Stuart McNair

Alabama had crucial plays last year from Tide football players on 2016 roster

Alabama football success comes from players making plays

There are Alabama players, primarily skill position players, who have been outstanding in many games with frequent highlight plays. For some of them, when I hear the name, I remember one crucial play. T.J. Yeldon was an outstanding player, but I think of one play – his freshman year reception and 28-yard run for a touchdown with 51 seconds to play for the winning score in a 21-17 win over LSU in Baton Rouge in Bama’s 2012 national championship season.

 

A number of Alabama players who are not on the roster this year had memorable plays in the 2015 national championship season.

 

• Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy with an outstanding all-around season, but the one play I most remember was his 55-yard touchdown run against Texas A&M in College Station. A commentator said he avoided the safety. It looked to me like the safety avoided a collision with Henry.

 

• Jacob Coker became an outstanding quarterback, including his first really big pass, an 81-yard touchdown throw to Calvin Ridley to turn momentum in the Arkansas game.

 

• Cyrus Jones had three punt returns for touchdowns last year, including a 69-yard effort against Mississippi State to start the Tide on a 31-6 win.

 

• A’Shawn Robinson sacking Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott for a 7-yard loss on the first play of the game, one of nine sacks the Tide defense would turn in.

 

• Safety Gino Matias-Smith pounding LSU’s Leonard Fournette on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage, a precursor to the Bama defense holding the Heisman Trophy candidate to 31 yards on 19 carries.

 

• Kenyan Drake’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 45-40 national championship game win over Clemson.

 

• Jarran Reed, Bama’s 6-4, 313-pound defensive end, running down Clemson’s outstanding quarterback, Deshaun Watson, on a two-point conversion try.

 

Alabama returns players who had particularly memorable plays from last year. Some of them include:

 

It may be difficult to separate O.J. Howard’s five receptions for 208 yards, scoring two touchdowns and setting up another in the national championship game, but the first TD on Bama’s first possession of the third quarter went for 53 yards and put theTide on top.

 

Calvin Ridley was a freshman All-America, breaking first-year Bama records held by the likes of Julio Jones and Amari Cooper, and he broke out in the critical game at rainy Georgia with a particular standout play of a touchdown reception on a 45-yard pass from Coker.

 

It would be easy to say that Eddie Jackson’s 93-yard return of a pass interception for a touchdown against Texas A&M was the play to remember, but Jackson’s interception in the second quarter against Clemson – the only takeaway in the game – led to an Alabama touchdown that tied the game.

 

Minkah Fitzpatrick had two interception returns for touchdowns against Texas A&M, but before that he had a blocked punt that he picked up for a touchdown in the Tide’s win at Georgia.

 

Alabama trailed Tennessee, 14-13, when the Tide got the ball back with under six minutes to play and the end zone 71 yards away. On a second-and-12 ArDarius Stewart out-fought a Tennessee defender along the sideline for a clutch grab and gain of 29 yards to move into Vols territory and keep the winning touchdown drive alive.

 

Tennessee had one last opportunity for a winning drive, but Ryan Anderson had a sack and caused fumble (recovered by A’Shawn Robinson) on Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs to ice Bama’s 19-14 win.

 

Adam Griffith put the 2010 ill-fated long field goal return at Auburn out of his mind and nailed a clutch 47-yard field goal in the fourth quarter as Bama took a 29-13 win.

 

Marlon Humphrey pulling in Griffith’s perfect onside kick that led to a Bama touchdown in the national championship game.

 

Any one play could have changed the outcome of the Alabama win over Clemson for the national title, including Ronnie Harrison’s perfect play strip of an end zone pass that forced the Tigers to settle for a field goal.

 

With Auburn in desperation situation late in its 22-13 loss, theTigers tried a pass over the middle. Reuben Foster’s big hit broke up the pass and two subsequent passes by that receiver were dropped.

 

Tim Williams had a 9-yard sack of Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson that took the Tigers out of field goal range and forced a punt.

 

There were, of course, many other memorable plays from Alabama’s returning play-makers. Expect these players to make more of them and other players to make them in the future.


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