TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Jalen Milroe was the first quarterback to take the field for Alabama in its season opener against Middle Tennessee on Saturday, and he used the opportunity to make an emphatic statement about why he should be the starter moving forward, scoring five total touchdowns in just three quarters of play.
The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide beat the Blue Raiders 56-7, with Milroe delivering a near-flawless performance with touchdown passes of 48, 47 and 29 yards.
He finished 13-of-18 for 194 yards and no interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound redshirt sophomore also rushed for 48 yards and two scores.
In doing so, Milroe became the first quarterback in school history to throw for three touchdowns and rush for two scores in a game.
“Jalen did a good job,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think he’s had a good fall camp. I thought he played well in both scrimmages. I think he’s more confident and doing a good job in the passing game.
“His athleticism helps him. … You know, he’s a threat to pull the ball, which he scored a touchdown on that. And I thought he threw the ball effectively. So I thought they played well.”
Saban said there was one check he wanted Milroe to make at the line of scrimmage that he didn’t, but “as he continues to develop and gain experience, he’s going to play better and better.”
Asked later about how Milroe’s performance will help him in later games, Saban bristled.
“You’re asking me to speculate and answer a question about how some guy’s going to perform in the future?” he said. “I don’t really know. I love him. I think he’s doing well. I know he’s working hard to try to improve. He’s a good competitor. He’ll do everything he can to play his best.”
Saban grabbed a soda sitting atop the podium.
“This is a Coke bottle,” he said, “it’s not a crystal ball. … It’s hard to know.”
Buchner, the former Notre Dame quarterback, came on in relief of Milroe and rushed for a 9-yard touchdown. He finished 3-of-5 for 27 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Simpson, a redshirt freshman, had a 1-yard touchdown run. He completed his only pass attempt for 5 yards.
Lonergan, a true freshman and former four-star recruit, did not play.
Milroe took his performance in stride.
“I need to be better overall at what I’m doing,” he said. “I just want to continue to build and be the best version of myself when I take the field. So there’s some things that I’m gonna look at with the coaching staff and with my teammates.”
Isaiah Bond led all Alabama receivers with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.
The Crimson Tide rushed for 205 yards and five scores, but no running back had more than 40 yards rushing in the game.
Alabama will host No. 11 Texas on Saturday.
Milroe grew up in Katy, Texas, and has family members who root for the Longhorns. But he said it’s “just another opponent on the schedule.”
“Saturday, our success on that day is gonna come from our preparation throughout the week,” he added. “So no matter what the opponent is, we’re just gonna take it on one day at a time.”