ATLANTA – It’s hard to find many faults in a 44-13 victory.
There sure wasn’t much to complain about Saturday in Alabama’s season opener against Miami in the Kickoff Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
- First-year starting quarterback Bryce Young set a school record for most touchdowns in a first start with four.
- The defense was rarely out of position and had four sacks while limiting Miami to 266 yards.
- Transfers Jameson Williams (WR) and Henry To’oTo’o (LB) were instrumental in their Alabama debut.
More remarkable, the one positive no one seemed to be buzzing about afterward was Will Reichard, who was 3-for-3 on field goals, including one from 51 yards.
But for as much as there was to praise Saturday, there was much to criticize.
“I'm sure that when we watch the film, we'll see a lot of things that are a lot -- way too many penalties,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “There's a lot of things that we can go through that we would like to get better.”
Alabama was penalized eight times for 81 yards.
“But those things happened more in the second half when the game got a little bit sloppy for us. So we'll work on trying to correct those things.”
Alabama scored on its first five possession, three touchdowns and two field goals. During that first-half stretch, the Crimson Tide limited Miami to just over 100 total yards and a field goal.
Saban was right. Alabama let off the gas a bit in the second half as Miami put together three big drives. One resulted in a touchdown, another in a field goal, and the third in a goal-line stand.
The goal-line stand was huge. Bryce Young hit Williams for a 94-yard touchdown pass a few seconds later for a 31-point cushion.
Still, Alabama knows there is work to be done.
“I think we've just got to finish,” said defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis, who had five tackles with a sack and a fumble recovery. “That's going to be a big thing for us in the future is finishing. I think we kind of let up and laid back towards the end and that's something we've got to fix quickly.”
There is always something to improve on, and Alabama will no doubt get to work on cleaning up those errors come Monday.
The good news for Alabama is those issues are small and easily fixable. That’s bad news for the rest of college football because in the first game of 2021, Alabama looked to be in midseason form.
“When you have that many guys that haven't played that much, new quarterback and all that, you really never know quite for sure how they're going to respond in a competitive situation,” Saban said. “But I thought they did a great job in the game and I was very encouraged.”