Posts filed under ‘Alabama Crimson Tide’

Alabama wins their 26th SEC Championship

For a brief moment, Florida looked like it had a chance. It didn’t last long.

The Gators scored the first offensive touchdown allowed by the Alabama defense since Oct. 22 and had a 99-yard advantage in offensive production. But at the end of the first quarter, Alabama led 16-9 thanks to two non-offensive touchdowns and a field goal set up by the game’s first interception.

From there, the Crimson Tide truly started to roll, extending its lead to 33-16 at the half en route to a 54-16 victory in the SEC Championship Game.

The Tide’s point total was the third-most in the game’s 25-year history and paved the way for Nick Saban’s fifth SEC title at Alabama.

What it means

In the SEC, it’s still Alabama and everybody else. The Gators have two consecutive SEC East championships, and a pair of wins against the SEC West, but they’re still a long ways off from reaching the Crimson Tide’s level. Alabama can lose yards for a quarter on offense and still come away with 16 points and the lead.

Nick Saban’s squad marches into the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed with its third consecutive SEC Championship Game win.

What I liked

Alabama: After allowing an opening-drive score, the Crimson Tide defense more than made up for it the next two drives with back-to-back interceptions. The first pick by LB Shaun Dion Hamilton set up easy points off the to the return to the Florida 10-yard line. On UF’s following possession, SS Minkah Fitzpatrick gave Alabama a 10-7 the lead with a pick six. That was Alabama’s first non-offensive touchdown since Oct. 22.

It didn’t stop there. Derrick Gore blocked Johnny Townsend’s punt and Josh Jacobs took it in for Alabama’s second non-offensive touchdown of the quarter. The Crimson Tide had officially regained the momentum up 16-7 and taken control of the game.

The one time Florida had a chance to make things interesting, the Crimson Tide defense delivered a signature goal-line stand, stopping Florida four times from inside their own 2. The offense followed with a 98-yard touchdown drive to put the nail in the coffin, making it 40-16 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.

Alabama limited the Gators to 0 yards rushing on 30 carries.

Jalen Hurts became the first true freshman quarterback to win the SEC Championship Game.

Florida: Jim McElwain and play-caller Doug Nussmeier did what they do best, and scripted an excellent opening scoring drive for the Gators. They made getting the ball to Antonio Callaway a point of emphasis, and the playmaker did his thing, making 3 catches for 46 yards, including the touchdown. They frequently tried lining up Callaway in the pistol, but were unable to get a big play out of the new look.

It came against prevent defense, but the Gators deserve some credit for executive a 92-yard scoring drive on the Alabama defense, running the two-minute drill to end the first half. Florida’s offensive line also deserves for pass protection. Appleby often had time to throw, but made multiple terrible throws.

What I didn’t like

Alabama: The kicking game was truly sloppy between the blocked extra point and missed 40-yard field goal. To find problems with the Crimson Tide’s performance is to nitpick. Leave that to coach Nick Saban.

Florida: After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Gators had a golden opportunity starting at their own 41-yard line to set the tone with a double-digit lead. Austin Appleby threw a pass off his back foot into the middle of the field that resulted in an interception being taken to the UF 12-yard line. What could have been a 10- to 14-point lead instead was trimmed to just four.

In general, the Florida defense deserved better. The Gators gifted Alabama an easy 17 points on turnovers, it was the exact opposite of what had to happen if they were going to pull off the massive upset.

Key plays

The Gators had a chance to get back in the game after a misdirection play to Lamical Perine set them up with 1st-and-Goal at the 2-yard line. They ran the ball three times, and Alabama dug in for three big stuffs. Florida went for it on fourth down, and TE C’yontai Lewis got his hands on the ball but out of bounds. The goal-line stand kept Alabama’s 17-point lead intact, and it only got larger.

What’s next

Alabama is onto the College Football Playoff, and will find out it’s assignment Sunday in the next step to repeating as national champions. Florida will likely end its season in a bowl game in the Sunshine State, and will try to avoid ending the season on a three-game losing skid in back-to-back years.

 

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December 4, 2016 at 2:32 am Leave a comment

Bama dominates the Iron Bowl

Truth be told, Alabama didn’t even play that well against Auburn. The Crimson Tide were sloppy and made plenty of mistakes.

Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide still crushed the Tigers 30-12 in the annual Iron Bowl, wrapping up a perfect 12-0 regular season and an unblemished 8-0 run through the SEC. ‘Bama is going back to the conference title game.

Offensively, Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a pair of interceptions. Ball security was an issue a handful of times. Coordinator Lane Kiffin slanted a little too heavily toward the pass — maybe because new full-time LSU coach Ed Orgeron was blowing up his phone — before returning to more ground-and-pound after intermission.

