keilan Robinson along because he’s the one guy that has juice that is a guy that’s a little bit different style of back than the other two guys that we play — really the other three guys that we play,” Nick Saban said. “Hopefully he’ll gain some confidence from making a great long run today and that will help him and we can utilize his skill set in the future.”

In total, Alabama had 32 rushing attempts, with the average rush going for 9.9 yards per carry.

One main difference that contributed to the rushing effort was the changes made at offensive line.

With Saban confirming that both redshirt-junior Chris Owens (undisclosed) and redshirt-freshman Emil Ekiyor Jr. (knee) were sidelined, redshirt-junior transfer Landon Dickerson made the start at center. 

Last week the Florida State graduate transfer started at guard against Duke.

Redshirt-senior Matt Womack also started for the Crimson Tide at right guard.

Saban said he expects both Owens and Ekiyor to return this week before the South Carolina game.