As expected, Alabama had little trouble with Mercer. It’s always tough to glean anything from these paycheck games, especially when they go as planned. Saban said after the game that there were no injuries to be concerned about, which is a win in and of itself these days.
The story of the game has to be the play of freshman LB Dylan Moses. Forced into action by the injuries to Mack Wilson and Shaun Dion Hamilton, Moses became the first freshman to start at “Mike” in Tuscaloosa since Rolando McClain in 2007. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch, as the Bears were able to find decent running room on a few inside zones. He played well, however, finishing with eleven tackles, including four for loss, and in interception. As expected, his freakish athleticism jumped off the screen. That kind of closing speed will make up for the occasional false step. His play drew praise from the head man and his teammates, and offered at least some hope that the team can navigate the next two weeks while Wilson heals. Of course, Auburn’s misdirection and quality offensive line will be a much greater challenge for young Dylan.
Offensively, this game was a markedly better performance than this time last season against Chattanooga. The Tide converted 67% of its third down chances, though they amazingly faced only six all afternoon. Jalen Hurts completed all seven of his passes for a cool 180 yards and three TDs, while Tua Tagovailoa finished 7/11 for 85 yards and and added three TDs of his own. The Tide likely didn’t run the ball as consistently as they’d hope against this caliber of opponent, but there were plenty of big plays mixed in. Nine different ballcarriers, including walk-on Austin Johnson, split 42 carries for 265 yards.
Saban said that all of the seniors got to play, which was the goal. Hootie Jones got an interception in his final game in Bryant-Denny, and J.K. Scott kicked the air out of the ball a couple times. Scott also kicked all of the extra points as Andy Pappanastos missed the game with a minor injury that shouldn’t cause him any future trouble.
Again, it is hard to draw too much from this one. The Tide played with the necessary urgency to put the game away early, and will now embark on what amounts to a four game playoff. If Moses is as ready as he appears to be, and the Tide are able to survive long enough to let some of the others heal, you have to like their chances.