TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No one knew it at the time but when Alabama redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones connected with junior wide receiver Jerry Jeudy for the 40-yard touchdown early in the third quarter against Arkansas, he tied a Crimson Tide record.
The touchdown pass was his third, making him just the second player in Alabama history to have that many during his starting debut.
The other was at the game as well Saturday night, Joe Namath.
In 1962, Namath had three against Georgia, while going 10-for-14 for 179 yards, to lead a 35-0 victory.
Jones finished 18-for-22 for 235 yards, with three touchdowns and no turnovers. The yards were the sixth most in a starting debut, barley edging another former quarterback who was also watching at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Greg McElroy.
More on that in a moment ...
Play of the game: Not only did the interception by senior cornerback Trevon Diggs prevent Arkansas from scoring points just before halftime, but his 84-yard return for a touchdown killed any hopes of a comeback.
Player of the game: Honorable mentions go to junior wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (seven catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns), and Jones. However, we’re going with redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Lewis. On his six quarterbacks pressures Arkansas didn’t have any completions, and two were intercepted including the pick-six. Five of the pressures came on third downs.
Statistic of the game: Alabama’s defense had more turnovers (four) than third-down conversions allowed (three).
10 things you may not have noticed ...
1] Who played? Alabama was credited with using 59 players and numerous reserves were inserted throughout the game. The only starter we saw still on the field with the reserves was junior offensive lineman Deonte Brown at right guard. The guess here is that the coaches were trying to get him as many snaps as possible since he missed the first four games and then coming off an injury.
2] Who started? Jones became the 15th Crimson Tide player to make his first career start this season. On defense, Alabama came out in a 2-4-5 package again, keeping both starting outside linebackers on the field in the nickel formation. Freshman Jordan Battle started for injured senior Jared Mayden at strong safety. It was his third start of the season.
3] It’s a short list: Jones was just the eighth Alabama quarterback to make his starting debut during the Nick Saban era (since 2007). The others, in order, were McElroy (2010), AJ McCarron (2011), Blake Sims (2014), Jake Coker (2015), Blake Barnett (2016), Jalen Hurts (2016) and Tua Tagovailoa (2018). Note that John Parker Wilson was already the starter in 2006.
Here were their passer-efficiency ratings in those games, although it should be noted that Barnett only attempted six passes before he was replaced by Hurts (who fumbled on his first play):
Name, Class, Opponent, Year, Rating
- Blake Barnett, R-Fr., Southern California 2016, 278.3
- Tua Tagovailoa, So., Louisville 2018, 235.4
- Mac Jones, R-So., Arkansas 2019, 216.5
- Jake Coker, Sr., Wisconsin 2015, 172.3
- Jalen Hurts, Fr., Western Kentucky 2016, 149.2
- AJ McCarron, So., Kent State, 2011, 140.4
- Blake Sims, Sr., West Virginia 2014, 130.3
- Greg McElroy, Jr., Virginia Tech, 2009, 118.7
Among them, Jones was the only one to start due to an injury to the starter. However they all have one thing in common – each won his starting debut.
4] Not bad for a guy many thought wouldn’t stick around: Saturday was game No. 175 for Saban at Alabama, although his record is just 149-21 due to five vacated games in 2007. His winning percentage is .876 with the Crimson Tide.
5] That had to hurt: On Alabama’s first field goal, offensive lineman/tight end Kendall Randolph had his helmet ripped off by an Arkansas player.
6] A step in the right direction: Freshman punter Ty Perine had two punts for 95 yards, plus his first inside the 20. Of his four punts this season, three have been longer than any punt by anyone else on the roster.
7] Yards after the catch: By our unofficial count, junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith needs just three more yards after the catch to surpass Jeudy’s total last year when he won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver. We have Smith at 496, with Jeudy second on the team at 447.
8] Ale Kaho injury: The special-teams standout appeared to suffer his hand fracture after getting tangled up with blockers and landing awkwardly on Arkansas’ punt from its own 4. When Alabama needed just two plays to get into the red zone, tight end Giles Amos took his place as a short-yardage fullback. Not only did Kaho come back and play on special teams (with his left hand in a cast), but at interior linebacker. He had the first two tackles on the Razorbacks’ final possession, when they went three-and-out.
9] Tops in turnovers: Alabama has created 18 turnovers while having only lost five. That’s a +/- ratio of plus-13, and an average 1.63 per game, which leads the nation. The next-best SEC team should surprise nobody, LSU tied at No. 31 with 12 turnovers gained and eight lost, for plus-four and .50 average. The Crimson Tide is outscoring opponents 79-17 in points off turnovers, including 24 against the Razorbacks.
10] Digging away, if you will: Thanks to his 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown last week, the 84-yard interception return this week, and fielding three kickoffs for 72 yards, Diggs has 256 return yards on just five plays. Yet that's more than four opponents managed offensively against the Crimson Tide, including the last two, Tennessee (213) and Arkansas (231)