A common theme among Alabama partisans and Bama haters prior to the 2014 season was that the Tide could not overcome the loss of quarterback A.J. McCarron, particularly with the surely polarized personalities of Head Coach Nick Saban and Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin. The one chance for quarterback efficiency was that Jake Coker, transferring from Florida State, could get the job done.
To be sure, McCarron was great. And Coker may have a big future at Alabama. Neither, though, has been much in the conversation in Tide country. No, “Man, we miss McCarron.” No, “Put Coker in!” (Well, maybe after that third interception against Auburn.)
As Alabama looks forward to the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff in New Orleans against Ohio State, the Crimson Tide is ranked first in the nation and the No. 1 story in the SEC is Bama quarterback Blake Sims. Story 1-B is Kiffin going from disgraced head coach at USC (and before that the hated coach at Tennessee) to the man who formulated an offense that has gained more yards than any in Alabama history.
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('BamaMag members get 10% off their entire package)The Kiffin-Sims combination has resulted in Alabama producing a Tide record 6,376 yards in a 12-1 season. The previous record was set by the 2012 national championship team, which had 6,237 yards. The 2010 Bama team passed for 3,395 yards. This team to date has the new record 3,653 yards.
As for Sims:
The 6-0, 208-pound fifth-year senior from Gainesville, Ga., was at his best in his latest outing, being named MVP of the SEC Championship Game by completing 23 of 27 passes (an SEC Championship Game record 85.2 per cent) for 262 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Sims started the game with 10 consecutive completions, also a new SEC Championship Game record.
He also had 19 yards rushing, giving him 281 total offense yards, the most ever by an Alabama player in the SEC title game.
Although it wasn’t all Sims, Alabama had SEC Championship Game team records for first downs (28), points (42), plays (76), pass completions (23), and rushing touchdowns (4).
When Sims completed a 58-yard pass to DeAndrew White for a second quarter touchdown against Missouri, he passed McCarron as Bama’s single season passing record. McCarron had 3,063 passing yards last year. Sims now has 3,250.
In addition to his passing yardage this year, Sims has rushed for 321 yards, giving him total offense of 3,571 yards, surpassing the previous Tide record of 3,041 by McCarron last year.
In a 42-21 win over Florida this year Sims completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns. The 445 yards is second best in Alabama history (behind Scott Hunter’s 484-yard performance against Auburn in 1969).
No one can complain that Alabama’s players selected wide receiver Amari Cooper as the Tide’s most valuable player this year. Cooper already has set an SEC record wth 115 pass receptions and has Alabama records for 1,656 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns this year. The guy throwing most of those passes to Cooper was Blake Sims.
Following the SEC Championship Game, Sims gave credit for his success to Saban, to his offensive line, for his receivers, and his running backs “because they worked hard and they gave me time to make adjustments and make good calls. Coach Kiffin did a great job with the game plan and letting us know what we have to do. Our coaches really care about us, and they want to see us win the game and be successful in life, and I'm just happy for this team because we have worked very hard.”
If Sims wouldn’t talk about himself, Saban would talk about the quarterback.
Saban said, “I don't know that I've ever seen a player go through any more than Blake went through for four years as a player, and never once did he ever not do whatever he needed to do to help the team. He played on a scout team so many times when we'd play against a zone read quarterback, when he was the backup quarterback, never complained about it.
“And I've never seen a guy work so hard from last spring when he had an opportunity to be the quarterback, through the summer, and to work in fall camp and get the confidence of his players and execute well and just learn how to take what the defense gives. He has done a phenomenal job for us all year long.
“It really as a coach, you love to see guys that go through what he's gone through, work so hard, always persevered, and then have success. This is a phenomenal success that he's had with the season, but it's a credit to his character and his work ethic.”