The last we saw these Crimson Tide, Tua Tagovailoa used his electrifying, unorthodox style to team with a group of young, athletic wide receivers to lead an astonishing comeback past Georgia to win the national championship. Nine months later, not much has changed. No. 1 Alabama opened the year with yet another neutral site romping, blowing out Louisville 51-14 in Orlando.
The win was Alabama’s 74th straight over an unranked opponent, an AP poll record.
Nick Saban finally, officially deemed the sophomore Hawaiian has his starting quarterback just before the top-ranked Crimson Tide kicked Saturday night, and it was immediately evident why. Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and immediately moved 65 yards in seven snaps, reaching pay dirt on an 11-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Jerry Jeudy.
The Tide’s next drive ended prematurely when a Tagovailoa connection to Devonta Smith (the fellow sophomore on the receiving end of Tagovailoa’s golden rainbow last January) ended in a fumble at the Louisville 17-yard line. No matter, Alabama forced a three-and-out and then marched 55 yards in six plays, scoring on a 9-yard Tagovailoa rush, pushing their lead to 14-0 at the 4:04 mark of the first quarter.
Louisville threatened to get on the scoreboard on the ensuing possession, but Jawon Pass was intercepted by Deionte Thompson, one of five new starters in Alabama’s defensive backfield, in the end zone. After a 25-yard return, Alabama was inside Louisville’s 10-yard line three plays later, thanks largely to a 49-yard rainbow from Tagovailoa to true freshman Jaylen Waddle. Najee Harris gave Alabama a 21-0 lead three plays later.
If there was one weak point for Alabama in the first half — and you know a sect of Tide fans is looking for one — it’s that Jalen Hurts played two second quarter series and the Tide didne’t score on either of them. The junior’s two series covered a combined 52 yards but both ended in punts.
Alabama seemed content to take a 3-touchdown lead into the break, but Waddle broke free for a 31-yard punt return to the Louisville 25 with 27 ticks left in the half, and Tagovailoa returned to capitalize in the form of his second touchdown pass to Jeudy of the night with nine seconds remaining in the half, staking the Tide to a 28-0 lead at the break.
Louisville finally got on the board at the 6:27 mark of the third quarter when Jawon Pass found tight end Kemari Averett for a 12-yard touchdown pass, but the Cardinals never seriously threatened the Tide. Josh Jacobs scored twice for Alabama in the second half, first on an 18-yard rush, then on a 77-yard kickoff return, and Shyheim Carter pushed the Tide over the half-a-hundred mark with a 45-yard pick six midway through the fourth quarter. Pass again connected with Averett for an 8-yard score to complete the scoring with 1:55 to play.