Photo from Twitter.
By Terrance Turner
Sept. 4, 2021
The University of Alabama faced the University of Miami in today’s season opener. Both teams had a Houston connection: Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien coached the Houston Texans for years, and Miami quarterback D’eriq King transferred from the University of Houston in Jan. 2020. But it was Georgia where the action unfolded: the Alabama Crimson Tide and Miami Hurricanes played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The two teams had not faced each other since the 1993 Sugar Bowl.
Alabama scored on its first possession. QB Bryce Young found a wide-open receiver John Metchie III for a 37-yard touchdown. The first-year quarterback went 4-for-5 passing, throwing for 67 yards on the opening drive. On the next drive, Young again took the Tide down the field. Kicker Will Reichard kicked a 38-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Miami suffered a major blow when defensive back Bubba Bolden was flagged for targeting. Bolden was ejected after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Brian Robinson, Jr. His disqualification was followed by the end of the first quarter.
TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA. Young connected with tight end Cameron Latu. On Miami’s drive, King fumbled after a tackle, and Alabama recovered. They were able to convert the drive into points: Will Reichard made a 51-yard FG to make it 20-0. The Crimson Tide built on that lead when Cameron Latu struck again. His 25-yd TD catch made the game 27-0, with 7:00 left in the second quarter.
Miami did manage to score some points before the end of the half. Down at the 20-yard line, Mimi head coach Manny Diaz chose to send his kicking unit out at the end of the half instead of taking a shot at the end zone. It worked. Andy Borregales kicked a 37-yard field goal to cut Alabama’s lead. It was 27-3 at halftime.
After the start of the third quarter, Miami moved down the field with ease, advancing to the red zone and even up to the one yard line. But D’eriq King was stopped on 4th and goal by the Alabama defense. Alabama’s offense took over near their own end zone, and the quarterback narrowly avoided an intentional grounding call after throwing the ball away under pressure. But refs ruled it an incomplete pass. Before long, Young fired to receiver Jameson Williams, who took it all the way to the house for a touchdown. Alabama led 34 to 3.
On Miami’s drive, a missed holding call and a particularly hard hit by the Alabama defense led to King throwing an interception. The refs only flagged Alabama for an illegal block in the back that occurrred after the interception had taken place. The Tide cashed in on that interception when running back Trey Sanders scored a 20-yard rushing touchdown:
It was 41-3. As the midpoint of the third quarter passed by, the Hurricanes were in increasingly dire straits. They finally got a preprieve when wide receiver Xavier Restrepo caught a pass in the end zone. Estrepo’s 29-yard touchdown was his first career TD.
Miami caught another break when its defense forced an interception. The Hurricanes made the most of that pick, reaching 1st and goal shortly afterward. King got sacked on 4th and goal, however. Borregales stepped in and kicked a field goal to make the score 41-13. That was the score at the end of the third quarter.
Alabama mounted a long scoring drive as the fourth quarter began. It culminated in a 40-yard field goal by Will Reichard. The Tide led 44-13 with 7:52 left to play. After the break, King suffered yet another setback when his pass was intercepted by Jaylen Mooney. That was the third turnover by Miami. Neither team scored in the game’s final seven minutes, although there were a slew of penalties (including three on one play). Alabama won, 44-13.
Bryce Young finished with with 344 yards passing and four touchdowns — the most ever by an Alabama player in his debut. When informed of his record after the game, Young repplied, “It’s a blessing, for sure. That’s not something I take lightly. There’s a lot of greats that have played here. Really, it’s a testament to my teammates and the coaching staff. The O-line did an amazing job blocking for me,” he said.