Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe did not find out for sure that he would be starting against Texas A&M until shortly before kickoff Saturday night.
Milroe had prepared all week as if he would be the starter because regular starter Bryce Young sprained his shoulder the previous week. But there was a stadium announcement shortly before the game that mistakenly said Young would start. Young dressed out and warmed up before the game, and was available if needed.
"I found out today," Milroe said Saturday night. "I was ready. Enjoyed the moment, definitely a great experience."
The redshirt freshman did a little of this and that in a tense 24-20 win over the Aggies in his first collegiate start, completing 11 of 19 for only 111 yards. But he threw touchdowns of 10, 29 and 35 yards. He also fumbled twice, and each led to A&M touchdowns for a 14-14 tie in the second quarter. And he threw an interception.
"I tried to seize the moment as much as possible," Milroe said.
BRYCE YOUNG MAY BE READY FOR TENNESSEE
And it will likely be his last moment under such lights this season, if Young continues to progress from his injury in time to start when the No. 3 Tide (6-0, 3-0 SEC) plays at No. 6 Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS.
"Bryce is getting reevaluated," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. "Hopefully, we're going to try to get him ready to play this week. But this is something that nobody can predict - how quickly this is going to give him an opportunity to go out and do what he needs to do. We'll see as the week progresses."
Young, though, could have played last week against Texas A&M as he was dressed out and warmed up.
"There's no question that Bryce is a great competitor," Saban said after the game. "He wants what's best for the team. He was very supportive of Jalen. He was very supportive all week, helping Jalen, every way that he can. But he also wants to play. And he actually wanted to play at the end of the game."
When Young does return, he will need more help from his receivers and other teammates for Alabama to beat Tennessee. The problems with Alabama's passing game against Texas A&M were not all on Milroe.
NICK SABAN KNOWS JALEN MILROE WILL GROW
"Um, look, I wouldn't evaluate Jalen as a passer," Saban said when asked to do so. "It's relative to how did we protect him, how did we run the routes, how did we get open. And without watching film, I can't tell you if he made the right reads, and if he had opportunities to make throws that he didn't make or not. Or if we just didn't have anybody open."
Jalen Milroe did tend to keep the ball too long a few times. "The quarterback's got to get rid of the ball," Saban said.
If Young does return to his Heisman Trophy form of last season, mixing in Milroe could give Alabama's offense an added edge. Milroe did gain 83 net yards on 13 carries. His fumbles came on two of his four sacks as he did not secure the ball well.
"That's (fumbles) in the past. We got the W, and that's all that matters, 24-20, right? So, I'm good with that," Milroe said.
"He made some good plays scrambling, but we had 111 yards passing," Saban said. "And that's certainly not our goal. So something in the passing game needs to get better."
Like Young's return as soon as possible?
"I'm not putting it all on Jalen," Saban said. "I'm just saying we need to do a better job in protection. We need to do a better job about route running, and being able to make good decisions in the pocket so we don't have negative plays."
When Milroe was on, he was on. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Burton for a 14-7 lead in the second quarter was a perfect bullet over the middle that hit Burton in stride on a crossing route.
"We worked on that during the week, and I was excited for the moment. I saw that on film, and I was able to read it right and Jermaine did the rest," Milroe said.
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"Jalen did some good things, but obviously a couple of turnovers," Saban said. "He probably wishes that there were a couple of things that happened that didn't happen for him. That's probably good for his growth and development. But he's going to live and learn, and we're going to live and learn with him. We'll see what kind of progress Bryce makes for the next week. We're going to play a really good team on the road, and certainly have to play a lot better to have any chance of being successful."
Milroe will be ready to start or come in.
"You come to Bama for games like this," he said. "At the end of the day, we're trying to have fun. Football is a brutal sport. I love it, no matter what happens. I enjoy it. I'm happy. Turn on the tape and fix what we need to fix, but right now I'm happy. I'm excited we had that game, so now we just learn from it. I'm going to talk to the offensive staff to see what we can improve this week."
Milroe stood next to Young while Alabama was on defense throughout the game.
"It's really good that you have players support each other," Saban said.
"That's my brother," Milroe said of Young. "Forget about football. That's my brother. We love each other. On the sidelines, we were talking about the plays, the schemes. He was engaged with me, saying words of encouragement. That's my guy."