No. 10 Alabama got back in the win column on Saturday, but it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t pretty at all.
The Crimson Tide, coming off a disappointing loss to Texas, went down to South Florida as 34.5-point favorites and only came away with a 17-3 win. This is a USF program that won a combined four games in the last three seasons and was outgained by Florida A&M last week, albeit in a win.
Nonetheless, Alabama could barely move the ball. Nick Saban opted to bench Jalen Milroe in favor of Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, but Buchner played even worse than Milroe did last week when he threw two ugly interceptions vs. Texas.
After going just 5-of-14 for 34 yards, Buchner was then pulled for Ty Simpson. He had a few nice moments but didn’t exactly provide a spark to the offense as he went 5-of-9 for 73 yards with a rushing touchdown in the final minute of regulation. He came in the game late in the first half and took snaps as the Crimson Tide took advantage of a short field via a USF fumble. The Tide gained only 13 yards on that possession but were able to tie the game at 3-3 heading into halftime.
Alabama went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half and then finally put a touchdown drive together later in the third. Simpson was able to find tight end CJ Dippre for a 45-yard gain before Roydell Williams plunged in from a yard out to give Alabama a 10-3 lead with 4:35 left in the third quarter.
From there, the defense kept the overmatched Bulls off the board. But Alabama’s offense continued to sputter. Though he didn’t make any back-breaking mistakes, Simpson held onto the ball too long and took too many sacks. The only way Alabama could move the ball was on the ground. The duo of Williams and Jase McClellan combined for 203 yards on 30 carries, providing a rare bright spot in what was an undeniably ugly performance from the offense, which finished the day with 310 yards.
It was ugly all around and left Alabama with more questions than answers as the Crimson Tide enter SEC play. Nick Saban and his staff have now gotten extended looks at all three quarterbacks — Milroe, Buchner and Simpson.
With Ole Miss coming to Tuscaloosa next weekend, Saban and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees have their work cut out for them in the days ahead to try to get this offense straightened out.
Otherwise, things could get even uglier.