Despite a tumultuous first half, the Alabama Crimson Tide surged in the third quarter to defeat The Citadel Bulldogs 50-17.
Both sides of the ball seemed to struggle early as the offense only mustered seven points off of 209 total yards. The defense gave up 149 first-half yards to the triple option threat of the Bulldogs. However, the second half saw the Crimson Tide put up 40 points, thanks in large part to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s three third-quarter touchdowns.
“You don’t want some external factor, like ho you’re playing against, to motivate you because it’s really not about winning or losing. It’s really about trying to be the best player,” head coach Nick Saban said.
The stressful first half began with The Citadel converting three third-downs, though they failed to find points.
Tua Tagovailoa and the Tide responded with an eight play, 80-yard drive culminating in a 21-yard touchdown pass from the Heisman hopeful to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle on a corner route.
The hardnose Bulldogs came back with a touchdown of their own as Dante Smith took an option pitch off right tackle 45 yards to hit paydirt.
Defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said many of his teammates had not seen a triple option team since high school and it took some time to adjust.
“They came out and ran it to perfection,” he said.
Williams was responsible for six tackles, including the game’s only sack on The Citadel’s first pass play.
The wild first half saw the teams exchange field goals into halftime, shockingly tied at 10.
“I think in the second half we did a much better job on defense to make some halftime adjustments to a couple of the formations that they were in,” Saban said.
The Citadel recovered a second-half opening kickoff fumble by Miller Forristall, but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize as Jacob Godek missed a 45-yard field goal.
From there, the Crimson Tide took over and did not look back.
Alabama scored 27 unanswered points in the third quarter beginning with Tua finding Waddle for their second touchdown connection of the game. Linebacker Anfernee Jennings scoop-and-scored a fumble from Nkem Njoku for 18 yards as well.
Tagovailoa broke AJ McCarron’s single-season passing touchdown record with his 31st going to tight end Irv Smith, Jr. on a dig route over the middle that broke into a 68-yard score.
“It’s always nice to see our players who are performing well get recognized for what they do and Tua has had a really good year,” Saban said.
“A lot of credit does belong to my teammates,” Tua said. He credited the opportunity to how well the offense has played over the season.
Tua’s final scoring effort came on a sneak following a 14-yard scramble to finish his day. He went 18-22 for 340 yards with four rushes for 37 yards and four total touchdowns.
After battling a foot injury the past few weeks, Jalen Hurts entered the game to a grand ovation. He went 3-4 for 31 yards and a touchdown to DeVonta Smith early in the fourth.
Damien Harris left the game following a 73-yard run in the fourth with a mild concussion. Deionte Thompson left the game with a knee bruise from a hard cut block. Thompson could have gone back in the game, but Harris will be a name to watch on the injury report going into next week.
Alabama will host Auburn next week for the 83rd Iron Bowl at 2:30.
(Photo courtesy of The Crimson White