The path was laid out in front of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Beat the Missouri Tigers and they would go on to play in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The team never took their eye off the prize as they thoroughly dominated Missouri to win their 24th SEC Championship. The star of the game was Blake Sims who finished 23-27 for 262 yards and a pair of TDs. That performance earned him MVP honors for the game.
Nick Saban complimented Sims following the game saying that he’d “never seen a player go through what he went through without complaining.” Saban followed that up saying that he’d “never seen a player (Sims) work so hard from the spring through the summer.”
The Tide got rolling early with a heavy dose of Amari Cooper attacking the edges for a quick 7-0 lead. That lead would grow on a pivotal play: a 58 yard touchdown strike to DeAndrew White in the second quarter. On the play, Blake Sims stood in the pocket and delivered a beautiful pass while taking an enormous hit from Missouri DL Shane Ray. Ray was called for targeting and ejected as a result of that hit. Head coach Gary Pinkel admitted after the game that his coaches upstairs saw the play and agreed with the targeting call.The Tide would tack on another touchdown and went into halftime with a 21-3 lead.
Missouri would battle back in the third quarter and make the game 21-13 thanks to a series of long completions. The ten points made Alabama fans nervous. Missouri was known as a second half team, and the Tide defense was suddenly giving up big plays.
Even with multiple explosive plays, it was not enough. The Crimson Tide knuckled down and scored three touchdowns in the fourth to win 42-13. The victory was sealed by the rumbling of big Derrick Henry. Alabama maintained a nearly seven minute edge in time-of-possession, and as the Mizzou defense tired, Henry got going. He ended up scoring a pair of touchdowns in the fourth to finish as the Tide’s leading rusher with 141 yards on 20 carries.
Saban was effusive in his post game news conference, saying that “he had never been so anxious to win a game for a group of guys.” He even got a series of laughs from the assembled writers by mentioning how he occasionally “booted them (his team) in the butt.”
It was a record breaking effort for the Tide. Amari Cooper’s 12 catches for eighty three yards earned him the record for most catches in an SEC Championship game, as well as most receptions in a season by one player. On top of the Cooper’s offensive production, the Tide offense got big plays from DeAndrew White (4 catches, 101 yards & 1 touchdown), Christion Jones (3 catches, 40 yards, & 1 touchdown).
While the offense was scoring in bunches, the defense was playing solid football. They did give up several long plays, but the DL consistently harassed Mizzou QB Maty Mauk, and refused to allow anything on the ground. Mizzou had 313 total yards, and only a paltry 41 yards rushing, and only ten first downs on the entire day. It is concerning that the past two teams that Alabama has played have managed to convert explosive plays, but for today, the team is victorious.
The Tide’s victory makes them the likely number one seed in the College Football Playoff. Assuming they are #1 when the final rankings come out on Sunday, they will be bound for the Sugar Bowl on January 1st.