ARLINGTON, Texas -- True freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts threw two touchdown passes to ArDarius Stewart and ran for two more scores as top-ranked Alabama began its national championship defense with a 52-6 victory over No. 20 Southern California on Saturday night.
Stewart was wide open in the end zone behind the secondary when Hurts hit him for a 39-yard score midway through the second quarter that made it 7-3 and put Alabama ahead to stay.
"Hopefully it's a statement. We had guys come in and fill big shoes," Stewart said about the team's opening performance. "Hopefully it's a statement we're still going to fight, still going to play."
Right after halftime, Hurts found Stewart alone near the Alabama 40 and the receiver sprinted up the right sideline untouched for a 71-yard touchdown and a 24-3 lead. USC punter Chris Tilbey bobbled the snap on the ensuing drive to set up Alabama at the Trojans 15 and lead to a 7-yard run by Hurts, who later added a 6-yard score.
The season-opening win came at AT&T Stadium - the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys - was also where the Crimson Tide started their 2012 and 2015 national championship seasons with victories.
The Crimson Tide are 10-0 in season openers under coach Nick Saban, including seven non-conference games at neutral sites against Power Five teams that they have won by an average margin of 23 points.
Hurts fumbled away his first snap after coming in late in the first quarter for redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, who was ineffective in the first two drives after becoming the youngest Tide quarterback to start under Saban. Barnett later returned to throw a 45-yard touchdown.
"I'm not sure that we don't have a couple of guys that can play quarterback," Saban said. "I said whatever decision we made for tonight was for now. So it's now. ... I think the focus for our team, our quarterback and everybody else, needs to be on improvement. We played sloppy at times."
USC: The Trojans may be targeting their first Pac-12 title since 2008, but they weren't ready to compete with the defending national champions.
"Obviously one game does not make a season. We played a very good team," USC coach Clay Helton said. "They played to their potential. The cold hard truth is we did not play up to ours."
Junior quarterback Max Browne waited three years for his first start, and had a tough time against the overwhelming Alabama defense. He was 14 of 29 for 101 yards with an interception. It certainly didn't help him that receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had 89 catches for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, had only one catch for 9 yards when targeted five times.
ALABAMA: While the Tide are still unproven at quarterback after playing two freshmen in the opener, the biggest hole on offense was left by Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Derrick Henry. Sophomore Damien Harris showed the ability for some big plays with runs of 46 and 73 yards. He finished with nine carries for 138 yards.
And that defense that led the nation against the run and ranked third in points allowed per game, total yards given up and sacks is still physical and dominating.
USC: Before facing another top 10 team, the Trojans are home next week against Utah State. They go to No. 8 Stanford for their Pac-12 opener on Sept. 17.
ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide play their home opener next week against defending C-USA champion Western Kentucky, a week before their SEC opener at No. 11 Ole Miss.