After two sub-par Alabama football outings on the road – a loss at Ole Miss and a 14-13 win over Arkansas – the Crimson Tide blasted Texas A&M, 59-0, in Bryant-Denny Stadium last Saturday and all of a sudden has the reputation of a team that plays well at home and not so well away from home.
That, of course, is slim evidence. Nevertheless, it’s the rap that Bama will take to Tennessee Saturday when the Crimson Tide takes on the Vols at 7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 central time) in Neyland Stadium. ESPN2 will televise the game.
It was not a surprise when Alabama quarterback Blake Sims was asked if he felt more prepared for this road trip than for the two previous road games. “I wouldn’t say ‘prepared’ is the word,” Sims said. “I’m just very excited for this team coming off the great win we're coming off of.”
Sims doesn’t even see a need to change the way Bama operates in road games. “We just need to stay with the same attitude, keep improving, and learn from the mistakes we’ve had in the past,” he said. “When we see things going South, we need to get things back North and let everyone know that's not how we've been doing things. Look at the great things we did last week (in practice) and how it helped us (last game) and keep it going.
“Practice is going so well. We're doing so well in practice and everything is coming so much easier. When it comes to the game, it's just second nature for us. We have a lot more confidence in each other and we trust each other a lot more.”
Sims, a fifth-year senior, is in his first year as starting quarterback at Alabama and one would have to give him high marks. He has led Bama to a 6-1 overall record, including a 3-1 Southeastern Conference mark, and the Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the nation.
The 6-0, 208-pound Gainesville, Ga., native, has been very efficient. In fact, among regular starting quarterbacks, he has the highest efficiency rating in the SEC and Alabama as a team leads the league in passing efficiency. Sims has completed 117 of 176 passes for 1,748 yards and 13 touchdowns with only three interceptions and ranks fourth in the league in passing yards per game at 249.7.
Sims came into the season with only mop-up experience as the three-year back-up to A.J. McCarron. His career statistics prior to 2014 included 23-39 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. In a 42-21 win over Florida (in Bryant-Denny Stadium) earlier this year, Sims completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns.
“I think I have improved in a lot of ways,” Sims said. “With my team, they have a lot of confidence in me. And I think I have improved at seeing the defense before the ball is snapped. A lot of things are coming to easier and I'm getting the ball out of my hands a lot faster.”
He said things began to click after that Florida game. “I said to myself 'Hey this is not as bad as I thought it could be.' I just try to do the best I can do. Keep Coach (Nick) Saban happy and keep Coach (Lane) Kiffin confident.”
He’s not looking back, though. “I try to keep looking forward,” Sims said. “I try to keep the team looking forward because you’re only as good as your last play.”
Were he the type to look back, Sims would realize that his last play before going to Knoxville was pretty good. He connected with Amari Cooper on a 45-yard touchdown before the first offense went to the bench after the first series of the second half in a 59-0 win over Texas A&M.
That was, though, in Tuscaloosa.
“After what we did this past week, I'm ready to see what we can do on the road,” Sims said. “Show everybody we can bring it from home and take it on the road and keep the same intensity.”