September 23, 2017
Alabama running back Damien Harris’ eyes lit up when he saw a hole the size of a mack truck in front of him. When he made it to the second level, Harris focused on not getting caught like he did on some of his long runs last season. He achieved his goal and scampered 61-yards to put No. 1 Alabama up by two touchdowns over Vanderbilt early in the game.
“Once I got to the second and third level, I started subconsciously thinking about a couple of runs I had last year that I wasn’t able to finish,” Harris said. “…I started thinking about that and I was like I can’t, I can’t let it happen. It was a big hole that I ran through, and I was able to capitalize.”
Alabama’s running game was key in its 59-0 victory over the Commodores. Runs like Harris’ happened consistently throughout the game as Alabama was able to gash Vanderbilt’s defense over and over. The Crimson Tide finished with 496 rushing yards- the highest total of Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama.
Harris led the way, finishing with a career-high 151 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than he had all of last season. Bo Scarbrough was not far behind him, tallying up 79 yards and two touchdowns. Harris was the first 100-yard rusher for Alabama this season.
Harris said Alabama’s dominating performance on the ground began at the point of attack.
“I think it all started up front,” Harris said. “I think the O-line did a great job getting a hat on a hat, moving the line of scrimmage and blocking people at the second and third level. We have to give all of those guys credit. They opened up the holes, we just made it look pretty.”
Harris and Scarbrough weren’t the only ones to contribute to Alabama’s historic day on the ground. The Crimson Tide had nine players register carries against Vanderbilt. Freshmen Najee Harris and Brian Robinson saw significant action. Robinson, who got his first carries of the day, scored his first career touchdown and finished with 51 yards.
Alabama’s offensive did not get the push it wanted in previous games, so today it came with a point to prove.
“We had a good week of practice up front, probably the best week we’ve had so far,” Offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. “We challenged ourselves early and pushed it early. It showed tonight.”
Alabama’s passing game did not have to do much to secure a victory. Jalen Hurts took care of the ball and had 78 yards passing and 48 yards rushing. Hurts’ day ended early like most of Alabama’s starters. Tua Tagovailoa replaced him, and made possibly Alabama’s most highlight worthy player of the game. Tagovailoa danced around in the pocket, made multiple defenders miss and delivered a 27-yard strike to DeVonta Smith for a touchdown.
Hurts was watching on the sideline, and a flashed a big smile and plenty of excitement over the impressive play by the backup quarterback.
“I heard the playcall and I told Minkah Fitzpatrick, ‘This is a touchdown,’” Hurts said. “The play went on, he threw the ball, ran in and scored. I said, ‘I told you.’ It’s all love and it’s all good to see somebody step in and make the plays that they make.”
Alabama put both phases together on offense, but the ground game and the offensive line stood out in the victory. The offensive line challenged itself this week to clear more room for the running backs to run through. The results showed, and the Crimson Tide will hope to keep its strong performance going into future games.
“(Vanderbilt was) saying we’re next, and they had something for us,” Pierschbacher said. “We took that as a challenge.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports