There wasn't much flash or sizzle, but the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide opened their 2017 season with a workmanlike 24-7 win over the third-ranked Florida State Seminoles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday night.
However, the Seminoles have more to worry about than a 0-1 start after quarterback Deondre Francois suffered an apparent left knee injury in the fourth quarter.
According to Tomahawk Nation's Andrew Miller, Francois was helped off the field and couldn't put any pressure on his left leg after he went down awkwardly. USA Today's Dan Wolken reported Francois' leg was later placed in an air cast.
Before Francois' injury took center stage, offensive fireworks were few and far between.
Unlike their 52-6 shellacking of the USC Trojans in Week 1 a year ago, the Crimson Tide didn't have an easy time moving the ball against the Seminoles' speedy defense.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts (10-of-18, 96 yards) was generally neutralized in the pocket, and he often chose to tuck and run after his initial reads were covered, as Bleacher Report's Marcus Mosher observed:
Marcus Mosher @Marcus_Mosher
Jalen Hurts is quite an athlete, but man his eyes drop so quickly.2017-9-3 02:34:38
The exception came in the second quarter, when the sophomore signal-caller found Calvin Ridley deep over the middle for a 53-yard scoring strike to put Alabama up 10-7 once the extra point was tacked on.
The Tide were also fairly limited on the ground.
Hurts found moderate success with 15 carries for 55 yards, while bulldozer Bo Scarbrough was stuck in neutral to the tune of 15 carries for 40 yards.
If there was a positive for Alabama in the running game it was Damien Harris (nine carries, 73 yards), who proved electric in spots. Most notably, Harris put the Tide up by two scores when he rushed for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:41 to go in the third quarter.
That score, and the win itself, wouldn't have been possible without sterling special teams play.
Not only did the Tide block Florida State's field-goal attempt before halftime that would have knotted the score at 10, but they also blocked a punt in plus-territory midway through the third quarter that led to a field goal, as ESPN documented on Twitter:
Blocked punt. Forced fumble. The Bama special teams has taken over on ABC. https://t.co/gk6B3yrfOK2017-9-3 02:48:32
On the ensuing kickoff, Alabama forced a fumble before handing to Harris on the next play to put the Seminoles in a big hole.
College Football Talk's Bryan Fischer noted special teams errors effectively dashed Florida State's hopes of pulling off the upset:
Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer
You don’t have to be 100% perfect against Alabama but you can’t compound mistakes with more mistakes, especially in an area like ST2017-9-3 02:40:53
An inability to stitch together sustained drives in the second half also hurt the Seminoles.
Although Francois (19-of-33, 210 yards) was unfazed early and looked sharp as ever when he found receiver Auden Tate on a three-yard fade to give FSU a brief 7-3 edge early in the second quarter, the redshirt sophomore came unhinged in the second half with a pair of interceptions that sealed FSU's fate.
As the Seminoles sputtered against Alabama's swarming defense, Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde and USA Today's Paul Myerberg heaped praise on the Crimson Tide's dominant unit:
Pat Forde @YahooForde
Alabama's defense is the greatest constant in college football.2017-9-3 02:58:25
Paul Myerberg @PaulMyerberg
Alabama out here making Florida State look like Florida2017-9-3 02:59:14
With or without Francois, the Seminoles will turn their attention to a Week 2 tilt with Louisiana-Monroe in hopes of getting back on track.
Alabama will also have the benefit of a softer second showdown with the Fresno State Bulldogs on deck Sept. 9 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.