Jalen Milroe doesn't win how Bryce Young does, but Alabama football backup QB showed he can do it

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. ― Not long after Bryce Young went to the Alabama football medical injury tent to get his shoulder examined Saturday, another player ran to check on him.

His backup, Jalen Milroe.

He wasn’t in there long, but long enough to talk with Young and check in with his teammate and friend.

The message?

“Biggest thing I told him was I love him,” Milroe said. “Our bond that we have off the field speaks much greater than the football.”

Milroe was going to have to go run the offense in a few moments, but first, Young had some advice for him. He told Milroe to remain calm.

“Calm, cool and collected,” Milroe said about the advice Young gave him. “Just fall back to your level of training.”

Although simplistic in nature, it was sound advice. Frankly, it was needed. Young left Milroe with a two-touchdown lead when Young exited in the second quarter with the injury, but a daunting task awaited. A red-out stadium filled to the brim with Arkansas fans wanting to beat Alabama badly wasn’t about to let up.

Milroe didn’t panic and instead followed the Heisman Trophy winner’s advice. There were bumps along the way, but Milroe proved he’s a gamer.

No. 2 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) fought off a rally from No. 19 Arkansas (3-2, 1-2) to win 49-26 on Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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Young has an AC sprain in his shoulder, coach Nick Saban said postgame. He will be day-to-day, but Saban does not think it’s a serious injury.

If Young must miss time past the second half of the Arkansas game, Milroe showed he can get the job done against an SEC defense, albeit in a different way.

“I thought he did a good job of managing the game today,” Nick Saban said, “and gave our team a chance to win."

Of course, Milroe does not make it look as easy or good as Young, but many quarterbacks don’t. Young won the Heisman Trophy after all.

The style of the offense is different when Milroe is in the game, without a doubt. But it can be successful. Milroe proved that at times.

Parts of the third quarter were ugly for the offense, but Milroe showed what a threat he can be with his legs. His 77-yard scamper to set up a Jase McClellan touchdown run changed the catastrophic direction in which the game was headed for the Crimson Tide.

It snapped a 23-point run from Arkansas, and the Razorbacks never scored another touchdown. Alabama kept scoring, in particular running back Jahmyr Gibbs. He ran for 72- and 76-yard scores in the fourth quarter alone to close out the victory.

It was Milroe’s run that snapped the Crimson Tide out of the slump, though.

“The biggest thing was looking at the chains and see what was the best thing I could do for the team,” Milroe said. “I was able to use my legs on that play.”

Milroe went 4-for-9 for 65 yards with one touchdown in the passing game, but he ran for 91 yards on six carries and a another touchdown. It’s clear where his biggest strength is right now.

He’s not Young, and he won’t be Young if Milroe has to step in again. But he has spent this season and last season working alongside Young.

“Biggest thing at practice, you know, is I have a great quarterback in front of me so just learning from him,” Milroe said. “Taking the things I learned from Bryce and take it to today.”

The conversation with Young in the medical tent was part of Milroe’s success in leading the offense to a victory. There was another conversation Milroe had first, though.

When he saw Young go down, Milroe turned to prayer. Specifically, praying for his teammate.

“First thought I had was to talk to God,” Milroe said. “Ask for protection, healing, just know that he’s with him. So first thing I did was talk to God. I had a one-on-one conversation with God.”

And did he answer?

Said Milroe: “He did.”