A year ago Alabama used a blitzkrieg attack to knock opponents out before the game even started. The Crimson Tide averaged an FBS-best 15.5 points in the first quarter, scoring at least one opening frame touchdown in all 15 games.
So far in 2019, they’re 0-for-1.
Alabama’s first three possessions ended in a three-and-out, a fumble and a missed field goal, but the end result was the same. The No. 2 Crimson Tide steamrolled a completely overmatched Duke team, 42-3 in Atlanta.
Tua Tagovailoa was his predictably brilliant self, hitting 26-of-31 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns before he was pulled in the third quarter. Biletnikoff award winner Jerry Jeudy made a great opening case to join Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon as the award’s only two-time winners by catching 10 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, while Jaylen Waddle added five grabs for 90 yards.
The Tide’s defense, retooled due to early entrants and key injuries, dominated Duke’s offense. Blue Devils quarterback Quentin Harris was 12-of-22 for 97 yards with two interceptions, and Duke rushed for just 107 yards on 3.3 yards a carry,.
If there was a weak spot for Alabama, it was its own running game. The Crimson Tide managed only 3.5 yards per carry on 42 rushes.
Alabama more or less invented the modern day neutral site opener; their 34-10 steamrolling of No. 9 Clemson in the inaugural Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game back in 2008 served as the unofficial beginning of the ongoing Nick Saban dynasty. Alabama has returned to Atlanta five times since, they’ve played in Dallas three times, trekked to Orlando once. Alabama is also scheduled to play USC in Dallas again in 2020, and they’ll return to Atlanta to play Miami in 2021, but after that they’re done. Starting with a trip to Texas in 2022, Alabama will return to playing home-and-homes with major non-conference opponents, and for good reason. These games stopped being interesting years ago.
Alabama moved to a perfect 10-0 in neutral site openers. Judging by the $20 tickets that could be had up until kickoff, the Alabama fan base has had its fill of Atlanta and Dallas in September and they’re ready for a new challenge.
The rest of us are, too.