Alabama’s Damien Harris on play-calling questions: ‘Coach Saban knows what he’s doing’
TUSCALOOSA — When the loss’ immediacy began to fade, questions were posed and consternation grew, many wondering how an Alabama offense that amassed 479 yards a game entering a winner-take-all Iron Bowl slumped so badly inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
A team that averaged 270 rushing yards a game mustered 211. Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts misfired on 10 of his 22 passes and managed just 112 yards. Thirty-six were on his lone touchdown pass — a jump-ball that freshman wide receiver Jerry Jeudy corralled in the back of the end zone.
“We didn’t execute,” Hurts said Saturday as Alabama prepares for the Sugar Bowl against Clemson on Jan. 1. “I said it after the game. I still feel strongly about that. We didn’t execute.”
Only two of Alabama’s 11 drives gained 60 or more yards. Sixty-seven of its 211 rushing yards came on the first drive of the second half. The second play was a run of 31 yards by Damien Harris. Bo Scarbrough carried twice for 35 yards, finishing the drive with a 21-yard touchdown.
Harris averaged 8.5 yards a carry, and Scarbrough chipped in 7.7.
They received six carries apiece. Two each after that 75-yard drive to open the second half, puzzling analysts and onlookers who marveled at the apparent abandonment of the running attack for which Alabama was so renowned in its first 11 games.
“It doesn’t really matter what people think, who should get the ball, what we should run on offense,” Harris said Saturday in his first meeting with local reporters since the Iron Bowl. “I mean, no offense, but I think coach Saban knows what he’s doing. He’s been here building this for a while, and he’s had a lot of success. So, I think that what he says is probably what’s best for this team, and I guess we’ll just go from there.”
Carries were nearly equally divided this season between Alabama’s two workhorses — Scarbrough had 110 and Harris 108 — while adding in Josh Jacobs’ 43 as the team’s “change of pace” back.
Harris has started all 11 Tide games this season. He’s received more than 10 carries in four of them, the byproduct of Alabama’s obscene depth at his position, the Crimson Tide’s early hammering of mediocre conference opponents and coach Nick Saban’s hope to keep all of his backs as fresh as possible.
By any metric, Harris was the standout. He led the Southeastern Conference with 8.24 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns on just 110 carries — one every 10 touches.
According to Pro Football Focus, no player averaged more yards after contact per carry than Harris. He broke 75-yard, first-quarter touchdown runs in consecutive weeks against Texas A&M and Arkansas, two of the three games this season in which he eclipsed 100 yards.
Asked Saturday if he felt he deserved more carries, Harris was diplomatic.
“I’m just here to do whatever’s best for the team,” Harris said. “A part of that is trusting in the coaches, trusting in the game plan they have set up, so I don’t think anything about that. Whatever the coaches think is best for this team, that’s what they’re going to do and it’s our job as players to believe in them, trust in them and believe that they have the best interest of the whole team at heart.”