Jaylen Waddle Dazzles On Opening Night
Whether he was leaping through the air, getting open with frightening quickness or leaving Missouri Tigers in his wake, Jaylen Waddle was the star of Alabama’s 38-19 win at Missouri on Saturday night.
Quarterback Mac Jones’ first pass of the game fell incomplete next to Waddle, but the two had a flawless connection for the rest of the night. He caught his other seven passes from Jones, which already set a new career high, and finished with eight catches from 134 yards and two touchdowns.
“He makes plays,” Jones said. “He’s going to get open and he’s going to do his job.”
Two of Waddle’s highlights stuck out above the rest. In the first quarter, Jones threw deep down the middle into double coverage, but Waddle, fully extended, jumped up to corral the catch.
Late in the second quarter, Jones again reared back to throw deep to Waddle. With pressure in his face, he lofted the ball high and watched as it fell perfectly into Waddle’s arms in the back of the end zone.
It continued a trend from last season of an explosive connection between the two. When throwing to Waddle in his four starts last season, Jones was 10 of 11 for 215 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That touchdown to Waddle was one of the few times that Jones was pressured at all during the game. For most of his three quarters of action, he had plenty of time to scan the field and made quick, efficient and accurate throws.
He finished the game 18 of 24 for 249 yards. Of his six incompletions, four were either dropped or caught out of bounds.
"I think that Mac has performed well all fall camp," coach Nick Saban said. "It was no surprise to me the way he played in this game. ... Mac was really good tonight. He managed the offense really well. He made lots of really good decisions, so we just want to build on that."
Alabama scored on five of seven drives quarterbacked by Jones. Senior running back Najee Harris added three rushing touchdowns, tying his career high, to Waddle’s two through the air.
Freshman quarterback Bryce Young entered the game in the third quarter. He wasn't protected as well as Jones, as he took two sacks and lost a fumble, but he flashed the athleticism and pocket awareness that made him the top quarterback in the class of 2020. He finished 5 of 8 for 54 yards.
" I think it will be helpful in terms of his learning curve," Saban said. "He's the backup quarterback, so we've got to get him ready to play."
Saban wasn't pleased with the offense's three false start fouls, but Young's fumble was the team's only turnover in an efficient season-opening win.
“I think we were all pretty comfortable,” Jones said. “[It was] a little bit of a slow start, and obviously we’ll fix that, but I feel like we jelled as the game went on and we’ll just continue to watch the film and improve.”