But considering what this iteration of coach Nick Saban’s defense can do, the offense can afford to muck it up here and there.

Alabama held Auburn to 172 total yards, with almost a third of them coming on a 55-yard pass from John Franklin III to Eli Stove. But the Tigers never got anywhere near the end zone and settled for a quartet of Daniel Carlson field goals.

Carlson was 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts in the first half, although his offense — Auburn didn’t produce a first down until the 6:19 mark of the second quarter — had very little to do with it. A 58-yard punt return from Stephen Roberts and both interceptions of Hurts gave the Tigers some short fields to score points.

Getting back to Hurts and Co. on offense, the Crimson Tide ended up throwing for 298 yards and running for 203 more.

Throug the air, ArDarius Stewart (below) was the primary target with 10 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. He even completed a 12-yard pass off some trickeration when Kiffin dug a little deeper into his playbook.

On the ground, ‘Bama spread the wealth liberally. Tailbacks Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs combined for 169 yards on 31 attempts, with all of them averaging 5.2 yards per carry or better — each had a run of at least 20 yards, too. Hurts added 37 yards and a pretty TD, when he simply beat the Tigers to the pylon.

The irony is that Auburn played tremendous defense for large stretches of this game yet still gave up a season-high 30 points.

Make no mistake about it: The Tigers are incredibly gifted defensively. Montravius Adams is a beast in the middle. Carl Lawson is a force off the edge. Daniel Thomas picked off Hurts twice as a freshman playing in his first Iron Bowl.

However, Auburn was a three-and-out waiting to happen on offense, which eventually took a toll on its defense. Quarterbacks Franklin and Jeremy Johnson — coach Gus Malzahn went back to his rotating ways out of pure desperation — completed just 6-of-17 throws. Even a healthy Sean White would have been overmatched.

Kamryn Pettway, likely a first-team All-SEC selection at running back for 2016, was held to 17 yards on 12 carries. The Tigers, the conference’s leading rushing offense at almost 300 yards per game, had just 66 on 26 tries.

Malzahn’s game plan was so hopeless that he even tried a fullback pass from Chandler Cox on a fourth-down conversion attempt late in the game. Said pass, like the Tigers’ chances of winning, was easily intercepted.

While ‘Bama only registered one sack at Bryant-Denny Stadium, its defense managed six additional tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Jonathan Allen — the top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in the league — had two. Butkus Award contender Reuben Foster was credited with four quarterback hits.

One quick glance at the box score, and it appears to be just another Tide-style curb stomping of an inferior opponent.

They had almost four times as many first downs. They had more than three times the rushing yardage. They had more than twice the passing yardage. They had a time-of-possession advantage of better than 2-to-1.

 

November 27, 2016 at 3:18 am Leave a comment

Alabama owns LSU. The Crimson Tide is the Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer in this rivalry and the Tigers are the nail. “I don’t think the stage is too big for him at all”, Saban said about Hurts. We struggled to pass protect. While it wasn’t Fournette’s night by any stretch, it was a showcase performance for a multitude of draft prospects on the Alabama defense. Fournette, whose 2015 Heisman Trophy hopes faded when he was held to 31 yards on 19 carries in Tuscaloosa a year ago, had 35 yards on 17 carries. Rawleigh Williams ran for 148 yards and two TDs for the Razorbacks. Also consider that, on a day in which No. 4 Texas A&M and No. 11 Florida lost to unranked opponents on the road, Alabama coach Nick Saban kept his team focused enough to beat a resurgent LSU team in an extremely hostile environment. “His “want to” to have success against Alabama is as high as any other player I’ve seen and so is our team”. The Crimson Tide gained just 323 yards, an fantastic work night for LSU’s defense, under pressure all game because its offense couldn’t produce any field position or breathing room. “It’s very frustrating”, LSU defensive end Arden Key said. The Bulldogs, who are still the same team that lost to South Alabama, had no answer for Auburn’s running game and will crumble back down to earth next week in Tuscaloosa. They never got their big horse going. Someday came very soon for the Tide. After the offense put points on the board in the fourth quarter, this Crimson Tide defense really put the clamps on the LSU Tigers. In the end, CBS was half right. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s crew forced two turnovers and stuffed Alabama with a masterful goal-line stand on Bama’s first drive of the second half. Hurts, a freshman, was the game’s leading rusher with 114 yards on 20 carries. Alabama’s menacing and chiseled defensive line blew up LSU’s offensive strategy on multiple occasions, forcing Tiger quarterback Danny Etling – who finished 11-24 for 92 yards and an interception – to work under vast pressure en route to completing 7-of-13 passes for 64 yards through the first 30 minutes. “He made some errors early in the game that were costly”, said Saban on Hurts. “We just didn’t execute, ” Orgeron said. LSU’s last gasp drive saw a 2-yard Etling completion and enveloped by three incompletions, a whimper of a drive to end a quiet offensive night. The Crimson Tide took the 10-0 lead with 2:45 to play in the game on a 17-yard field goal by Adam Griffith, eating up 9:51 of the fourth quarter on a 50-yard drive in 15 plays that buried the Tigers and finally silenced a raucous crowd that at times was deafening. For the first three quarters, all packed in Tiger Stadium endured 45 minutes worth of scoreless football. LSU safety Jamal Adams intercepted Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts on the Tide’s first drive, giving the Tigers possession at the Alabama 33-yard line. The Tigers, however, were not able to capitalize on the opportunity, as Colby Delahoussaye’s 49-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison. The momentum was gone just as quick as it came. After that, the Tide ran out the clock after Etling couldn’t lead a comeback. There was no further scoring in the half. “Defense did a hell of a job all night”. “It’ll be the sixth year we lose to them”. From there, Alabama went on a 90-yard march studded with crucial plays. Hurts connected with Calvin Ridley for a 21 yard reception the following play down to the LSU 24. LSU had already had one huge goal line stop earlier in the game, so an Alabama score was not a sure thing. Hurts, twice on third downs with nine or more yards to go, busted LSU’s defense for 11 and 23 yards, respectively. Once again, LSU’s defense stiffened. LSU’s chances of competing for the SEC crown ended with Saturday’s defeat. Lackluster offenses were part of the reason this game was so low-scoring, but in reality, the 10-0 scored reflects exactly how dominant both defenses were.

