Stuart McNair

Notes from Alabama’s Cotton Bowl win over Michigan State Thursday night

Cyrus Jones had an interception and a dramatic 57-yard punt return for a touchdown to win the McKnight Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the Cotton Bowl. Here are notes from Alabama’s 38-0 win over Michigan State.

Cyrus Jones’ punt return for a touchdown against Michigan State marked the 45th non-offensive touchdown of the Nick Saban era. This season, the Tide has recorded nine non-offensive touchdowns.

Four of those have been punt returns by Cyrus Jones. The Alabama senior took one 57 yards against Michigan State in the Tide’s 38-0 win in the Cotton Bowl Thursday night to become the all-time single season record-holder for Alabama in punt returns for touchdowns. David Palmer and Javier Arenas had the old record of three.

Since Saban took over in 2007, Alabama has 16 interception returns, 13 punt returns, five kickoff returns, four fumble returns, and four blocked punt returns for touchdowns. Alabama scored one non-offensive touchdown in 2014. The Tide scored seven non-offensive touchdowns in 2013, including three in the season opener against Virginia Tech, marking the first time the Crimson Tide had done so in a game since Sept. 30, 1995, against Georgia.

Jones earned the McKnight Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the win over Michigan State.

Here are other notes from Bama’s victory:

Alabama is the nation’s number one bowl team in terms of appearances 65) and victories (37).

The Crimson Tide is 10-5 in its 15 bowl meetings against teams from the current Big Ten.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban is now 8-0 in games played against teams coached by his former assistant coaches. His Alabama teams have defeated Michigan State under Mark Dantonio twice, defeated Colorado State once and Florida once under Jim McElwain, defeated Will Muschamp at Florida, and defeated Derek Dooley three times at Tennessee.

Bama has won six bowl games in Saban’s nine years at Alabama.

Alabama is now 4-0 in games played in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, including two games this season. Bama opened the 2015 season with a 35-17 win over Wisconsin in Dallas.

 

Alabama returns to the Cowboys stadium to open the 2016 season against Southern Cal.

It was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter Thursday night, the fourth game this year in which Bama had not scored in the opening frame. Others were Ole Miss, LSU, and Mississippi State. It was the 10th time this year the Tide has held its opponent scoreless in the first quarter.

 

After defensive back Tony Brown was sent home from Dallas during Alabama’s preparation, his place on the Crimson Tide depth chart was taken by junior Maurice Smith.

 

Alabama is now a perfect 2-0 all-time against Michigan State and has outscored the Spartans, 87-7 in those two games. Prior to Thursday night’s Cotton Bowl, Alabama had also defeated Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl in 2010 by a 49-7 margin.

Since 2007, Alabama owns a 39-13 (.750) mark against the Associated Press top 25, including a 21-7 (.750) record against AP top-10 teams following the win over No. 3 Michigan State Thursday. This season, the Tide has faced eight teams in the AP preseason poll, the most ranked opponents of any team in the nation, and is 7-1 in those contests. Alabama finished 5-2 in 2014 against opponents ranked in the AP top 25 after going 3-2 in 2013 and 5-1 in 2012. The Tide held a 4-1 mark vs. top-25 teams in 2011 and went 5-3 against the AP top 25 in 2010.

The Crimson Tide is 20-7-1 (.732) in domed stadiums, including an 11-2 mark since 2009 and 12-4 during head coach Nick Saban’s tenure. Alabama opened the season in a dome, defeating Wisconsin, before the most recent postseason matchup in Atlanta where the Tide took down Florida, 29-15, at the Georgia Dome for the Southeastern Conference championship. The Tide had three appearances in domes in 2014, including the season opener against West Virginia and the SEC Championship versus Missouri - both of which were in Atlanta - and the season finale against Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Alabama led Michigan State, 10-0, at halftime on the way to a 38-0 victory over the Spartans. Under Saban, the Crimson Tide is 95-6 (.941) when leading at the half. Alabama has led at the half in 11 of its 14 games this year, trailing Ole Miss and Arkansas, and tied at 7-7 versus Tennessee at the midway point. The Crimson Tide is 4-8 under Saban when trailing at halftime after coming away with a victory against Arkansas on Oct. 10, despite trailing 7-3 at half. The four wins in the Saban era when trailing at the half: 34-24 over No. 7 Virginia Tech in 2009 (in Atlanta); a 24-15 over No. 9 LSU in 2009; 24-20 at Arkansas in 2010; 27-14 vs. Arkansas in 2015. His Tide teams are 4-3 when tied at halftime, and Alabama’s four wins under Saban when tied at halftime: at LSU in 2008, (27-21), at Auburn in 2009 (26-21), against Tennessee in 2011 (37-6) and against Tennessee this season (19-14).

