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December 13, 2017    
March 06, 2016

Road to the National Championship – Post Season

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When the post season began Alabama was ranked number 2 in both the College Football Playoff and AP rankings, behind Clemson. To achieve their goals the Tide needed to win three more games. The new season began in Atlanta where Alabama took on Florida for the SEC championship .

The SEC championship game was a study in domination. The final score made the game look close—it was not. Alabama held the ball 43 minutes to Florida’s 16. Alabama ran the ball for 233 yards to Florida’s 15. The Tide even held a slight edge in passing 204 to 165. Florida’s defense kept the Gators in the game and kept it from being a blowout.[This is the fourth part of a four part series.]

  The Tide defense simply out classed Jim McElwain’s offense. The Gator’s made two plays in the game. Alabama punter JK Scott outkicked his coverage and Florida’s Antonio Calloway returned the punt 85 yards for a touchdown. At that point Florida led 7-2. After that Florida’s offense couldn’t do anything and the Tide added a field goal and a Derrick Henry touchdown, which put Bama up 12-7 at the half.

  Alabama simply owned the second and third quarters of the game. In those quarters the Gator’s managed three yards of total offense. In the third the Tide scored ten points. Jake Coker drove the Tide 65 yards in twelve plays. The Gator’s held and Adam Griffith put Alabama up 15-7. After a Gator punt the Tide drove 81 yards using ten plays. The final 32 yards was a beautiful Coker to ArDarius Stewart pass for a touchdown. Alabama lead 22-7.

  Third quarter ended with Alabama first and goal on the Florida three yard line. The Florida defense held and Griffith missed a 24 yard field goal. Florida went three and out and after the Gator punt, the Tide began their next drive at the Alabama 43 yard line. Nine plays later Coker hit Richard Mullaney for a touchdown putting Bama up 29-7.

  After the Tide touchdown the teams exchanged punts and then Florida’s offense demonstrated that it had a pulse. In three pass plays, the last a 46 yard pass from Treon Harris to C.J. Worton for a touchdown. Harris successfully ran for the two-point conversion and suddenly it looked we might have a game on our hands.

  As is so often the case looks can be deceiving, the onside kick failed. Then Bama went three and out and punted. Florida ran four plays on fourth and eleven from their own 31 Tim Williams sacked Treon Harris and the Tide took over on downs. Alabama ran out the clock and took home an SEC championship. Alabama was the first team to win back to back SEC championship since Tennessee did it in 1998. In the process Derrick Henry broke Herschel Walker’s 34 year old rushing record gaining 1,986 yards. He also tied Walker’s touchdown mark of 23. Henry and the Tide were assured of playing at least one more game. That would give Henry the chance to try and break the 2,000 yard mark, a feat no SEC running back had ever accomplished.

  Alabama emerged as the number two seed in the College Football Playoff . This meant that the Tide was matched with Big Ten Champion Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. Alabama dominated Florida and it manhandled MSU. Michigan State played the odds stop Derrick Henry and force Jake Coker to beat you. Unfortunately, for the Spartans that’s exactly what happened. Henry was held to 75 yards, but Coker threw for a career high 286 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-0 whipping of the Big Ten champ.

  The first quarter and a half of the game was a punt fest. In four possessions Michigan Stated gained 87 yards. Their deepest penetration ended with a punt at the Alabama 47. Alabama fared even worse on three tries the Tide managed 34 yards reaching the Spartans 41 before punting. After an MSU punt Bama began their fourth drive on its own 20 yard line. This time Coker took to the air, he hit Mullaney for 15 yards. Henry lost a yard and two Stewart receptions gave Alabama a first down on the 49. The next play Coker hit Calvin Ridley for 50 yards. Two plays later Henry punched it in and the Tide took the lead for good.

  After the Spartans went three and out Alabama drove 43 yards in seven plays. The drive stalled at the MSU 30 and on fourth down Griffith hit a 47 yard field goal Alabama was up 10-0 with 1:25 left in the half. After a touchback, State went on perhaps their best drive of the game. The drive was all passes. With six second left in the half the Spartans had a first down on the Bama twelve yard line and one timeout. Conner Cook dropped back looking to throw a fade to Aaron Burbridge, instead Cyrus Jones picked off the pass. That ended the only real threat MSU mounted during the game. Bama took the 10-0 lead into the locker room.

  It got no better in the second half, with the Tide determined to make amends for last year’s loss to Ohio State. Alabama was up 31 zip, before MSU got a first down. The Tide scored on their first possession aided by two MSU person foul penalties. The teams traded a couple of punts before Cyrus Jones returned the second Spartan punt 57 yards for a touchdown. State then promptly went three and out and punted the ball back to Alabama. Coker hit Ridley for 50 yards and the Tide led 31-0 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. The game was over.

  Someone kept saying there’s plenty of time in this game. For that to matter Michigan State had to move the ball, which they failed to do. In the second half they had one good drive. That drive covered 47 yards and died on the Bama 28 as Cook’s fourth down pass fell incomplete. The Tide added another Henry touchdown which made the final score 38-0. Alabama had made up for the loss to the Buckeyes and was headed to Arizona for the national championship game against Clemson.

  The national championship game has been well chronicled. The Tide held off Clemson 45-40 in one of the best NCAA championship games ever played. Gutsy coaching and big plays brought the Tide its sixteenth national championship. Alabama had a memorable year. This championship, their fourth in seven years was historic. Alabama was the the first team to win four in seven years since Notre Dame did it in the 1940s. Nick Saban is now one national championship away from tying Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s six. That’s a pretty big deal.

  In addition to winning the Dr. Pepper College Football Playoff Trophy, which looks amazingly like a calla lily, the trophy case also includes: Amway Coaches Trophy, that’s the one with the Waterford crystal football; the AP National Championship Trophy; and the National Football Foundation, McArthur Bowl Trophy, which looks like a silver stadium. The last is named for Gen. Douglas McArthur of World War II fame.

  As they say in those TV ads: “But wait there’s more!” Derrick Henry, while in the process of gaining over 2,000 yards, a first in SEC history, also brought home some additional hardware for the Crimson Tide trophy case. Henry won the Heisman for outstanding player, the Maxwell also for outstanding player, the Doak Walker for best running back and the Walter Camp, player of the year trophy. These four trophies are the most ever earned by a single Bama player. Oh and he was also the SEC offensive player of the year.

  Ryan Kelly added another Rimington, the nation’s best center trophy to the haul. He was also named the SEC scholar athlete of the year. Kelly, received the SEC's Jacobs blocking trophy, which he shared with Arkansas' Sebastian Tretola.

  The SEC bestowed more accolades on the Tide. Reggie Ragland was named the SEC defensive player of the year, which was the first time ever that one school won both offensive and defensive player awards. The All SEC Team included seven Bama players: Derrick Henry, Ryan Kelly, Cam Robinson, Jonathan Allen, A'Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland. These player made both the AP and Coaches first teams.

  Derrick Henry, A'Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland all were named first team AP All Americans. Ryan Kelly made the second team and Eddie Jackson the third team. The AFCA Coaches All American team included: Henry, Ryan Kelly, A'Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland. A monumental year, which will extend into 2016 as the Tide is likely to have at least three first round NFL draft choices.

  What the future holds no one can predict. Nick Saban’s coaching staff has been under construction since January. The missing pieces have been filled and spring practice is just around the corner plus Saban once again brought in the nation’s best recruiting class. Is there any doubt why the for the Tide faithful, the next season can’t get here quick enough.

  Roll Tide

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