Alabama treats every team the same, as if they’re “faceless,” as Saban and his players put it after the game. Anything less than equal preparation for each opponent will not be tolerated. But in their 45-3 win over Georgia State on Homecoming Week Saturday, it was depth that showed through for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
"I was grateful to play a lot of players today,” Saban said. “Obviously some of them did some good things and we have some things we need to correct. But I think the experience creates the best learning opportunity for every guy who had an opportunity to play.”
Alabama emptied out the depth chart on Saturday, playing over 70 players, according to Saban. The Crimson Tide also finally opened up the playbook, calling runs, passes - screens, play action and more - and got their previous communication issues apparently under control.
As part of the Panther blowout, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was near-perfect: 15-of-16 passing for 166 yards and a tied personal best four touchdowns. He played so well that he was benched in the second quarter as Alabama led 35-0.
While McCarron was in the game and when backup quarterback Blake Sims entered the game, Alabama spread the ball on offense.
T.J. Yeldon, Kenyon Drake, Derrick Henry, Jalston Fowler and Altee Tenpenny all got carries at running back, with Yeldon leading the pack, running for 51 yards. All the backs combining for 181 yards on the ground. Along with the running back success, everyone from walk-ons and graduate assistants to medical redshirts all caught passes in this game. OK, not really the latter two, but walk-on wide receiver Parker Barrineau did catch a pass. Actually, 15 different receivers caught at least one pass Saturday for the Crimson Tide and six different receivers caught touchdowns: Christion Jones, TJ Yeldon, DeAndrew White, Kenyan Drake, Jalston Fowler and Chris Black.
“I feel like we have a bunch of great leaders and older guys on this team that know how to lead the younger guys, and show them how to do things the right way,” McCarron said. “I felt like we came out and didn’t worry about who we were playing. We just worried about how we wanted to play, and how we wanted to dictate the game.”
The sauna-like, early morning conditions weren’t an issue as Alabama scored on each of its first five possessions, held Georgia State to staggeringly low offensive production, and no player on either team was seriously injured. This game could be seen as Alabama’s first fully complete game with offense, defense and special teams all playing to the lofty Saban standards. But this coming together of Alabama’s football phases did occur against a team who lost to Samford earlier this year.
But even in a blowout, this is a teaching moment for Saban: An opportunity for his team to get experience for their young players and build on their progress as they dive back into Southeastern Conference play.
“I’m really pleased and proud of the way our guys competed today, and I’m sure there is a lot of things that we can work on to improve,” Saban said. “We’ve got a four-game stretch here in the SEC of teams that are pretty good, and it’s going to be important for us to start playing our best football.”