In the second quarter of its 30-12 win over Auburn, Alabama’s offense was struggling. The team was moving the ball, but turnovers cut many drives short. So, when quarterback Jalen Hurts failed to find wide receiver ArDarius Stewart wide open in the back of the end zone, frustration started to set in.
“We didn’t want let turnovers and things like that become a common thing,” said running back Damien Harris. “We wanted to get back in our groove and get back in our rhythm on the next drive.”
Alabama’s passing game got off to a red hot start. Hurts was 12-of-14 passing in the first quarter, and the team seemed to be in a rhythm when he found Harris in the backfield for a 17-yard touchdown. That rhythm did not last long as Alabama failed to take care of the ball.
Hurts threw two interceptions in the second quarter. The passing game fell out of sync, and The Crimson Tide needed someone to step up. Stewart did just that, finishing with a career-high 10 catches that went for 127 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s a playmaker,” Harris said of Stewart. “Any time we can get the ball in his hands, we know he is very explosive. He can make a at any given moment. He’s a big part of our offense and he put that on display today.”
This is not the first Iron Bowl that Stewart has performed well in. In the 2015 game against the Tigers, he finished with 8 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Center Bradley Bozeman said the Iron Bowl means a lot to Stewart.
“He has so much passion for the game,” Bozeman said. “He’s from the state also, so it’s a little more personal.”
The spark of Alabama’s passing game was one of the keys to the team’s success in the second half. Already up 11 points in the third quarter, Hurts found Stewart for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Hurts battled back after multiple mistakes to lead the Crimson Tide’s passing attack and set an Iron Bowl bowl record by completing 75 percent of his passing attempts.
Center Bradley Bozeman said the offense knew Hurts would bounce back after turning it over twice.
“Jalen [Hurts] is very mature,” Bozeman said. “He is very strong and really smart. He’s good at what he does. We never had any doubt in him.”
Running back Bo Scarborough missed the two games heading into the Iron Bowl with a lingering knee injury. It remained a mystery whether he was going to be 100 percent healthy against Auburn.
Scarborough played well and acted as a battering ram for the Alabama offense. He broke big runs for the Crimson Tide in the second half and finished with 90 yards on 17 carries.
Stewart said Scarborough’s performance is something he has been waiting on.
“When we got out there and he made those runs I went to him and told him, ‘that’s the Bo I know.’” Stewart said. “He came in running hard when he was a young guy. He really came into his own tonight.”
Scarborough and Alabama’s running game started to click in the second half. The team more than doubled Auburn’s time of possession, and started to wear down the Tiger’s front seven. The running game sealed Alabama’s 18-point victory over the Tigers.
“When you keep pounding and pounding, you kind of wear them down.” Bozeman said. “We wore them down and we were able to capitalize on that.”
Alabama’s offense will face a tough test next week when the team travels to take on Florida Gators and its fifth-ranked defense in the SEC Championship. The game will kick off at 4 p.m. EST on CBS.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports