By FRED GOODALL AP Sports Writer
Quarterback Ty Simpson helped No. 10 Alabama overcome a slow start and beat South Florida. What wasn’t certain Saturday was whether the third-stringer played well enough to become the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback.
Simpson came off the bench to lead two long touchdown drives, while Roydell Williams led a productive rushing attack with 129 yards and a touchdown.
As a result, the Crimson Tide (2-1) rebounded from a 10-point loss to Texas to improve to 14-1 in games since 2008 after a regular-season loss.
To accomplish that, however, Alabama had to overcome inconsistent quarterback play and several costly mistakes that kept USF (1-2) in the game. The Bulls were leading 3-0 when the game quickly delayed 55 minutes in the second quarter, and the score was 3-3 at halftime.
“I know you’re going to ask about the quarterbacks, but we’re going to evaluate (them) on how they played today and Jalen Milroe on how he played (in two starts),” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said . “We’re going to decide this week who gives us the best chance to be successful as an offensive team, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner started at quarterback for Alabama in place of Milroe, a redshirt sophomore who lost his No. 1 job after the offense faltered in the previous week’s 34-24 loss was advised.
Buchner was no more effective, completing just five of 14 passes for 34 yards before Saban turned to Simpson when linebacker Dallas Turner forced a USF fumble after the weather delay to set up Alabama at the Bulls 25.
Simpson converted the loss into Will Reichard’s 30-yard field goal, which made it 3-3. He finally got the Crimson Tide in the end zone, using a 45-yard completion to CJ Dippre to spur a six-play, 84-yard drive that Roydell Williams capped off with a 1-yard TD run to make it 10: The lead ended at 4:35 remaining in the third quarter.
“I know we struggled a little bit on offense,” Saban said. “We ran the ball pretty well, better in the second half than in the first. I’m really proud of the way our players competed. I need to prepare them better for games like this. We were a little flat at the beginning, but after the rain delay I thought we were able to keep up better.”
Alabama got hurt early when Kool-Aid McKinstry lost a fumble on a punt return in the first quarter to set up John Cannon’s 44-yard field goal for USF, and Jeremiah Alexander’s holding penalty that wiped out Terrion Arnold’s 100-yard return scored for a TD on the ensuing kickoff.
Simpson completed 5 of 9 passes for 73 yards without an interception. He capped the win by capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run in the final minutes. Alabama accumulated 203 yards on the ground, with Jase McClellan gaining 70 of his 74 yards in the first half.
“I know there’s SEC (conference play) coming up next week and obviously we need to fix a lot of things and we’ll work on that,” Saban said. “We had four touchdowns this season that were wiped out by penalties. A kickoff return today, a touchdown run today and two last week. We have to fix all these things.”
Byrum Brown completed 14 of 28 passes for 87 yards and one interception for USF. He also ran for a team-leading 97 yards on 23 attempts as the Bulls gained 177 yards on the ground.
USF’s only scoring drive covered four yards.
“There are no moral victories. Valiant efforts are for losers. “Moral victories are for losers,” USF coach Alex Golesh said.
“That’s what losers say: ‘Winners win,'” Golesh added. “So there are no moral victories, there are no valiant efforts, there is nothing. We played winning football on defense, we played good enough (defensively) to win this football game.”
THE TAKING AWAY
It wasn’t pretty, but Alabama accomplished what was expected, extending its impressive streak of not losing consecutive regular-season games since 2008. The only consecutive losses during that time came when the Crimson Tide lost to Auburn in the 2013 regular season. season finale and then fell to Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.
Alabama dropped seven spots in the top 25 after losing at home to Texas. Playing on the road against a team that had lost 11 in a row before beating FCS foe Florida A&M the previous week likely won’t help the Crimson Tide much in the next poll.
Alabama returns home for its Southeastern Conference opener against No. 17 Ole Miss.
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