November 6, 2016 at 8:26 pm Leave a comment

Alabama wins its 16th National Championship, 45-40 over Clemson.

Alabama won its 16th national championship thanks to incredible special teams play and the reemergence of stars who spent most of the 2015 season in the shadows.

The Crimson Tide knocked off Clemson 45-40 in Alabama’s closest national championship game in the Nick Saban era. Alabama can thank Bobby Williams’ special teams unit for delivering the two biggest plays of the game. Kicker Adam Griffith hit the perfect onside kick and running back Kenyan Drake had a 95-yard kickoff return for touchdown to steal the win away from Dabo Swinney’s crew. Each had up and down seasons at Alabama but delivered in a big way in the title game.

Tight end O.J. Howard, who hasn’t scored a touchdown in two years, scored two against Clemson to provide an offensive spark. Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry added three touchdowns and surpassed Shaun Alexander as Alabama’s career rushing leader.

First Quarter

Alabama struck first but Clemson landed two blows in the first quarter of the national championship game.

The Crimson Tide got on the board early in the first quarter when Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry broke loose for a 50-yard touchdown. Right tackle Dominick Jackson created a huge hole that Henry galloped through for an easy touchdown.

Clemson quickly responded when Deshaun Watson threw a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass to walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow. Two Alabama defenders had good coverage on Renfrow but Watson put the ball in the perfect spot.

On the last play of the quarter, Watson found Renfrow again for an 11-yard touchdown.

Key play: Derrick Henry capitalizing on a huge hole for a 50-yard touchdown.

Key player: Derrick Henry gets the nod after rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.

Second quarter

With Alabama badly needing a defensive stop, Eddie Jackson reached up and grabbed an interception.

The Alabama safety capitalized on a poor Deshaun Watson throw to give Alabama good field position and stop Clemson’s offensive momentum. Alabama cashed in on the turnover a few plays later on a Derrick Henry 1-yard touchdown run behind a jumbo package of A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed.

Watson wasn’t as effective against Alabama as he was in the first quarter. The Clemson quarterback took a few big hits and couldn’t keep the offense in rhythm. The Tigers had a chance to break the 14-14 tie late in the quarter but Greg Huegel missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.

Key play: Eddie Jackson’s interception to stop Clemson’s offensive momentum.

Key player: Derrick Henry added his second touchdown of the night.

Third quarter

O.J. Howard reminded everyone of its talents in the third quarter.

The Alabama junior tight end was wide open for a 57-yard touchdown — his first touchdown in two years– to give Alabama an early lead in the third quarter. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin started celebrating the minute Howard broke past his defender.

Clemson had an answer, though.

The Tigers cut the lead to 21-17 on a 37-yard field goal. Clemson then took the lead with 4:48 left in the quarter on a Wayne Gallman 1-yard touchdown. The drive was set up with quarterback Deshaun Watson’s scrambling ability as the Clemson star gashed Alabama with runs of 20, 16 and 5 yards.

Key play: O.J. Howard’s 57-yard touchdown catch to give Alabama the lead.

Key player: Jake Coker delivering a right on the money pass to take the lead.

