TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama didn’t miss a beat after tailback Damien Harris went down a couple of minutes into the game.
The youngsters made sure of it.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed the opening drive with a 20-yard touchdown run and fellow freshman Joshua Jacobs scored his first two career touchdowns in the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s 48-0 win Saturday over Kent State.
The Tide (4-0) dominated coach Nick Saban’s alma mater from the start while scoring on a kickoff return and even a short touchdown throw to linebacker/short-yardage blocker Mack Wilson — yet another freshman. The only bad news for Alabama was Harris sprained his right ankle on the opening drive and didn’t return.
He was hardly needed in this game, when No. 2 quarterback Blake Barnett played much of the way and the emerging Jacobs ran for 97 yards. It amounted to a Saturday afternoon respite for the Tide after a bruising 48-43 comeback win over No. 23 Mississippi.
“The goal going into this game was to play a complete game, start fast, finish, and I think we probably did that as well as we’ve done all year,” Saban said.
Hurts was 16-of-24 passing for 164 yards and ran for 54 yards while splitting time with Barnett. He found Wilson for a 1-yard third-quarter score that was supposed to go to tight end O.J. Howard.
“It’s his first career (touchdown), so I can’t be mad about that,” Howard said. “I’m happy somebody caught it.”
He did catch a 34-yarder from Barnett, who first got into the game early in the second quarter. Saban said Harris is “day to day” and his status is uncertain against Kentucky. The Kentucky native came into the game ranked fifth in the Southeastern Conference with 327 yards.
“It’s just tough to see a player who means so much to our offense go down,” Howard said.
Alabama did whatever it wanted in the first half, outgaining Kent State 352-53 and amassing a 41-0 lead. The Golden Flashes, who had trailed Penn State 16-13 at halftime in the opener, managed just 13 passing yards in the first three quarters before finally driving in the fourth.
Backup quarterback George Bollas was initially given a touchdown on a fourth-quarter run toward the goal line, but was ruled down at the 1 after a review.
Most of the fans, including all but a handful of students, were long gone by then.
Kent State: There’s a chance to bounce back in Mid-American Conference play when the playing field is more even. “There were a lot of times we kind of gave them plays and weren’t being very disciplined,” Kent State coach Paul Hayes said.
Alabama: Dominated in every phase of the game (including a 502-166 advantage in total yards) and got plenty of reserves action, most notably Barnett and Jacobs. Harris’s health was the only major issue, though receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster sat out to rest injured knees. Both are questionable against Kentucky.
Alabama can’t be ranked any higher than No. 1 and this game wasn’t much of an opportunity to impress poll voters anyway.
It was the Tide’s 18th shutout under Saban. “That’s what we’re looking for every week,” linebacker Ryan Anderson said. “We’re glad we were able to go out there and do it and glad the second team was able to uphold that standard.”
Kent State hosts Akron in homecoming game and MAC opener.
Alabama hosts Kentucky in its first SEC home game.