Utah Quarterback Too Much For Tide

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was accurate. We should have known that. Alabama Coach Nick Saban preached it from the day it was known Bama would be playing the Utes in the Sugar Bowl. On Friday night, Johnson proved it with a remarkable performance against what has been a good Crimson Tide defense.



Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was definitely on target against Alabama in the 75th annual Sugar Bowl Friday night. His performance earned him the Miller-Dighby Award as the Most Valuable Player in the game. He led the Utes to a 31-17 win over Bama as he completed 27 of 41 passes for three touchdowns and 336 yards. He did not suffer an interception.

Although this is not the kind of game he would like go go out with, rumors are rampant that Kevin Steele, who has the title of defensive head coach at Bama, will be leaving the Crimson Tide to join the Clemson program of new Coach Dabo Swinney.

Although just by playing Friday night Alabama had record-making performances, the Crimson Tide came up short on extending other records. Just by participating, Alabama added to its NCAA record of bowl games played, 56. And it was Bama's 13th Sugar Bowl game, which ties LSU for most games in this 75-year-old event.

But Alabama didn't add to its bowl wins. The Tide is still number one in NCAA history with 31 (against 22 losses and three ties) and Bama is still number one in Sugar Bowl wins, although the record fell to 8-4.

Alabama failed to join that elite group of teams with 800 or more college football victories. Bama's record all-time is now 799-316-43.

Javier Arenas was a busy man for Alabama Friday night. He didn't have a lot of punt return opportunities. In fact, he had just one. But it was a beauty, a 73-yard runback for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl. That return is Arenas' sixth punt return for a touchdown in his Alabama career, extending his own school record. The junior also owns four of the 11 longest punt returns in Alabama history. It also is the fourth-longest by an Alabama player in a bowl game.

Arenas' longest return is the 87-yarder he had against Tulane earlier this year. His longest in a bowl game is the 86-yard runback he had in the Independence Bowl in a loss to Oklahoma State in 2006.

His other returns are a 65 against Florida International in 2006, 61 against LSU in 2007, and 80 against Mississippi State in 2008.

End Bobby Greenwood was one of the few bright spots for the Alabama defense that surrendered 31 punts and 349 yards. Greenwood had five unassisted tackles, including two tackles for six yards in losses, had a sack for a five-yard loss, and recovered a fumble in his final Alabama game.

The Andre Smith gap was obvious. When Smith broke a team rule and was suspended for the game, the place of the All-America left tackle was taken by left guard Mike Johnson, with David Ross moving into Johnson's left guard spot. Even before Johnson was injured, forcing Drew Davis to move from right tackle to left tackle and the insertion of true freshman John Michael Boswell at right tackle, there were all sorts of breakdowns in the offensive front. Johnson's ankle injury knocked him out of the game early in the first quarter.

Alabama had only 31 yards rushing. Interestingly, Utah had only 13 yards rushing in the game.

Freshman wide receiver Julio Jones, who entered the Sugar Bowl game ranked fourth in Alabama history for receiving yards in a season with 847 and tied for eighth in Tide history in receptions in a season with 51, caught seven passes for 77 yards against Utah. That improved his numbers to 58 catches (now fifth in Tide history) for 924 yards (still fourth) in his first season.

Despite having his most unproductive performance of the year, junior tailback Glen Coffee managed to tie Shaun Alexander for second place in Alabama single season rushing yardage. Coffee had 13 rushes for only 36 yards against Utah, but that was enough to give him 1,383 yards, the same number Alexander had in 1999. Bobby Humphrey holds the Tide mark with his 1,471 yards in 1986.

With a 52-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter, junior placekicker Leigh Tiffin has made 20 field goals this season. He also had two misses, giving him 30 attempts this year. He has made 53 field goals in his Alabama career. His 20 field goals this season moves him into fourth on the Alabama single-season field goals made list. He holds the single-season record with 25 set last year. Tiffin's 53 career field goals ranks him fourth in Alabama history behind Philip Doyle (78 from 1987-90), Michael Proctor (65 from 1992-95), and his father, Van Tiffin, (59 from 1983-86). With a make and two misses (47 yards) in the Sugar Bowl, Tiffin is now 7-10 on field goals in domes this year, including 2-3 from beyond 50 yards. (54 vs. Clemson, 52 vs. Utah).

Tiffin's 52-yard field goal for Alabama to start the second quarter tied for the longest-ever field goal in a BCS bowl game. Georgia's Brandon Coutu had a 52-yarder against Hawaii in last year's Sugar Bowl. Tiffin's kick was one yard short of the Sugar Bowl record, which was a 53-yarder by Oklahoma's John Carroll in the 1972 Sugar Bowl.

A pair of Alabama seniors played their 52nd career game in the Sugar Bowl, moving into a tie for the most games played in school history. Tight ends Travis McCall and Nick Walker played in their 52nd game for Alabama against Utah, tying former fullback Tarrant Lynch (1990-94) for the most games played in a Crimson Tide uniform. Defensive end Bobby Greenwood played in his 51st game for the Crimson Tide on Friday night. Former offensive lineman Matt Hammond (1990-93) and linebacker Lemanski Hall (1990-93) are tied with Greenwood on the list with 51 games played. Safety Rashad Johnson played in his 50th.

Utah's Stevenson Sylvester tied a BCS bowl record with three sacks against Alabama. The last person to record three sacks in a BCS bowl was USC's Rey Maualuga against Illinois in the 2008 Rose Bowl.

Utah's Freddie Brown had 125 yards receiving, the most in a Sugar Bowl since Virginia Tech's Josh Morgan had 126 receiving yards against Auburn in the 2005 Sugar Bowl.

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