By the Associated Press
TUSCALOOSA — Mac Jones passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns in little more than a half and No. 5 Alabama began life without Tua Tagovailoa with a 66-3 romp Saturday over FCS Western Carolina.
With Tagovailoa watching much of the game from a cart behind the bench, the Crimson Tide (10-1) treated its injured quarterback to a one-sided show against the Catamounts (3-9). Alabama is ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings and hoping to somehow make the field despite failing to win the SEC West.
This one was about taking care of business five days after Tagovailoa underwent surgery on his right hip. It wasn’t the type of game for impressing the selection committee.
Alabama forced five turnovers, including Xavier McKinney’s 81-yard interception return for a touchdown, and got big plays from Jones and wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Jones completed 10 of 12 passes with only one attempt after halftime in his second career start. Smith had four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a 57-yarder when he juked a defender before sprinting to the end zone. Waddle produced 101 yards and took a screen 54 yards for a touchdown, then returned a punt 49 yards to near the goal line on his next touch.
Tagovailoa’s absence gave his younger brother, Taulia, a chance for his most extended action. The freshman came into the game with 12:12 left in the third quarter and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Smith on his first attempt.
Alabama scrapped plans to redshirt the four-star recruit, who already had played in four games.
Western Carolina fell to 0-57 against FBS teams. The Catamounts came up empty after making it into Tide territory on each of their first four drives, including three turnovers.
Alabama did what it was supposed to and showed no signs of an emotional hangover after Tua Tagovailoa’s injury. The defense had some shaky moments but was missing several players nursing injuries, including Raekwon Davis.
PICKS IN PAIRS
McKinney ended Western Carolina’s first two drives with interceptions, including the pick six, after coming in with just one. Jared Mayden got his third and fourth interceptions.
Western Carolina finished its regular season and must replace senior quarterback Adams.
Alabama ends the regular season at No. 16 Auburn in its final chance to make a statement for the playoffs.