No. 10 Alabama failed its first big test of the season and will attempt to achieve a higher grade on Saturday when it faces South Florida in non-conference play at Tampa, Fla.
The Crimson Tide fell 34-24 at home to then-No. 11 Texas last weekend, a setback that delivered a big blow to Alabama’s national championship aspirations.
“It was a test for everybody,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said of the Week 2 showdown. “It was a test for the coaches, it was a test for me, it was a test for all the players.
“And we obviously didn’t do very well. But it’s the mid-term, it’s not the final.”
The loss also ended Alabama’s streak of 57 regular-season non-conference victories. The run dated to 2007 — Saban’s first season — when Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe 21-14.
The Crimson Tide (1-1) will aim to start a new streak against the Bulls (1-1), who dropped a school-record 11 straight games before posting a 38-24 win over FCS program Florida A&M last Saturday.
Alabama guard Tyler Booker said there is no reason for the players to hang their heads.
“All our goals are still attainable,” he said. “We can still win the SEC West. We can get a College Football Playoff spot. This was just a wake-up call for us, and we’re all taking heed to what coach is saying.”
Said linebacker Dallas Turner: “We can’t let a game from Week 2 determine how our season’s going to be. There’s still a lot more things to look forward to.”
Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe was just 14-of-27 passing but totaled 299 yards (255 passing, 44 rushing) against Texas while displaying progress. He has passed for 449 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions, in two games and also has two rushing scores and a team-high 92 yards on the ground.
South Florida has a new coach in Alex Golesh, who is very familiar to the Crimson Tide.
Golesh was offensive coordinator at Tennessee last season when the Volunteers notched a 52-49 home win over Alabama.
Golesh doesn’t have similar talent this time around but is planning to use the game as a measuring stick.
“It’s another step for the growth of our program,” Golesh said. “That’s obviously a big-time football program and a big-time coaching staff. It’ll be really, really cool to see us go and compete against one of the better teams in the country. If you want to say you want to be a top 20 program, you’ve got to go play against those guys.”
Golesh is certainly facing a big task. The Bulls have lost 17 straight games against FBS competition dating to a 34-14 home victory over Temple on Oct. 23, 2021.
He looked at the win over Florida A&M as the start of putting the foundation in place.
“It has to be process-driven here,” Golesh said. “I know the expectation is to win — and it should be. But there has to be a foundation laid here and in anything, whether it’s life or business. I felt like we walked into a situation where there was no foundation, there was no identity.”
South Florida quarterback Byrum Brown has passed for 363 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions. He has four rushing scores and leads the Bulls with 183 rushing yards.
Alabama won the lone previous meeting 40-17 in 2003.
–Field Level Media