Tyler Buchner, who transferred from Notre Dame following spring practice, got the start versus the Bulls and struggled, completing just 5 of 14 pass attempts for 34 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions before he was pulled.
Redshirt freshman Ty Simpson came on in relief of Buchner and played the rest of the contest, going 5-of-9 for 73 yards. Simpson scored on a 1-yard run, but he was sacked five times.
After the game, Alabama coach Nick Saban tried to preempt questions about the position.
“I know you’re going to ask about the quarterbacks,” he told reporters. “We’re going to evaluate the quarterbacks that played today and evaluate Jalen Milroe in terms of how he played and decide this week who gives us the best opportunity to be successful as an offensive team. And that’s the way we’ll go.”
Pressed for more details about what went into the decision to play Buchner and Simpson, Saban said it was an “internal” decision.
“Everybody has the opportunity to respond in the right way when things don’t go like you want them to,” Saban added. “And we play the guys that practice the best all week long.”
Saban told ESPN during the game that Simpson, a former four-star prospect, had the best week of practice.
“I thought he did OK,” Saban said of Simpson’s performance against USF. “Made a couple really good throws. Missed a couple big-play throws. … I thought he played well, managed the game well.”
Saban said it wasn’t Simpson’s fault he was under so much pressure from the defense. The coach was asked about the play of the offensive line and responded with a question of his own: “How many sacks did they have today?”
The answer: five.
“Based on that, I wouldn’t evaluate it very well,” Saban said. “Some of them were mental errors. We knew they were going to pressure a lot. They got a really good pressure package. We messed up the protections several times. We got beat a couple times.
“So we need to get that fixed, because that’s been an area that has been a consistent problem for us all year — last week with the sacks, this week with the sacks. And those are drive killers, and we got to eliminate that.”
Despite the offensive struggles, Saban tried to strike an optimistic tone. He said he was proud of the way the team competed during a hard-fought away game that featured an hourlong lightning delay. He noted there was adversity, including starting guard Tyler Booker being sidelined by back spasms, but that he liked the way his players “kept answering the bell.”
“We didn’t execute great, so I don’t feel good about that,” Saban said. “But the way we competed in the game, I thought, was outstanding.”
Alabama (2-1) will open SEC play at home against Ole Miss next Saturday.