At 63-7, the final score of Alabama’s win over Louisiana-Monroe made sense. They’re just on different levels.
The route to the rout perhaps varied a bit from the script.
Winning by 56 in this era typically involves passing-game pyrotechnics — bombs away and here comes the blowout. But look at the numbers Saturday evening and it wasn’t a pure offensive outburst in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young, in fact, had the fewest attempts since becoming a starter last fall. And the 13 completions, the fewest by four. As a team, it was the fewest completions and attempts since a 2019 win over Western Carolina when the Tide was 12-for-15 throws a week after Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury.
Like that November day, the pace Saturday just didn’t require that heavy lifting from the passing game — not when three non-offensive touchdowns filled the gaps.
In all, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner had 236 passing yards, three touchdowns and his second two-interception game at Alabama. The Crimson Tide had three touchdowns on the board before Young threw his fourth pass.
A week after Saban questioned some of the offensive philosophy for the 20-19 win over Texas, he said it wasn’t fair to fully judge the passing game Saturday. The fact ULM played split safeties deep on the back end changed the dynamic, he said.
“They’re going to be able to take the downfield passing game away,” Saban said. “So but when you throw to the guys and takes what the defense gives, somebody else runs the ball for 25 or 30 yards. So it’s not really fair to say what was the downfield passing game today.
Saban noted Young missed one deep shot to Jermaine Burton with an overthrow.
“But I think he made good decisions about not trying to force the ball downfield when they’re playing really soft, trying to take those things away,” Saban said.
Both of Young’s interceptions came on balls thrown down field, the first a true deep ball on the second possession and then a more intermediate ball to Ja’Corey Brooks after halftime.
The game opened with a few passes that stretched the defense. No wide out had a catch of more than 25 yards in the first two games before Brooks caught a 29 yarder on the third snap. Traeshon Holden topped that on the next play, a 33-yard touchdown that put Alabama ahead less than two minutes into the game.
Holden later said the offense felt more efficient Saturday while admitting it was somewhat frustrating when ULM played those deep safeties.
“We just chop down,” Holden said, “and when they play up, we take a shot.”
Leading 35-7 at halftime, Alabama didn’t do much in terms of the running game before intermission. The top two running backs, Gibbs and Jase McClellan, had nine carries for 52 yards before third-teamer Roydell Williams came off the bench midway through the third quarter. Handoffs came his way on all five snaps that possession, the fifth being a hardnosed 10-yard touchdown for the Hueytown product. His five-carry, 57-yard drive helped get the possession time back where Alabama wanted it after ULM had the ball for 12:08 of the second quarter.
“It was go time,” Williams said about his mindset after coming off the bench. “It time to go. The O-line did a fantastic job. The coaches upstairs called a great scheme and it was time to go.”
There were a few new combinations up front to help with that ground game that ended with 273 yards on 39 carries. True freshman Tyler Booker was getting first team reps at guard after making the move from tackle. The New Haven, Connecticut product’s physicality impressed Saban enough to say he’s competing with returning starters at guard, Emil Ekiyor and Kendall Randolph.
And with the passing game, Gibbs again finished as the top target with four catches, 65 yards and a second-half touchdown. Holden was the only other wideout with more than one catch, adding three for 60 yards and his game-opening score. Tight end Cameron Latu caught the deepest ball of the day, a 38-yard pass on a drive that ended with freshman tight end Amari Niblack’s 15-yard touchdown on his first collegiate catch.
Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.