It was only a matter of time before Amari Cooper had his breakout game.
It came Saturday against Ole Miss when the true freshman wide receiver caught eight passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
"We really had high hopes that Amari Cooper would one day sort of find himself and do the things like he does in practice all the time in the game," head coach Nick Saban said. "I think that happened today. That's a guy that can be an explosive player for us and help us down the road."
Cooper, a former four-star recruit, stepped up when Alabama needed him to. Starting wide receiver DeAndrew White went down with a knee injury three plays into the game and was taken to the locker room. He would only return to the sideline sporting street clothes and crutches.
In White's absence, Cooper made plays. The two most notable were his touchdowns, which came within nine minutes of each other in the second quarter. The first was a 16-yard grab right on the goal line that went in for review and came back in the Tide's favor, and the second was a 12-yard catch that put Alabama up 27-7.
"Amari progresses every day and that's what we're going to need now that DeAndrew is out," said quarterback A.J. McCarron. "We're going to need more guys to step up and make plays for us."
After Saturday night, Cooper leads all Crimson Tide receivers with 17 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's a great thing when you recruit a player who can start right away," said fellow receiver Christion Jones, who played as a true freshman last season. "I think he's bought into how we play and how we do things around here."
Overall, Alabama was not thrilled with its offensive execution. The Tide settled for four field goals in the red zone, was held to their lowest total yardage (305 yards) and only rushed for 125. Ole Miss played them tight and tough.
But Cooper had himself a game, accounting for 84 of his team's 180 yards passing, and appears to be emerging as McCarron's go-to guy.
"He was probably our lone bright spot on offense," said center Barrett Jones.
And there's certainly more where that came from. After all, he's just a freshman.
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