Alabama notebook: Motivated Jacobs produces against homestate Sooners
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Josh Jacobs glared incredulously as a member of Alabama’s training staff attempted to hand him a hit of oxygen.
The Crimson Tide’s junior do-it-all tailback had no time to take a breath, not even after running over Oklahoma defensive back Robert Barnes on a 27-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to put Alabama ahead by four scores two minutes into the second quarter Saturday evening.
Playing against his home-state Sooners, a program located just two hours South of his home in Tulsa, a highly-motivated Jacobs racked up 158 total yards, including a team-high 98 rushing yards on 15 carries against an Oklahoma team he felt disrespected him by offering a scholarship just two weeks before National Signing Day back in 2016.
“I had seen them at my games before, so it’s not like they didn’t know who I was,” Jacobs told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday. “That’s probably the biggest thing – I felt disrespected, honestly.”
Jacobs was especially key as Alabama tried to run clock after going ahead 28-0 on his 27-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter, including gaining 47 yards on a 12-play series that took up more than 7 minutes off the game clock late in the first half. That included opening the drive with four straight runs for a combined 31 yards, a 7-yard run out of the Wildcat on third-and-1, and catching a 9-yard pass on a quick bubble screen to get deep into Oklahoma territory.
Alabama actually got to into a third-and-inches situation from the Oklahoma 15-yard-line before a litany of self-imposed mistakes doomed the drive, beginning with a false start by sophomore right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. After exchanging timeouts, a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to tight end Irv Smith Jr. was called back because of an illegal formation penalty against Wills.
The Tide actually committed four penalties for a combined negative-24 yards before a merciful 38-yard field goal by redshirt freshman kicker Joseph Bulovas put Alabama ahead 31-10 just before halftime.
Despite Saban expressing some frustration during the series, including breaking his headset and visibly cursing at his players, Saban was complimentary of the 12-play, 55-yard series that took 7:05 off the game clock.
“We had a great drive there (at the end of the half). We took 6 minutes off the clock, but we didn’t finish,” Saban said at halftime. “Three penalties in short-yardage situations – you can’t do it. We have to play better defense because these guys are capable of scoring fast.”
Alabama senior outside linebacker Christian Miller was forced to the locker room early in the second half after appearing to suffer a left hamstring injury while chasing Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
Miller pulled up lame on a third-and-6 scramble by Murray just inside of the 10-minute mark of the third quarter and remained on the turf for several minutes before trainers helped him to the team medical tent. Miller would eventually be helped to the locker room, and was unable to put any weight on his left leg as he did so. He would not return.
If significant, it would be the second straight year that Miller suffered a devastating injury after tearing his biceps in last season’s opener against Florida State. After sitting out 10 straight games, Miller would eventually return for Alabama’s playoff run.
There were no miraculous returns Saturday as all three Alabama players previously diagnosed with season-ending injuries sat out Saturday’s game.
That included still-rehabilitating outside linebackers Chris Allen and Terrell Lewis, both of whom have been participating in practice over the last few weeks, but neither dressed out against Oklahoma.
Lewis, who underwent ACL surgery on his right knee in mid-July, was previously in full uniform for the SEC Championship Game but has yet to play this season.
Junior cornerback Trevon Diggs, who suffered a broken foot against Arkansas, has taken on a coaching role while continuing to rehab, helping several of the team’s younger cornerbacks, including freshmen Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe.
While much of the pregame focus was on the two Heisman Trophy-finalist quarterbacks playing Saturday, two legendary Hall of Fame quarterbacks caused a bit of a stir before the game.
Legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and revered former Alabama and New York Jets signal caller Joe Namath drew plenty of eyes along the Alabama sideline during pregame warmups.
Other former Crimson Tide players in attendance included Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson and former New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner.
Former Alabama running back Shaun Alexander was honored as one of four new inductees to the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony, along with former FSU defense end Derrick Alexander, ex-Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost, and former collegiate head coaches Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.
Country music singer Toby Keith, a well-known Sooners fan, was spotted on the Oklahoma sideline.