‘We’re In!’ Playoff Next For Alabama

The sign in the Alabama cheering section got to the heart of the matter. “WE’RE IN,” it proclaimed. The Crimson Tide is in the inaugural College Football Playoff after a 42-13 victory over Missouri in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta Saturday.

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Alabama was the number one seed in last week’s College Football Playoff Selection Committee poll. The final poll will be announced Sunday at 11:45 a.m. CST, but Bama is certain to be either the first or second seed and almost certainly headed to New Orleans for a semifinal playoff game on January 1.

Most Valuable Player Blake Sims passed for two touchdowns and T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry rushed for two each in the Bama victory. Sims’s touchdown passes went to DeAndrew White, 58 yards, and Christion Jones, 6 yards. Missouri had a one-yard touchdown pass from Maty Mauk to Bud Sasser and two field goals from Andrew Baggett.

Alabama improved to 12-1 on the season while Missouri is now 10-3. Bama won its 24th SEC Championship with the victory.

Alabama certainly dominated. The Tide had 28 first downs to 10 for Missouri. The Tide had 49 rushes for 242 yards, the Tigers 23 runs for 41 yards. Sims completed 23 of 27 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for Bama, while Mizzou quarterback Mauk completed 16-34 for 272 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Total offense was Alabama 76 plays for 504 yards, Missouri 57 plays for 313 yards. The Tide had an advantage of 36:43 to 23:17 in time of possession. Bama was penalized only twice for 10 yards, Mizzou 6-60.

The Tide converted 9-13 on third downs, Missouri 6-16 plus its only fourth down try.

Henry had a career best 141 rushing yards on 20 carries. Yeldon had 14 runs for 47 yards and Tyren Jones 3-26, Sims 9-19. Cooper caught an SEC Championship Game record 12 passes for 83 yards. DeAndrew White had 4-101, Christion Jones 3-40, and O.J. Howard 2-20.

A’Shawn Robinson led the Tide with 9 tackles, including three for lost yardage. Landon Collins was in on 7 tackles, one for lost yardage, and caused and recovered a fumble. Geno Smith was in on five tackles and Jarran Reed four, two for losses.

Alabama was razor sharp on its first possession, a 10-play, 68-yard drive to a 7-0 lead. The Tide mixed runs and passes from a 13-yard Blake Sims pass to fullback Jalston Fowler for 13 yards on first down to a two-yard run up the middle by T.J. Yeldon. In between Yeldon had an 11-yard run and Sims – who completed his first nine passes in the game – had completions to Amari Cooper for 6, 4, 9, and 10 yards and a 6-yard pass to DeAndrew White. Bama did not face a third down situation on the drive. Adam Griffith kicked it to 7-0.

The Bama defense also had a good first appearance. Missouri’s first possession was three incomplete passes – one underthrown, one dropped, and one broken up by linebacker Trey DePriest. Including the punt, the Tigers had a 29-second possession.

The Tide and Tigers exchanged a few punts before Alabama drove to a scoring opportunity at the Missouri 26 early in the second quarter, but Griffith’s 43-yard field goal try sailed wide left, no good.

Missouri was again forced to punt and thrre were a couple of miscues. The ball hit Bama’s Altee Tenpenny, but was recovered by Christion Jones. Meanwhile, Jones had been interfered with and Missouri was penalized 15 yards, putting the Tide at its 42.

Sims made quick work of the opportunity, hitting White on a post pattern, a 58-yard touchdown in one play. Things of significance on the play all went for Alabama. In addition to the touchdown, that pass made Sims the all-time single season passing yards leader at Bama, giving him 3,109 this year, surpassing A.J. McCarron’s 2013 record of 3,063.

Perhaps of more importance, Missouri’s star defensive lineman, Shane Ray, hit Sims after the pass and was charged with targeting, eliminating him from the game.

After Griffith’s kick, Alabama led 14-0.

