Tua Tagovailoa, No. 2 Alabama too much for Duke

Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) tries to fend off Duke linebacker Koby Quansah (49) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Atlanta.
Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) tries to fend off Duke linebacker Koby Quansah (49) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Atlanta. AP

No. 2 Alabama overcame a slow start to post the rout it was expected to deliver on Saturday.

Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa tossed four touchdown passes while throwing for 336 yards as the Crimson Tide pulled away in the second half to beat Duke 42-3 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game before a crowd of 71,916 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After a scoreless first quarter, Tagovailoa led a pair of second-quarter touchdown drives to put the Crimson Tide up 14-3 at halftime. His 27-yard touchdown pass to Miller Forristall accounted for the game’s first points with 10:02 left in the second quarter.

Tagovailoa’s scoring strikes covering one yard to Major Tennison, eight yards to DeVonta Smith and 21 yards to Jerry Jeudy in the third quarter extended Alabama’s lead to 35-3.

Tagovailoa completed 26 of 31 passes in the game and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Jeudy caught 10 passes for 137 yards for the Crimson Tide (1-0).

The Blue Devils (0-1) gained only 204 yards of total offense while turning the ball over three times.

First down

Listed as a heavy underdog (as many as 35 points this week), Duke held the Crimson Tide scoreless over their first three possessions.

The Blue Devils forced a three-and-out on Alabama’s first possession, recording their only sack of the day against Tagovailoa.

Duke safety Dylan Singleton’s hit forced Alabama running back Jerome Ford to fumble the next time Alabama had the ball. Tre Hornbuckle recovered for Duke.

Alabama drove to the Duke 31 on its third possession but Will Reichard’s 49-yard field goal attempt was no good as the ball bounced off the upright.


Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide offense heated up in the second quarter, helped by the presence of Najee Harris. The junior running back sat out the first quarter. The first time he touched the ball he gained 54 yards on a swing pass from Tagovailoa. The play was wiped out by a holding penalty but the play seemed to spark Alabama. Tagovailoa completed his next five passes on the drive, the final being the 27-yard touchdown pass to Forristall.


Duke defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord played his first game since suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last October. But redshirt senior defensive tackle’s day ended early when he was called for a personal foul and was ejected for the illegal hit in the third quarter.


Duke had a chance to go on top in the first quarter after Hornbuckle recovered Ford’s fumble at the Alabama 26. On third-and-8 from the Alabama 14, Deon Jackson gained seven yards for Duke. Rather than attempt a field goal, Duke coach David Cutcliffe kept his offense on the field. But Jackson’s run attempt up the middle on fourth-and-1 from the Alabama 7 was stopped for no gain.

Key numbers

4 -- Times Duke had the ball in Alabama territory out of its first seven possessions. The Blue Devils managed only three points out of those opportunities.

8 -- Duke penalties in a sloppy season-opening effort. The Blue Devils averaged only 4.2 penalties per game last season, the sixth-fewest among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Alabama was penalized eight times for 88 yards.

12.2 -- Average yards per completion for Alabama. The Crimson Tide excelled in finding gaps in Duke’s defense to pick up plenty of yards after the catch.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.