The top-ranked Crimson Tide throttled the Panthers 45-3 on a hot fall Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“I was really proud of the way our team came out and played today,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We wanted to kind of build on the competitive momentum that we really sort of established last week in the (Ole Miss) game.”
Offensively, the Tide was balanced with 477 yards (296 passing, 181 rushing). Fifteen different Alabama players caught at least one pass, while six running backs were able to get at least three carries apiece.
“I was really pleased with the way we came out, especially offensively, and scored touchdowns on the first five possessions and a field goal on the sixth,” Saban said. “We executed better, and I think our players made some improvement.”
Quarterback AJ McCarron played near perfectly in his short time on the field, completing 15 of 16 passes for 166 yards and four touchdowns. He took his last snap with more than six minutes left in the second period, allowing backup Blake Sims to finish the final two and a half quarters.
“Just very blessed that coach (Saban) gave me the opportunity to get out there and do a good job,” Sims said. “I have to thank AJ for giving me the opportunity, too, for pouring points on the board, and the offensive line for helping him do that.”
Sims picked up where McCarron left off, connecting on 14 of 18 throws for 130 yards and a touchdown. He showed poise in the pocket and scrambled only when necessary as opposed to running only read-option plays.
“Blake has made a significant improvement as a quarterback,” Saban said. “This was probably the first time that he’s really played where we really allowed him to sort of run the offense. We put him in there today and I said, ‘Look, I don’t want any quarterback runs. He needs to run the offense just like he has to play.’ I thought he did a really good job.”
Added Sims, “I feel like the coaching staff, AJ and all the other quarterbacks kept me real calm. Just repetition in practice and the teamwork helped. Everybody kept everybody calm.”
Defensively, it was another lockdown performance for the Tide, which held the Panthers to 175 yards of offense, including 15 rushing yards. All-America linebacker C.J. Mosley again led the charge with six tackles, two for loss.
Alabama hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 12 straight quarters.
“Defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays,” Saban said. “Playing a lot of guys, rotating guys around. One time we didn’t have a corner. First play of the second half, the guy thought he was supposed to be in nickel, but he was supposed be in regular. Some of those things got a little sloppy at times, but I think the benefit far outweighs the consequence in terms of the experience that those guys were able to gain.”
Saban understands the benefit of playing young players in games such as these, especially as the Crimson Tide enters the meat of its Southeastern Conference schedule.
“Really pleased and proud of the way our guys came out and competed today,” Saban said. “I’m sure there’s lots of things that we can work on to improve, and I think it will be important for us to improve.
"We’ve got a four-game stretch here of SEC teams that are all pretty good, and it's going to be important to us to start playing our best football right now.”