In the 11 games since losing the turnover battle 5-0 and falling to Ole Miss, Alabama has turned the tide in regards to turnovers. Since the loss to Ole Miss, the Tide is plus-11 in turnovers, having forced 21 total – 16 interceptions, 5 fumbles – in those 11 games. The Crimson Tide has now forced 26 turnovers this season. Alabama’s 18 interceptions lead the SEC and is tied for 14th nationally, while the team’s 443 return yards.

Alabama’s front seven has made its presence known, regularly reaching opposing quarterbacks this season. The Crimson Tide defense ranks third nationally and leads the SEC in sacks with 3.57 per game (50 in 14 games). The 3.57 sacks per game is higher than any Alabama team during the Saban era. The 50 sacks are also 10 more than the previous high in a season since 2007, and is also the most since the 2002 team had that same total.

The Tide has 43 of its sacks in the last 11 games (3.9 per game).

Defensive end Jonathan Allen leads the way for the Crimson Tide with 12.0 sacks (including three at Mississippi State, and two against Wisconsin, Texas A&M and Michigan State). Including Allen, nine different Alabama defenders have at least two sacks this season, including OLB Tim Williams (10.5), LB Ryan Anderson (6.0), A’Shawn Robinson (3.5), DE Da’Shawn Hand (3.0), LB Reggie Ragland (2.5), OLB Rashaan Evans (2.0), DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (2.0) and DL D.J. Pettway (2.0).

The Alabama defense has shut out its opponents 17 times since the start of the 2008 season. More recently, the Crimson Tide defense has shut out 14 teams in the past five seasons. The Tide recorded its first shutout of the 2015 season at home against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 28, blanking the Warhawks and limiting the ULM offense to 92 total yards.

Under Saban, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to 10 points or fewer 57 times since the start of the 2007 season. The Michigan State game marked the sixth time this season that Alabama has held an opponent to 10 points or less. Last year, Alabama shut out two opponents. Alabama held 9-of-13 opponents to 10 points or less in 2013 with three shutouts. Seven opponents were limited to 10 points or less in 2012, four of which were shutouts. Alabama was successful in holding opponents in the 0-10 point range in nine games in 2011 and eight times in 2010. UA kept opponents within that range seven times in both 2008 and 2009, and in 2007 posted two games in which it held opponents to 0-10 points. Alabama has shut out the opposition 17 times during the Saban era.

Alabama limited Michigan State to 239 yards of total offense in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic, the 10th time the Tide has kept a team under 300 yards in 2015. UA held Florida to 180 yards in the 2015 SEC Championship Game, Auburn to 260 yards in the Iron Bowl to close out the regular season and prior to that limited LSU to 182, Arkansas to 220 yards, Georgia to 299 yards, ULM to 92 yards and Middle Tennessee to 275 yards, one week after holding Wisconsin to 268 yards of total offense in the season opener. In head coach Nick Saban’s 122-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited opponents to under 300 yards of total offense 76 times, or 62.29 per cent of the time. UA held six of its 14 opponents below 300 yards in 2014.

During Saban’s last 109 games at the Capstone (since the start of the 2008 season), the Crimson Tide defense has held the opposing offense to fewer than 200 yards of total offense 36 times, including four times this year (Florida – 180, Charleston Southern – 134, LSU – 182 yards, ULM – 92). The Tide accomplished the feat twice in 2014 including against Texas A&M on Oct. 18 and versus Florida Atlantic in a weather-shortened contest to open the home schedule on Sept. 6. Alabama limited opponents to 200 or less four times in 2013. In 2012, UA did so five times, and in 2011, the Tide accomplished the feat eight times, limiting Kent State to 90 yards and LSU to only 92 yards in the BCS Championship Game (the second and third times a Saban defense had limited its opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense). Alabama’s best came in 2009 when the Tide held Chattanooga to 84 yards of total offense. UA held opponents under 200 yards three times in 2010, four times in 2009 and six times in 2008.

