COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Mac Jones threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns in less than three quarters of work, many of his throws landing in the capable hands of Jaylen Waddle, and No. 2 Alabama began its Southeastern Conference-only schedule with a 38-19 romp over rebuilding Missouri on Saturday night.
Waddle finished with eight catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and Najee Harris ran for 98 yards and three more scores, helping the Crimson Tide spoil the debut of new Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz and win their 27th straight over the SEC East before a COVID-19-curtailed crowd of 11,738 fans at Faurot Field.
TCU transfer Shawn Robinson, who started for the Tigers over Connor Bazelak, threw for 185 yards and a score. Bazelak also got a few series and was equally ineffective against Dylan Moses, Patrick Surtain II and the rest of the Crimson Tide defense, which kept Drinkwitz's creative offense out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter.
Bazelak added a touchdown scamper on the final play of the game for the final margin.
Alabama's long wait to start the season actually began with a thud — a three-and-out on offense. But after forcing a three-and-out of their own, Jones began to find his wide receivers downfield and the Crimson Tide got rolling.
At one point, the only question was who was going to score their touchdowns.
Harris had the first on a short plunge, and Waddle hauled in 18-yarder for the second a few minutes later. Waddle looked like had another on the Tide's ensuing possession, but a review ruled that he hit the pylon before crossing the goal line and Harris wound up poaching the touchdown for his second of the game.
Waddle eventually got his second, too, when he hauled in a spectacular 23-yard grab in double coverage that sent Alabama into the locker room with a 28-3 lead. In fact, the only slip-up to that point for the Tide came at the end of that play, when Waddle's cleats slipped on the asphalt through the end zone and he landed on his rear.
Harris added his third touchdown on a twisting 8-yard run early in the second half, allowing Alabama coach Nick Saban to see what freshman quarterback Bryce Young and the rest of their backups could do.
Missouri defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison was absent because of COVID-19 and defensive quality control analyst Grant O'Brien filled the role. O'Brien also will handle those duties next weekend at Tennessee.
Alabama won its fifth straight against Missouri and improved to 15-0 under Saban in season openers. Just about all their stars got into the act, too. DeVonta Smith added eight catches for 89 yards, Moses spent most of the night in the Tigers' backfield and Surtain jumped on a fumble to keep things rolling at the start of the second half.
Missouri was overmatched but showed plenty of fight, and Drinkwitz can certainly build on that fact. It hardly helped his cause that the former Appalachian State coach had such a pandemic-altered offseason to install his system, and the kinks were particularly evident when Alabama was pulling away in the first half.
The Crimson Tide play their home opener next Saturday against Texas A&M. Missouri heads to Tennessee.
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