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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On second thought, a quieter approach might have been better.
Alabama players heard the noise from Vanderbilt players leading into Saturday’s SEC Opener. Calmly and collectedly, they took the composed approach, stating the comments didn’t bother them. Saturday, Crimson Tide players let the Commodores know how they really felt.
INSTANT ANALYSIS: Alabama blows out Vanderbilt in SEC opener 59-0
“Alabama, we want to be respected,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “Usually we are, and I guess we kind of felt like we didn’t have the respect we wanted coming into the game. We came out here and tried to play Alabama football. We did a good job today.”
In what was its biggest blowout since a 2014 win against Texas A&M, Alabama dominated Vanderbilt 59-0, outgaining the Commodores by a school-record 599 yards (677-78). Alabama racked up another school record of 38 first downs while holding Vanderbilt to three. The Tide piled on 496 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while adding 181 yards and a pair of scores through the air.
In other words, Alabama players heard Vanderbilt’s message and responded.
“We took that at as a challenge and we answered the bell,” Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said.
After being forced to punt on its first possession, Alabama scored on its next four drives, taking a commanding 31-0 lead into the half. Despite the dominant performance, the Tide was determined not let its foot off the gas. After fading late during the 41-23 win over Colorado State in Week 3, players made an extra emphasis of coming out strong in the second half Saturday.
“The whole game we were saying, ‘0-0, no scoreboard, just keep going,’” Pierschbacher said. “The whole team just took that as a challenge. Even when the 2s came on, we kept saying no matter who’s in the game we need to maintain the same standard.”
Getting the ball to start the second half, that standard was achieved as Alabama scored on its final four offensive possessions to close out the game.
Running back Damien Harris led the way for Alabama, rushing for a season-high 151 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Fellow junior Bo Scarbrough added another 79 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, while true freshman Najee Harris had 10 carries for 71 yards.
“I think it all started up front,” running back Damien Harris said. “The O-Line did a good job getting a hat on a hat, getting movement, moving the line of scrimmage. The blockers got us to the second and third level. We got to give all those guys some credit. They opened up the holes, we just made it look it pretty.”
Hurts finished 9 of 17 passing for 78 yards while adding 48 yards on nine carries. Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa also had a positive performance, completing 8 of 10 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman receiver Jerry Jeudy led the team with 68 receiving yards on three catches, including his first career touchdown from, 68 yards out, while Calvin Ridley pulled in 43 yards on a team-high five.
Defensively, Alabama was able to hold the Commodores to just 1 of 10 on first down. And while Vanderbilt entered the game with the nation’s No. 1 defense, allowing just 198.3 yards per game, Tide players wanted to make it clear who was the best defense in the SEC.
“We really just wanted to play with passion,” said linebacker Rashaan Evans, who was returning from a groin injury he suffered in Week 1. “That’s what I told these guys, we just need to play with more passion like we love this game. I think we did that this game and we will continue to do that this year.”
Despite the record-breaking performance, Alabama players say there is still room for improvement across the board. Alabama (4-0, 1-0 in the SEC) will return home next week to host Ole Miss (2-1) Saturday at 8 p.m. inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“It’s a positive step. It’s a step forward for sure,” Hurts said of the win over Vanderbilt. “But the game wasn’t perfect, there’s always something that you can work on.”