Fourth quarter

It was as gutsy a call as Nick Saban’s ever made and it worked out perfectly.

Adam Griffith kicked a perfect “pop” onside kick and cornerback Marlon Humphrey recovered the ball around the 50-yard line. The decision turned the game upside down and Alabama capitalized two plays later on another Jake Coker to O.J. Howard touchdown pass.

Later, Alabama’s special teams came up big again when Kenyan Drake took the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. It was the biggest play of Drake’s career at Alabama and couldn’t have come at a better moment.

Alabama delivered big blow after big blow but Clemson didn’t back down. The Tigers scored two more touchdowns to keep the game within striking distance but couldn’t capitalize on a two-point conversion attempt and were never able to regain the lead after that onside kick.

Alabama finished Clemson off with a combination of Howard and Henry. Coker connected with the junior tight end for a 63-yard gain and let Henry finish things off with a 1-yard touchdown.

Key play:
Adam Griffith’s perfect onside kick that stole the momentum and set up the win.

Key player: O.J. Howard scoring his second long touchdown of the game to give Alabama the lead.

 

January 15, 2016 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

Bama dominates Florida to win their 25th SEC Championship

We were pretty sure we knew all we needed to know about the pecking order in the SEC before Saturday night’s championship game between Alabama and Florida. Now we know with absolute certainty.

There is Alabama, and then there is everyone else.12346465_10153672185467209_8992252981516104814_n

The Crimson Tide won 29-15, but it really wasn’t that close. A late Florida touchdown got them eight irrelevant points – although the gamblers who had Alabama minus-17 points would argue the TD was damn relevant. Alabama’s defense was suffocating, Derrick Henry secured his Heisman Trophy – if he hadn’t already – with 189 yards and a touchdown and once again we were left to know with certainty that the best coach in college football strolls the Alabama sideline.

There is Nick Saban, and then there is everyone else.

We’ve known about Saban’s greatness for years, so there is no need to gush for too long about the 64-year-old guru. Not only does he have the best players, but they’ll also outwork you, too. So will his coaches.

There was nothing that Florida tried to do Saturday that Alabama didn’t have an answer for. Coming in, we knew Florida’s only hope was to get some points on special teams and hope the Gators defense – which is very good, by the way – could hold on long enough to keep them in it.

It worked that way for a while. Antonio Callaway returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter, giving Florida a 7-2. It wasn’t until just before halftime that Alabama finally pushed ahead. It took a while to get the lead, but when they did, they weren’t giving it up.

Henry did just enough. He ground out 189 yards, passing Herschel Walker for the biggest season ever by an SEC running back with 1,986 yards. And you have to give offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin some props too. He called a good game and put QB Jake Coker in enough comfortable positions to have a clean, efficient night. He was 18-for-26 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Even the 29 was a deceivingly low point total, considering they let the clock run out at the end of the game with the ball on the Florida 3-yard line. Overall, it was a good-enough night for the Alabama offense.

And, of course, there is this, as it always is with Alabama under Saban.

There is the Alabama defense, and then there is everyone else.

Kirby Smart gave the Tide faithful a nice going-away present on his way to Athens. Florida’s offense didn’t score a single point until the outcome was no longer in doubt, scoring on a 46-yard pass with five minutes to go and Bama up 29-7 at the time. Florida only had 180 yards all night and rushed for only 15 yards on 21 attempts. Even more impressively, 92 of the 180 total yards came on two pass plays (46 each). On their other 43 plays, Florida gained just 88 yards, a meager 2.04 yards per play.

Florida’s offensive struggles also are a microcosm for all that ails the SEC this year. Quarterback play for Florida was atrocious, but they’re certainly not alone in the SEC. It’s just a really down here for quarterback play in the SEC. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) and Brandon Allen (Arkansas) are the only ones who can say they had good years. Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee) was close, but he will be so much better in the future.

The rest, forget it. Florida was a mess after Will Grier’s suspension. Brandon Harris couldn’t get it done at LSU even with eight and nine men in the box trying to stop Leonard Fournette. Auburn, Texas A&M, Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt all juggled QBs, and all with disastrous results.

And it’s not to say that Jake Coker was anything exceptional, but he was certainly good enough for Alabama. He’s made plays when he’s needed to, both with him arm and his legs. If he’s Alabama’s weak link, well, then they’re not very weak.

The rest can’t be said for the SEC. When all the polls come out later today, Alabama will be the only SEC team in the top 10. And for as much as we all like to brag about the greatness of the SEC, it’s probably about right. No one else deserves to be ranked among the nation’s elite. And no one else besides Alabama deserves even a second of conversation about being a potential playoff team.

Not this year, because there’s only one.

December 8, 2015 at 5:02 am Leave a comment


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