No. 1 Alabama smothers No. 3 Florida State in opener, 24-7

The Alabama defense turned in a dominating performance, the Florida State special teams endured a terrible night, and one of the most anticipated opening games in college football history went to the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

Damien Harris ran for a touchdown and blocked a punt, and Jalen Hurts chipped in with a scoring pass in a game that basically required the sophomore quarterback to make no major mistakes, leading Alabama to a 24-7 beatdown of the No. 3 Seminoles at Atlanta’s new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

This one was all about that dynamic Bama D.

And Florida State’s not-so-special teams.

Alabama picked off a pair of passes by Deondre Francois in the second half, snuffing out any hopes of a Florida State comeback. Throw in a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery on a kickoff return, and there was really no path to victory for the Seminoles in the first opener between two teams in the top three of The Associated Press preseason rankings.

“The defense did a fantastic job, especially in the second half,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Special teams was a big difference. It’s good to get a win, but we have a lot of work to do.”

“We’ll get better,” he added ominously for the rest of the nation.

The Tide led 10-7 at halftime, catching a huge break in the closing seconds when the officials didn’t call a pass interference penalty on Tony Brown while defending Francois’ pass into the end zone for Nyqwan Murray.

Brown never looked for the ball, running into Murray as he tried to go for a scoring catch that would’ve given the Seminoles a lead. When Florida State was forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal attempt, Minkah Fitzpatrick leaped up to make the block on the final play of the half, preserving the edge and prompting a chorus of boos from the FSU faithful as the officials trotted off the field.

Appearing deflated, the Seminoles never got anything going over the final two quarters. Levi Wallace and Mack Wilson both had interceptions, and Francois’ night ended with him being helped off the field — putting no weight on his left knee — after being sacked from behind by blitzing safety Ronnie Harrison.

Francois grabbed at his knee even as he was going down. After being treated for several minutes on the turf, he wrapped his arms around a couple of trainers and hobbled off the field.

It was a potentially crushing blow on a night that already went bad enough for the Seminoles.

“I hugged him,”…

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