TUSCALOOSA — Henry Ruggs III hauled in the lateral from Tua Tagovailoa 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and saw nothing but green ahead of him.
Eight and a half seconds later, after weaving between blocks from his fellow receivers, Alabama’s junior speedster was in the end zone celebrating with his teammates after sprinting 75 yards untouched down the home sideline for a touchdown on the game’s first offensive play Saturday.
"I think everybody wants to be that guy that can make a play and boost the team up," Ruggs said after the game. "(But) we feel as receivers, if one guy makes a play then we all make a play. If you see us celebrating, every guy's celebrating with everybody on the field. We're brothers and we're excited for anybody that makes a play."
That score was just the first of two on the afternoon for Ruggs, as the Montgomery native finished with a team-high 160 all-purpose yards in the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s 62-10 rout of New Mexico State in Alabama’s home opener Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"I didn't expect us to score on the first play, it was just a little bubble (screen)," Tagovailoa said, "but it just shows what kind of guys we got — Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle. You can throw something as short as that and they'll make it into a big play."
Ruggs' opening-play score was a bit of a reprieve after the offense struggled to get going in the first quarter last week against Duke, and signaled a bit of what was to come in Saturday's game. It also served as a reminder of his potential after Ruggs found himself on the outside looking in with just two receptions for 14 yards in last Saturday's 42-3 win over Duke.
"You get excited when you know you have an opportunity," Ruggs said. "With the guys that we have and the depth that we have, you have to make the most of the opportunities that you have. So me knowing that the first play was my opportunity to help the team start fast then that's what we do."
Ruggs also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass as the second of back-to-back receptions to cap a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive to give the Tide a 28-0 lead with 10:08 left before halftime.
Of course, Ruggs was just part of Alabama’s offensive explosion Saturday, as fellow junior receiver Jerry Jeudy once again led the way through the air with eight receptions for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Tagovailoa combined for 260 total yards, throwing for 227 yards and three touchdowns on 16-of-24 passing and rushing for a 25-yard touchdown before heading to the bench with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Jeudy’s three scores gave him 20 receiving touchdowns for his career, moving him past fellow South Florida product and friend Calvin Ridley (19) on Alabama’s all-time total, but still well behind Amari Cooper’s 31 receiving scores. Ruggs’ one receiving score moved him into a tie with Crimson Tide legend Dennis Homan with 18 career touchdowns.
"(Jeudy's) next level, that's all I can say," Ruggs said. "Y'all know he's an NFL guy to come and he's just showing that continuously."
Partly thanks to Ruggs’ massive 75-yard opening salvo, as well as a 74-yard touchdown run by freshman tailback Keilan Robinson in the closing seconds of the third quarter, it was a much more well-rounded offensive effort Saturday as the Crimson Tide rolled up 318 rushing yards on 32 carries (9.9 yard average) to go along with 285 passing yards in the lopsided effort.
"I was pleased with the run game, but on my part I think the passing game needs to get better," Tagovailoa said. "I think our offensive coordinator did a great job of putting us in good situations, it was just me executing it with the guys we had out there."
Meanwhile, New Mexico State managed 262 total yards, much of it coming on a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive for the Aggies’ lone touchdown with 5:59 left in the third quarter. New Mexico State also added a 43-yard field goal from Dylan Brown with 10 minutes remaining in the game.