TUSCALOOSA, Al. – It felt like something was in the air inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night.
A flurry of questions about Alabama engulfed the conversation as kickoff neared and the 2023 season got underway. Did Alabama have a definitive answer at QB? How would both sides of the ball look under brand-new coordinators? Is Alabama still the standard?
It seemed as if all the questions, all the doubt, fueled Alabama en route to its 56-7 win over Middle Tennessee.
“I was really happy with the way we came out and played in this game. They answered the bell the way we wanted them to,” said Nick Saban after the game.
The season opener against the Blue Raiders provided a glance into the Tide’s workshop, where you could see hints of that fabled Alabama excellence that eluded the Crimson Tide last season.
Jalen Milroe had the best game of his Alabama career, throwing for 3 touchdowns, rushing for 2, and left zero doubt that he would be Saban’s first choice under center going forward.
“I thought Jalen did a good job… He’s more confident, doing a good job in the passing game,” Saban said.
Some wondered if the Tide would test multiple quarterbacks throughout the game, but Milroe’s command was never challenged. Tyler Buchner – the apparent QB2 – wouldn’t enter the game until it was firmly under crimson control.
Milroe appeared stoic in his first start as QB1, relying on a mix of his running ability and passing to command the offense. Even when there was the potential for something to go wrong after an early botched snap from Alabama center Seth McLaughlin, Milroe retrieved the ball and evaded a handful of defenders to turn a mistake into a moment – rushing into the end-zone for an astonishing touchdown.
“I think as he continues to develop and gain experience, he’s going to play better and better. But I thought he did a good job tonight.”
But perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Alabama’s dominant win was the lack of penalties they committed. Just a season ago, the Tide broke the school record for single-game penalties multiple times. It was one of the glaring issues with the 2022 team and has now become a focal point for the team. Saturday’s game saw just two penalties committed by the Crimson Tide.
The defense also showed flashes of former excellence under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, allowing just a single touchdown and creating a turnover late in the contest. All-told, Middle Tennessee would be held to just over 200-yards in the game.
Alabama’s attention now turns to the Texas Longhorns, who gave the Tide quite a fight in Austin last season. That game’s kick is set for 6 p.m. CT in Tuscaloosa.
Nicholas Pursley is the Sports Director at WVUA-FM and co-hosts The Low Tide from 7-8 p.m. CT on 90.7 FM Sunday nights. You can follow Nicholas @nicholaspursley on X.