Marquis Maze had eight catches for 118 yards with a touchdown and added 135 return yards for the Crimson Tide (1-0), who have won 10 straight season openers and will take a step up in competition next week with a visit to Penn State. Alabama followed up its national championship season of 2009 with a mark of 10-3 last year, including a Capital One Bowl victory.
McCarron, a sophomore, and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims battled all spring and summer for the quarterback job. McCarron got the starting nod and completed 14-of-23 passes with a pair of interceptions, while Sims saw plenty of action in the rout and was also picked off twice while connecting on half of his 14 throws.
Richardson ran for just 37 yards on 13 carries, while Eddie Lacy chipped in 58 yards on eight attempts. Lacy also had three catches for 76 yards as the Tide rolled up 482 yards of total offense.
"It's always good to get a win under your belt," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "There were a lot of things that we did well today. We ran a lot of good plays, and we had a lot of players get experience. That experience also brings a lot of learning opportunities for our young guys that play critical positions. We have a lot to learn and a lot of things we can improve on."
Keith Spencer threw for 99 yards while completing 20-of-47 passes with a touchdown and an interception for Kent State (0-1), Saban's alma mater. The Golden Flashes, who were 5-7 last year, fell to 0-10 all-time against SEC opponents.
Kent State managed just 90 yards of offense, including minus-nine on the ground.
"Well that was obviously not the way we wanted to start out," said new Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell. "I'm frustrated that we didn't execute offensively. We had a lot of guys playing hard and we got some turnovers on defense, but we need to pay close attention to film next week and make some adjustments."
McCarron's first series under center started at the Kent State 36 thanks to a 27-yard punt return by Maze and it took eight plays for the Tide to find the end zone. Richardson did most of the work with five carries and scored from a yard away for a 7-0 lead just under five minutes into the game.
Alabama got the ball back after another punt and McCarron quickly made it 14-0. He hit Lacy with a screen for 48 yards and threw a perfect pass on a post route to Maze for a 24-yard score to cap a four-play, 74-yard drive.
Sims got his chance late in the first quarter, starting from the Kent State 34 after another good punt return by Maze. He completed one pass for 10 yards after Lacy broke off a 20-yard run on the first play, and Richardson finished the four-play set with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 cushion in the final minute of the period.
After a couple of unsuccessful possessions for Sims, McCarron went back into the contest late in the second quarter and threw an interception. His next series ended with a 36-yard field goal for Jeremy Shelley with 1:35 left in the half. Cade Foster had a chance to extend the Alabama lead on the final play of the half, but missed a 53-yard field goal try.
Sims started the second half for the Tide and was picked off on each of his first two possessions. The second pick was returned 37 yards by Norman Wolfe to the Alabama three-yard line and Keith hit tight end Justin Thompson in the end zone to put the Golden Flashes on the board with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter.
McCarron was back for the next Alabama series and directed a 76-yard drive for a score. He completed four passes for 65 yards, including a 16-yard toss to Richardson that set up the back's one-yard plunge for a 31-7 lead.
Lacy scored on a one-yard run late in the third and Jalston Fowler scampered 49 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth before Shelley connected from 32 yards away late to account for the final margin.
"When you play with young players at quarterback, there's a lot of things that can happen," Saban said about his young signal-callers. "AJ, having a little more poise, having played a little bit more, probably played with a little more poise today, but we have a lot of confidence in Phillip and in most cases he plays extremely well. I think he learned a lot out there today and I think he will be a very good player for us here."
Fowler finished with 69 yards rushing on four carries...Alabama improved to 5-1 all-time against schools from the Mid-American Conference, losing only to Northern Illinois in 2003...Kent State will play its home opener next Saturday against Louisiana.