TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After a tough week for the defending national champions, No. 1 Alabama enjoyed its dress rehearsal before 100,000-plus fans.
The established stars — minus Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and defensive end Marcell Dareus — made big plays and some young understudies also got plenty of time on stage in the Crimson Tide's opening 48-3 route of San Jose State on Saturday night.
It was a good night to be without the injured Ingram (knee) and the suspended Dareus, both lost this week. The backups played much of the game, anyway, after the Tide raced to a 31-3 halftime lead over the Spartans.
Coach Nick Saban had few major complaints. After all, his team scored touchdowns on its first two possessions instead of basking in last season's glory or getting caught looking ahead to No. 19 Penn State.
"I was really sort of pleased with the effort, the attitude, the intensity, the way our team was ready to play and focused on what they need to do to try and create an identity for themselves," Saban said. "I thought we really worked to try to dominate the competition."
The Tide certainly succeeded in doing that. Alabama outgained the Spartans 591-175.
Ingram's sub, Trent Richardson, ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns and had three catches for 46 yards before sitting out the second half. He scored on runs of 4 and 39 yards for an offense that uncorked plenty of big plays.
Greg McElroy mostly seemed to be playing pitch and catch, completing 13 of 15 passes for 218 yards before leaving after only one series of the second half. He had a 48-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Marquis Maze on a go route down the right sideline.
Julio Jones made the most dramatic play with a diving, one-handed grab for a 29-yard touchdown from backup quarterback A.J. McCarron early in the second quarter. He finished with six catches for 93 yards and gained 13 yards on an end around to set up the Tide's first touchdown.
Jones said it was the best catch of his career.
"I've made some great catches in practice, but not in a game," he said.
Guard Barrett Jones was even more impressed.
"Honestly, I went crazy," he said. "That was one of the greatest plays I've ever seen. I ran down the field and hit him in the chest. Wow, that was unbelievable. "
The Tide had seven first-time starters on defense, but wasn't challenged by an offense that averaged 13.8 points last season. The first down totals best told the tale of the lopsided game: Alabama 30, San Jose State 7.
All in all, it was practically a scrimmage designed to break in the newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium. The announced crowd of a sellout 101,821 fans got to see their Tide — which has lost two games the past two season — beat up on a team that only won a pair last season.
Ingram had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after injuring it late in Monday's practice. He watched from the sidelines in his No. 22 jersey and sweat pants.
Dareus was declared ineligible for two games on Thursday for accepting improper benefits from an agent in taking two trips to Miami. Alabama is appealing, but there's no guarantee either will be back for next week's showdown with No. 19 Penn State.
Jones said the week of bad news with Ingram and Dareus weren't an issue.
"It ain't a distraction unless you let it be a distraction," he said. "We've got to stay level-headed."
In the meantime, some youngsters got a chance to shine.
Redshirt freshman tailback Eddie Lacy took advantage of Ingram's absence and Richardson's short night. Lacy got most of his 111 yards and two touchdowns in the second half after coughing up a fumble into the end zone for Alabama's first turnover in nearly 23 quarters.
Third-teamer Demetrius Goode ran for another 66 yards for the Tide, which rolled up 334 yards on the ground. McCarron completed a 34-yarder to Darius Hanks and passed for 116 yards.
"I was impressed with their runners," first-year San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Their big tight ends hurt us a few times. They overwhelmed us on the edge there. They had a few runs off the edge when we were right there and they just knocked us off."
MacIntyre was a freshman on the last Vanderbilt team to beat the Tide, back in 1984.
There wasn't even the hint of an upset possibility in this one. Harrison Waid's 31-yard field goal midway through the first quarter accounted for San Jose State's only points.
Tuscaloosa native Brandon Rutley gained 52 yards on 13 carries.
"Most of my family was here since I am from Tuscaloosa, so I was happy to see them," Rutley said. "The fans are crazy and the stadium is so loud which made it exciting to play in."