Derrick Henry’s 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the 2015 Cotton Bowl against Michigan State moved his consecutive games with a touchdown streak to 19, currently the longest active streak in the nation, and the longest by an SEC player in the past 20 years (eclipsing Tim Tebow’s streak of 14 games from 2006-07). The streak is also the longest in Alabama history, with the previous high being 10 by Terry Davis across the 1971 and 1972 seasons from Nov. 6, 1971-Oct. 21, 1972. The last time Henry failed to notch a score was in the LSU game on Nov. 8, 2014. His two touchdowns vs. Michigan State set his season total at 25, breaking the Southeastern Conference record, passing the total of 23 that was previously shared by Tim Tebow (Florida), Tre Mason (Auburn).

With his three-yard rush at the end of the first quarter, junior tailback Derrick Henry has now rushed for 2,000-plus yards this season, making him the 25th player in NCAA single-season history to do so and the 19th player in FBS history. The mark also makes him the first Southeastern Conference back to collect 2,000 yards in a season as well as the first Alabama back. Henry finished tonight’s game with 75 yards and now sits at 2061 for the season (14 games).

 Ridley owns the Alabama single-season receiving yards mark by a freshman thanks to his 138 yards in tonight’s contest. He entered today’s game with 893 yards receiving and now sits at 1031 after the Cotton Bowl Classic. The previous record holder for receiving yards by a freshman was Amari Cooper’s total of 1,000 in 2012.

RIalvin Ridley has notched seven touchdown catches this season, five of which have gone for 30 yards or more, including his most recent, a 50-yard catch and score from Jake Coker in Thursday’s game. He had a 30-yard catch for a score against Charleston Southern on Nov. 21. His second career TD was a 45-yard strike against Georgia, and he followed that with an 81-yard reception against Arkansas the very next week. The Nov. 14 touchdown score at Mississippi State came on a screen that the freshman took for a 60-yard score. His other touchdown catches this season were a 15-yard reception against ULM, the first receiving score of his career, and his first scoring play tonight from six yards out.

Over his last 10 games, senior quarterback Jake Coker is completing 73.1 percent (179-for-245) of his passes for 1,703 yards and nine touchdowns. His 286 yards in tonight’s game were a career-high mark for the quarterback, eclipsing his previous mark of 263 against Arkansas on Oct. 10, 2015.

With Derrick Henry’s 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic, the Crimson Tide has scored in the first half of its last 117 games, the longest streak in the nation. The last time UA failed to score in the first half was on Sept. 29, 2007, when Alabama and Florida State headed into halftime in a scoreless tie. The Seminoles won that game, 21-14.

 

Captains for the Tide were the permanent captains elected by the team following the Southeastern Conference Championship Game – quarterback Jake Coker, tailback Derrick Henry, center Ryan Kelly, and linebacker Reggie Ragland.

 

Among those on the Alabama sideline for the game were legendary Crimson Tide (and Dallas Cowboys) linebacker Lee Roy Jordan and former Bama and PGA golf star Jerry Pate.

 

Alabama had a program and national-record 29 Crimson Tide players who have already earned their degrees suited up for the Cotton Bowl. The group included three that have graduated with their master’s degrees (Jake Coker, Ryan Kelly, Isaac Luatua). All 29 wore a mortar board sticker on their helmets denoting their status as graduates.

The Tide’s 29 graduates breaks the previous national mark of 28 that played for Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. This year’s Tide total means that more 20 per cent of those wearing the crimson and white in the Cotton Bowl have at least one college degree already in hand.

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The Tide’s Cotton Bowl graduate tally is three ahead of second place Temple and seven ahead of third-place Kansas State. Clemson is the closest squad in the College Football Playoff with 15.


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