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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.

 

December 4, 2016 at 2:32 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

BAMA Dominates Mich. State 38-0

The dry erase board in the Alabama locker room had four times listed on the dry erase board. Three were for warmups. The fourth had kickoff for the Crimson Tide against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and College Football Playoff semifinal.

“7:20 – Kick msu ASS”

(sic)

So they did, en route to a 38-0 win over the Spartans to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game against No. 1 Clemson.

The offense scored four touchdowns, Adam Griffith nailed a 47-yard field goal and Cyrus Jones took another punt into the end zone.

“I’m really, really proud of our team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think last year when we came to this game, we were happy just to take part in the game. I think this year we wanted to sort of take the game. And really thought our guys had a vision of what they wanted and everybody paid the price for what they had to do in preparation. And there was no circumstance in that game out there today that changed anybody’s feeling about how they wanted to compete and how they wanted to play.”

Jones didn’t say much to the media during availability the week leading up to the 2015 Cotton Bowl. Instead, he let his play say everything for him.

In the third quarter, Jones took a punt back 57 yards for a score after putting a move on a Michigan State defender.

“It was something I grew up doing,” Jones said. “My favorite player growing up was Tavon Austin, a guy I grew up watching in Baltimore, just really explosive with the ball. He had moves similar. And I kind of patented my game after him growing up. And that was moves I get from him. So you can credit him with those.”

Jones’ 57-yard punt return for a touchdown was the fifth-longest punt return for a touchdown in Cotton Bowl history. He owns the program record for most punt returns for a touchdown in a season with four.

On defense, he intercepted what would’ve been a touchdown late in the second quarter as the defense shut out the Spartans.

For his efforts, he was named the defensive MVP of the game.

The game started as everything it was hyped to be: a defensive slugfest. The first quarter was scoreless as neither team could get much going.

Then, Jake Coker found his stride, Calvin Ridley continued to make big plays and Derrick Henry finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. A 47-yard field goal later put Alabama up 10-0 before the half.

In the second half, Alabama started with the ball and put up 21 in the third quarter. Ridley had two touchdowns, sandwiching Jones’ punt return score. The freshman wide receiver broke Amari Cooper’s single-season record for receiving yards with 1,031. He had 138 yards on eight receptions.

Henry put the game completely out of reach with his 25th rushing touchdown of the season, an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Heisman Trophy winner eclipsed 2,000 yards rushing for the season (2,061) and broke the SEC record for rushing touchdowns.

“Make no mistake, this is still a defensive team,” Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. “This is a defensive mentality team. Fortunately, we made some plays to make the score like this, but at the end of the day, we shut out a pretty good team.”

The Crimson Tide held Michigan State to 239 total yards, including 29 yards rushing. The defense sacked Spartans quarterback Connor Cook four times bringing the season total to 50.

The Spartans had one trip into the red zone which was capped by an interception, one of two the defense nabbed.

Alabama (13-1) will face No. 1 Clemson (14-0) in the CFP Final on Jan. 11 in Arizona.

January 1, 2016 at 6:37 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

Alabama’s 9 sacks keys win vs. Mississippi State 31-6.

(more…)

November 16, 2015 at 2:32 am Leave a comment

Rammer Jammer, Bama rolls over Georgia between the hedges, 38-10.

12088479_944523102276230_7728862921014518884_nSanford Stadium was only about half full shortly into the fourth quarter.

A capacity crowd of 92,746 that had been loud in support of Georgia progressively quieted down and cleared out as Alabama’s lead continued to mount.

Minutes after the game ended and the Tide’s 38-10 win was final, the only noise from the stands came from several rows of Alabama supporters behind the Tide’s sideline.

The fans chanted “Roll Tide.” Stationed nearby, Alabama’s band later led cheers of “Roll Tide Roll.”

Tide coach Nick Saban told his players all week that Alabama was being doubted and counted out on a national level.

There will be less of that after Saturday night. This was more than a win for No. 13 Alabama. It was a statement, a thorough domination of the No. 8 team in the country in what is widely considered one of the toughest road environments in college football.

“I think it shows a lot,” senior cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “We don’t come out to just win games. We try to come out and dominate them in every phase of the game — special teams, offense and defense — and I think you saw that here today.”

After falling to Ole Miss Sept. 19, a loss Saturday would have made the Tide an extreme long shot to reach the College Football Playoff.

Instead, Alabama improves to 4-1, will likely be ranked in the top-10 when the new polls are released Sunday, and looked the part of a legitimate national championship contender Saturday night.

October 4, 2015 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Alabama punches ticket to the College World Series

After a marathon win in game one, Alabama was more efficient in game two, defeating Nebraska 2-1 in the second game of the weekend to earn the Super Regional win and punch the Crimson Tide’s ninth ticket to the Women’s College World Series, Jaclyn Traina because she gutted out so many performances over the year. She was much better than yesterday and I think everyone saw that. The Super Regional win is Alabama’s (50-11) ninth in program history and the third for this senior class that includes Traina (23-3), who threw the complete-game victory with just one run off three hits. A first-inning rally provided all the runs that Alabama would need, with “I still had a lot of confidence in myself,” said Traina. “Days like yesterday happen and I just learn from it. We worked a lot on the off-speed in there today too and that kept them off-balance. We were just on the same page together and it worked out. Nebraska (44-18) could not get anything going against Triana on offense, putting just five baserunners on all game. Starter Tatum Edwards (24-13) went the distance in the circle and took the loss despite limiting Alabama to just two runs off seven hits.

May 26, 2014 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment

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