The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game may be old hat to the Alabama Crimson Tide as they made their sixth appearance in Atlanta’s season-opening weekend. However, the Duke Blue Devils are first-timers in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, as it was a rare opportunity for the program to share the national spotlight. Head coach David Cutcliffe was also ecstatic because he has been rebuilding the program for the last 12 years. At the end of the day, the Blue Devils were overpowered by the Tide 42-3 in front a sellout crowd of 71,916 inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Alabama got off to a rough start. During the opening drive, Duke’s Koby Quansah sacked Tua Tagovailoa on 3rd and seven on their 25 yard line. Duke gained momentum when Alabama’s running back Jerome Ford fumbled with a recovery by Tre Hornbuckle on the Alabama 26 yard line. These two key plays were instrumental in instilling confidence in the Duke players and coaching staff. Cutcliffe led his team through a strong first quarter, holding the Crimson Tide to a scoreless quarter.
“We need to be able to start fast and finish strong, and we’ll certainly look into it,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “But I’m sure that when we look at the film, it’s going to be because of a lack of execution, whether it’s fundamental footwork or however we blocked people or didn’t block people. And you know, as the game wore on, I thought we did a little better job of that.”
A better job they did, because the second quarter was a total turn around for the Crimson Tide. They scored two touchdowns before marching into halftime, while holding the Duke Blue Devils to a lone field goal. Alabama led 14-3.
In the third quarter, Alabama exerted their dominance over Duke. As the Tide’s talent took over, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa carved up the Blue Devils defense. The Heisman hopeful finished the afternoon completing 26 of 31 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy caught ten passes for 137 yards and one touchdown.
“I thought he played well in the game,” Saban explained when asked about Tua’s performance. “He usually plays well when he’s patient and takes what the defense gives, so I was pleased.”
Even though the score would indicate that Duke had a rough day in Atlanta, Cutcliffe believes it will be a positive learning experience for his players.
“I think our players will have a great memory, regardless of the outcome, but I think more importantly maybe a hunger to put yourselves in these games, these atmospheres,” Cutcliffe said.
The Crimson Tide has won six Chick-Fil-A Kickoff games, setting a new record. Nick Saban improves to 56-7 when facing non-conference opponents and is 13-4 against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This year’s match up marks the first meeting between Duke and Alabama since 2010, where there was a Crimson Tide win in Durham. Alabama currently leads the series all-time (3-1).