TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — He felt someone nipping at his heel.
That was about as close as New Mexico State got to Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoon, not only during the first snap, but the game as a while.
No one caught wide receiver Henry Ruggs III while opening the scoring with a 75-yard touchdown as Alabama quickly pulled away and easily defeated New Mexico State 62-10.
“I knew when I saw green grass, I was like I got this,” said Ruggs, who finished with 160 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns. “I just have to outrun everyone.”
Although the Aggies seemed to bring the desert with them, as the teams dealt with a heat index of 105 at kickoff, the Crimson Tide wasn’t phased. It helped keep some fans at home while the blowout promoted many to leave early, but Alabama still racked up 603 total yards of offense.
The last time it did so was against Arkansas last season, and the Crimson Tide tallied just 8 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter after the starters had been pulled.
“This was a good performance for our team,” Nick Saban said. “I think there were times when we got a little sloppy.”
Junior Jerry Jeudy had a career-high three touchdowns, to go with eight receptions and 103 yards. Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa totaled 227 yards by going 16-for-24 for with three passing touchdowns, and ran in a fourth before sitting down in the third quarter.
Defensively, Alabama had seven tackles for a loss including three sacks as the Aggies’ spread attack never got going.
Senior defensive end Raekwon Davis and junior defensive back Xavier McKinney tied for the most tackles with six each. Sophomore defensive back Patrick Surtain II made first interception of the season while also forcing a fumble.
“Allof the problems start from them up front,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. “They're really hard to block, and it's hard to pass protect long enough to push the ball down the field.
“You're really limited with how many deep routes you can run. It's hard to get explosive plays on them. You're not going to get many 80-yard drives against a team like that. You've got to have some explosive plays.”
Alabama obviously didn’t have that problem. From the first swing pass, later ruled to be a lateral, the Crimson Tide had no trouble reaching the end zone. The first touchdown occurred with only 13 seconds off the clock, and before the statistical change Tagovailoa had a passer efficiency rating of 1060.
Jaylen Waddle nearly matched the first score with his own electric touchdown, only his 77-yard punt return after New Mexico State went three-and-out was nullified by an illegal-block penalty.
So Alabama simply covered the distance in 10 plays, with Jeudy catching a 21-yard touchdown.
Regardless, tone had been set and the outcome was never in doubt. Jeudy caught another touchdown (23 yards), Ruggs had another, receiving this time for 10 yards, and Tagovaila ran in a 25-yard score without being touched.
At that point, with just under 4 minutes remaining in the first half, Alabama had outgained the Aggies 388-67. The Crimson Tide was averaging 10.8 yards per snap, which included six incompletions.
Tagovailoa came back for only one series in the second half, during which he had just one throw. Aided by his 8-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1, the running game churned out a nine-play, 55-yard drive with Najee Harris scoring an 8-yard touchdown.
The reserves added a final touchdown when true freshman Keilan Robinson, whom Saban had recently described as having some “juice,” burst into the open field en route to a 74-yard touchdown.
It was just one yard shy of Ruggs’ opening score, only in his case no one came close to touching him past the line of scrimmage.
“I’m big on opportunity,” Ruggs said. “When you get your opportunity you have to make the most of it.”