Alabama recap: Alabama-42, Florida-21
Tuscaloosa– If the walls of Bryant-Denny Stadium could speak, they would tell the tale of tonight’s game for many years come. This was no ordinary game for the Crimson Tide; records were broken, heroes were born, tempers flared but in the end; Alabama came out on top with a final of 42-21.
Alabama started the game strong with an 87 yard touchdown pass from Blake Sims to Kenyan Drake. While the fans might see it as just a great pass from Sims, the truth of the matter was that came from the mind of Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin.
“That was all Coach Kiffin. He gets all the credit for that one,” Sims said. “He recognized that Kenyan had a linebacker on him and we made a play and he did the rest.”
Weeks ago, most journalists and sports reporters scoffed at the idea of Sims being the starting quarterback for Alabama. Now, Sims finished day 23-33 with 445 passing yards four touchdowns and an interception. He is now second all time on most passing yards in a single season game in Crimson Tide history. Not too shabby for a guy who wasn’t supposed to even see the field this season.
If Sims impressed today, the only other player who might have done better was his go-to receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper, already a Heisman contender in some eyes certainly made a statement this afternoon with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Cooper also shattered a 50 year record tonight become the all-time leading receiver in touchdowns in Alabama history. While Cooper has had huge games recently, he still is humble enough to thank his Quarterbacks.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a few good quarterbacks in my career…I’ve been blessed,” Cooper said. “Me and Blake have been working hard since the spring on our timing and getting the ball right where it needs to be.”
From the get go, the defense was dynamite. Led by Jonathon Allen, Reggie Ragland and Landon Collins, the Crimson tide defense held the Gators to only 200 yards of total offense the entire game. The turning point of the game probably came in the third quarter when Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel’s pass was intercepted on-handed by Collins, thus really shutting the door on any chance for Florida to get back in the game.
“I just wanted to get the ball anyway possible,” Collins said. “That’s my job to get the ball and that’s all I try to do.”
Alabama’s defense was also able to drive Driskel to the ground five times and cause a forced fumble on top of another interception. Reggie Ragland ended the night leading the team in tackles with 8 and a forced fumble. While the defense itself played great, Ragland went above and beyond tonight stepping up as a leader for this very young defense.
“The upfront really helped change the game.” Ragland said “Those guys got off blocks and made the plays to keep me and Trey (DePreist) free, and it was great to have the safeties behind coming up and making the tackles… I knew that fumble helped change the game for my team and that’s what I wanted to do.”
For those who weren’t able to catch the first half of the game, what show by both teams. Florida struggled with staying on the field and getting the ball to receivers, however Alabama had trouble once again holding onto the ball. In the first half alone, Alabama managed to have three fumbles on key plays which all led to Florida’s three touchdowns. To sum up, this picture of Coach Saban should suffice as enough proof for the emotions he was feeling.
“There were alot of issues in the first half,” Saban said. “But when you have 645 yards on offense and you play well on defense, you did some good things.”
Another huge surprise was the return of All-SEC tight end OJ Howard in the mix if things. No, the sophomore from Prattville wasn’t injured the last three games, but it would seem that way since Alabama had seem to never find him the ball. However, after a long wait, Howard ended the day with two catches for 22 yards. He now leads all tight ends not only in catches but as well as purpose yards.
The last name that should be mentioned for his phenomenal is running back Derrick Henry. While TJ Yeldon is on paper the clear starter in the backfield, Henry as a back up is for sure college football’s top backup this week. He finished the day with 20 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. probably the biggest take away was on a 3rd and 23 when Henry put the team on his back and drove them down 24 yards for the first. He would later score on the next play after being denied in the end zone.
“I really wanted to get the first down after being pushed back on penalties’,” Henry said. “I’m just glad we were able to go out as a team and produce there…I had the momentum.”
The biggest takeaway from this game is without a doubt the fact that Blake Sims can actually pass. For weeks, fans have watched Alabama throw small screens and or short yard gains that would turn into big plays. This made the fans doubters in Sims ability to throw anything past the 10 yard line. Well, that theory has defiantly changed from before after this win. Sims threw the ball 7 times deep including two that went for key touchdowns. At this point, it’s hard to find anything negative from this kid’s playing style.
“People have to respect his passing,” Coach Saban said. “He has made too many plays for people not to respect him as a passer.”
After a day like Sims had, he clearly has proven to the guy to lead Alabama back into the promise land of College Football champions. For him, a guy who was constantly told he would never amount to see the field besides the fourth quarter, he truly was proven to everyone otherwise.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Sims said. “I just try to take what I take and what the defense gives me, and just try to trust my guys that they’re going to be there.”
Alabama now has an bye week coming and it comes at close to a perfect time. While Alabama has looked great and could probably take on Ole Miss, it seems like with a few key players on both sides of the ball, this bye week is perfect for everyone to get back to full speed and on task to win in Oxford.
“It’s all about getting guys healthy like Eddie, Jarrick Williams, Denzel Duvall,” Ragland said. “That’s what the bye week is for.”
One player mentioned by Ragland who didn’t play was cornerback Eddie Jackson. While the last two weeks fans got to see the glimpse of Jackson, he never got to see the field on Saturday. Although Jackson already has made a terrific comeback from tearing his ACL in the spring, Coach Saban doesn’t want to risk anything on him until he’s fully ready.
“We just can’t seem to keep Eddie healthy enough to keep him on the field,” Saban said. “hopefully these two weeks will help get Eddie back the way needs to be.”
While Jackson didn’t play, true freshman Tony Brown did see the field as a starter for the first time in his career. As a freshman, you hope to make a huge impact and that is exactly what Brown was able to do. Not only was his first tackle on the day a sack but also had three tackles in the day as well. Alabama has struggled in the cornerback position this season, one couldn’t see that the way Brown succeeded today.
“I think Tony Brown played really good today…he’s made a lot of progress, playing with alot more consistency.” Saban said. “I think after today he can continue to get more playing time.”
Brown also has made a huge impact to his older teammates on defense as well.
“You can’t ask a freshman to step up any bigger then he did” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “he went out there and executed and was able to make plays when asked.”
While Alabama made huge strides the past few weeks, the Tide will start their road trip in Oxford against a top 10 ranked Ole Miss. One thing that must change for the Tide is they want a big win on the road is the number of penalties. Alabama had 11 penalties for 80 yards on Saturday. While Florida couldn’t compose on those penalties, Ole Miss will for sure be able to take huge advantage on that. That also is one thing Coach Saban will not tolerate.
“At time we were inconsistent and played sloppy, but those are all correctable issues.” Saban said. ” This is not something we want to be apart of our team, we have to be able to hold the pumps on these things…but things all can be fixed.”
As this bye week may be a huge disappointment for Alabama fans, this is the perfect time for everything to fall into place for Alabama to recover. This is where Alabama can finally relax while getting ready for another great game.
Cole Thompson is the Alabama beat reporter for WVUA-FM. Follow him on twitter at @ColeThompson32