With about 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, Missouri made its first foray into Alabama territory on a Marcus Murphy run. And the Tigers didn’t stop there. Maty Mauk completed a nice pass to Jimmie Hunt for 32 yards to the Alabama 15.

The Bama defense did stiffen, forcing a fourth-and-10 which the Tigers used for a 33-yard Andrew Baggett field goal. That closed the margin to Alabama 14, Missouri 3 with 8:30 remaining in the quarter.

Alabama had another excellent drive, 14 plays and 75 yards, to a two-yard Yeldon touchdown. The Tide was helped along by an offsides penalty against Missouri on a third-and-nine play. On the third-and-four, Derrick Henry rushed for the first down to keep the drive alive at midfield. Henry later had a 13-yard run to the Missouri 37. On a third-and-four, Sims whipped a sidearm pass to Cooper for nine and a first down. Two plays later on third-and-seven Sims found tight end O.J. Howard for 17 and a first-and-goal at the two.

Yeldon started right, then cut up the middle for the touchdown and a 21-3 Bama lead with 2:47 until halftime. That touchdown moved Yeldon into third place all-time in rushing touchdowns with 36, one ahead of Trent Richardson. He trails Mark Ingram with 42 and Shaun Alexander 41.

Bama forced a punt and then ran out the clock.

At the half, Alabama had 15 first downs to 4 for Missouri and the Tide had 44 plays for 252 yards, the Tigers 27 plays for 108.

Cooper set an SEC Championship Game record with 10 first half receptions, most catches in a half and Sims tied the record for consecutive pass completions as he opened the game with nine in a row.

It was a good thing the Tide had a little margin because Missouri got the ball to start the second half and made a great play to open with the touchdown. It looked like Bama would stop the drive when it was third-and-10 at the Missouri 36 and quarterback Maty Mauk was forced from the pocket. He threw long down field and Jimmie Hunt pulled it in for a 63-yard drive. Bama’s defense did its best with the Tigers having first and goal at the one. An incomplete pass, a run for no gain, and a fumbled snap for no gain, though, were followed by a Mauk slant pass to Bud Sasser for a touchdown. That cut the lead to 21-10 with just four minutes gone in the second half.

Déjà vu?

After Alabama couldn’t move (and almost couldn’t get a punt off, although JK Scott scooped up a low snap and punched it down to the Missouri 20, the Tigers went on to another score.Remarkably, Mauk faced a third and 10 at his 36, just as on the previous possession, and he was flushed from the pocket, just as on the previous possession, and he threw a long pass that was caught by Hunt at the Alabama 17. The defense did limit the Tigers to a 33-yard Baggett field goal, but now it was a one score game – Alabama 21, Missouri 13.

Alabama responded with a critical drive. Sims made a nice keeper for a first down at midfield. Sims then hit Christion Jones on a 27-yard gain. After a couple of Derrick Henry runs for a first down at the 18, it was Sims to Jones again for 17 and a first down.

Bama went to the fourth quarter with second-and-goal at the one. That was turned into a six-yard situation after a false start. Sims may have surprised the Tigers with a one-yard pass to Jones for the touchdown and a 28-13 lead.

After Missouri kicked the Tide back to its 10, Bama was trying to use some clock and perhaps get a score to put the lead at three scores. They did good.

A third-and-8 pass to Cooper worked to perfection because Cooper made a great move to get a 17-yard gain. He was hit out of bounds, moving it up to the 44. That catch was his 12th of the game, which is the new SEC Championship Game mark.

One a third-and-two, Sims scrambled up the middle for 17 to the Missouri 26. On the next play, Henry took it around right end and to the house for a 35-13 lead with just 7:38 to play. The 90-yard drive had taken just eight plays.

Landon Collins caused and recovered a fumble, the only turnover of the game, to start Bama at its 38. Five straight Henry runs – the next to last 46 yards to the one – was followed by the fifth, his second fourth quarter touchdown and a final score of 42-13.


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