Alabama football: A motivated Jalen Hurts comes out firing against Fresno State
TUSCALOOSA -- Coming off one of his worst games at Alabama, Jalen Hurts made one thing abundantly clear this week -- there needs to be improvement on offense.
"He knew starting this week that he was going to come in and play better," junior tight end Hale Hentges said of Hurts. "He made it known to all of us right from the get-go, saying 'Hey guys, we need to do better this week,' and we did."
Alabama's sophomore quarterback silenced any remaining critics with an electric offensive performance that began in breakneck fashion.
Alabama scored on its second snap Saturday as Hurts broke free on a 55-yard touchdown run to spark a 41-10 win over Fresno State.
"For him to kind of get us going like that is great from a leadership standpoint," Hentges said, "because he's our leader, obviously, and you want your leader to be headstrong and rally the team. He did that this week and it reflected upon a great game."
Alabama's quick start began with a simple screen past to senior receiver Cam Sims -- who didn't have a target last week against Florida State -- that resulted in an 18-yard completion on the game's first play.
Hurts then kept a zone-read handoff and followed a pulling lead block from Hentges down the right side of the field before muscling his way across the corner pylon for the 55-yard score 39 seconds into the game.
"I think that can be a big momentum changer, coming out fast," Hurts said. "Every offense in college football, that's their goal -- come out fast -- no matter who their opponent is, and that's what we did today."
After his TD run, Hurts led the top-ranked Tide to touchdown drives on its first three series, including a 3-yard touchdown run to go up top 21-3 with 14:25 left in the second quarter. Alabama scored touchdowns on its first four series he was at quarterback.
Hurts was nearly perfect in the first half, completing 12 of 13 pass attempts for 112 yards -- including a 23-yard touchdown throw to Hentges to cap the second offensive series. He finished 14 of 18 for 128 passing yards.
HIGHLIGHTS: Alabama rolls past Fresno State in Week 2
"He did a great job today. He threw the ball to the right place, was accurate with (it, and) he kind of took what the defense gave him," coach Nick Saban said. "I would've like to see us make some more explosive plays in the passing game, but the passing efficiency was a lot better."
With the focus on spreading the ball around, 11 different receivers recorded receptions Saturday as the Tide offense racked up 497 yards, with 305 rushing and an additional 192 through the air.
In all, Hurts combined for 282 yards of total offense, including a career-high 154 rushing yards and the two scores on just six total offensive series.
"You try to contain the weapons on the field and the quarterback will get you," Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford said. "He ran all over us today. He's a big, physical guy with a lot of speed. It's hard to contain him."
Hurts described his career-high performance on the ground as "productive," but acknowledged there were still plenty of room for improvement.
"But it wasn't a perfect game -- I wasn't 100 percent (passing), we had some mistakes offensively, special teams and defensively (we) had some mistakes I'm sure," Hurts said. "We want to be the best we can be. It's not about personal stats, about (any single) individual, it's about playing to the standard."
With his three first-half touchdowns, Hurts moved into 10th place on the program's all-time list for career touchdowns responsible for at 40, one behind quarterback Greg McElroy with 41.
Alabama's fourth offensive series began with a new face at quarterback as Tua Tagovailoa got his first action with 10:35 left in the second quarter. The fan favorite Tagovailoa finished 6 of 9 for 64 yards with a 16-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Henry Ruggs III with 2:41 remaining. He was sacked once.
"He obviously will learn from it, took a sack when he shouldn't take a sack," Saban said. "But I think he did a lot of good things."
Fresno State (1-1) did make some plays against Alabama's defense, including Jimmy Camacho's 27-yard field goal with 4:03 left in the first quarter.
Bulldogs quarterback Chason Virgil eventually found the end zone, but not until Alabama emptied its bench, connecting with Derrion Grim for a 26-yard touchdown to pull within 34-10 with 6:06 remaining.
"We didn't finish one drive in the second half and that was a little disappointing with having the ball down in there close, but all in all I'd say we improved," Saban said. "All in all I'm pleased with the progress that we made, and we certainly need to stay focused on the things we need to improve and continue to get better."
This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.