Alabama traveled to Tampa, Fla., on Saturday and beat South Florida 17-3 in one of the ugliest games in Nick Saban’s career at Alabama.

The Crimson Tide played an inferior team that only won one game last season; a team that Alabama should have dominated for four quarters, but it was quite the opposite.

Here are some key takeaways from the game.

  1. Quarterbacks

After starting Jalen Milroe for the first two weeks of the season, Nick Saban decided to go with Tyler Buchner to start against South Florida. Buchner led Alabama for the first five series of the game, which all resulted in punts. Before being pulled for Ty Simpson late in the second quarter, Buchner completed only 5 of 14 passes for just 34 yards. Simpson came in and completed 5 of 9 passes for 73 yards. He also added a 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Simpson wasn’t perfect but did show some potential of taking over the starting job. Milroe did not see a single snap despite being the starter for the first two games of the season. The quarterbacks still haven’t created any separation between each other.

  1. Running Backs

Crimson Tide fans have been begging for Alabama to run the ball, and that’s what they got on Saturday. Alabama rushed the ball 42 times for 203 yards. Senior Roydell Williams led the way, taking over the game for the Tide with 129 yards on 17 carries. Williams also punched in a touchdown late in the third quarter to give Alabama its first lead of the game. The offensive line opened running lanes and did what they should do against a smaller and less talented defensive line.

  1. Pass Rush

After struggling to generate a pass rush in the first two games of the season, Alabama’s defense finally created pressure on the quarterback. Last week, Alabama was shut out in the sack column, and this week they responded with five sacks. Dallas Turner led the way for the Crimson Tide with 2.5 sacks, while Deontae Lawson added 1.5 sacks. Alabama’s defensive backs did an excellent job in coverage that helped create the time needed for the front seven to get to the quarterback.

  1. Pass Protection

Alabama’s offensive line has not lived up to their expectations this year. Last week, Jalen Milroe was running for his life. This week, it was the same story, different quarterback. The absence of left guard Tyler Booker was largely felt. Ty Simpson was at the receiving end of five sacks by a less talented South Florida defensive line. Allowing pressure from an elite Texas defensive line is understandable, but giving up sacks to a team of South Florida’s caliber is inexcusable. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is if he doesn’t have time to throw the ball.

  1. Penalties

On Saturday, Alabama improved slightly in the penalty department, but the Tide still shot themselves in the foot multiple times. The Tide were only flagged five times this week for 35 yards. Just like last week though, Alabama had two big penalties that took two touchdowns off the board. A 100-yard kickoff return from Terrion Arnold and a 16-yard touchdown run by Roydell Williams were both called back due to holding penalties. Kool-Aid McKinstry had an interception negated in the third quarter because of a face mask penalty on Dallas Turner.

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