Jalen Hurts takes definitive lead in QB battle as Alabama rolls

Tide rolls over Western Kentucky (0:54)

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts throws two touchdown passes as the top ranked Crimson Tide defeat the Hilltoppers 38-10. (0:54)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama’s quarterback competition might be over.

At the very least, Jalen Hurts is way ahead of Blake Barnett in the battle for the starting role after completing 23 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in a 38-10 victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.

Hurts became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Alabama since 1984. And while he continued to show some typical rookie flaws such as staring down receivers, he also took care of the football and flashed plenty of big-play potential, hitting a couple of long passes to Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart.

Barnett, meanwhile, didn’t see the field until deep into the second quarter and wasn’t particularly sharp, completing 2 of 6 passes before halftime. When Alabama returned from intermission, Hurts jogged on the field to lead the offense. Barnett returned late in the game only to lose a fumble on the quarterback-center exchange, giving the Hilltoppers a short field they cashed in for their only touchdown.

Coupled with a strong, four-touchdown performance off the bench against USC in the season opener, Hurts has positioned himself well to earn the start in a pivotal game on the road at Ole Miss next Saturday.

The Rebels, who have beaten Alabama in each of the past two seasons, struggled against a freshman quarterback in their opening loss to Florida State, allowing Deondre Francois to throw for 419 yards and two touchdowns.

But if you’re looking for Alabama coach Nick Saban to officially name Hurts the starter anytime soon, don’t hold your breath. Saban has been especially coy about tipping his hand in each of the past two weeks, and after beating USC, he noted how one Trojans player wished he had known who would be the Tide’s quarterback. Continuing that gamesmanship ahead of the meeting with Ole Miss wouldn’t be surprising at all.

What Alabama does need to worry about is its offensive line. Despite welcoming senior guard Alphonse Taylor back from suspension, the line struggled to generate any rushing lanes against Western Kentucky. At halftime, the Tide had only 13 net rushing yards on 16 carries and averaged just 3.2 yards per attempt on the day. Hurts, who had to escape the pocket often, was dragged down for a pair of sacks.

Ole Miss’ Marquis Haynes and DeMarquis Gates, who combined for three sacks against Florida State, could give Hurts headaches in the first true road game of his career.

Alabama and Ole Miss will kick off next Saturday in Oxford at 3:30 p.m. ET.