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STEPHEN’S REPORT: Focusing on the Performance of the Players

Offensive Line—Overall [A]

Summary: Missouri’s defensive line registered 40 sacks this season. It mustered two against Alabama’s offensive line. The Crimson Tide protected Blake Sims, while accounting for 504 yards offensively. Alabama’s offensive line guided its backs to 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns. It was penalized once for five yards.

Special Teams—Overall [A]

JK Scott [A] – JK Scott works wonders even with bad snaps. He totaled three punts against Missouri, including a 33-yard kick that pinned the Tigers inside the 20-yard line in the third quarter. Scott averaged 43.3 yards per punt, recording two kicks inside the 20.

Christion Jones [A] – Christion Jones had three kick returns for 85 yards, including a 36-yard return that set Alabama up with good field position in the third quarter. Alabama cashed in on Jones’s return with a 9-play, 65-yard drive, resulting in Derrick Henry’s 1-yard touchdown run.

Coverage [A] – Alabama coverage on special teams was solid. Missouri’s Marcus Murphy had 63 kick return yards. Dillon Lee and Tyren Jones both made some punishing hits in coverage.

Summary: Adam Griffith participated in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference title game, despite back spasms. He missed a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter, but totaled two touchbacks on kickoffs. JK Scott strengthened his campaign for a Ray Guy Award, averaging 43.3 yards per punt. Christion Jones put in some good returns and Alabama’s kick coverage did its job.

Receivers—Overall [A]

Amari Cooper [A] – Amari Cooper has caught at least eight passes in 11 games this season. He totaled 12 receptions for 83 yards against Missouri. Alabama found ways to get him involved early and often. Cooper’s 12 receptions set a SEC title game record, breaking Florida’s Reidel Anthony’s mark in 1996 (11).

DeAndrew White [A]- DeAndrew White’s last 100-yard receiving performance came in the 2014 Sugar Bowl (three catches, 139 yards, 1 touchdown). Missouri’s focus on Cooper caused White to come alive. He finished with four receptions for 101 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. The score gave Alabama a 14-0 lead.

Christion Jones [A] – Christion Jones hasn’t been targeted much as a receiver, but he put together a solid performance against Missouri. Jones collected three passes for 40 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. The score lengthened Alabama’s lead to 28-13.

Summary: Amari Cooper set a record, but he also opened up DeAndrew White and Christion Jones in the passing game. White and Jones both came down with clutch receptions. O.J. Howard was targeted some, totaling two catches for 20 yards. Jalston Fowler and Brian Vogler each had one reception.

Running Backs—Overall [A]

Derrick Henry [A] – Derrick Henry was on full display in the second half. He pounded Missouri’s defense and secured the ball. Henry recorded 141 rushing yards (7.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns on 20 carries. He set up his cuts well and was patient following Alabama’s offensive line.

Summary: T.J. Yeldon totaled 47 yards rushing and two scores. He now has 36 career rushing touchdowns, third all-time in Alabama history. Alabama relied more on Derrick Henry in the second half and it paid off. Tyren Jones ripped off some runs as well. He had 26 rushing yards, averaging 8.7 yards per carry.

Defensive Play—Overall [B]

Defensive Line [A] – Alabama’s defensive line frustrated Missouri’s Maty Mauk, despite not registering a sack. The Crimson Tide forced Mauk out of the pocket on numerous possessions. Missouri had 41 rushing yards, netting 1.8 yards per carry. A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed both negated Missouri’s run game. Robinson led all defensive linemen in tackles (9). Reed had four stops.

Linebackers [A] – Alabama’s linebackers handled their gap assignments well. Trey DePriest, Reggie Ragland and D.J. Pettway all were huge against the run. DePriest led all linebackers with four tackles and a pass breakup. Xzavier Dickson had two stops. He pressured Mauk four times. Pettway and Ragland both registered two tackles apiece. Ryan Anderson forced Mauk out of the pocket three times.

Secondary [C] – It was another bend, but don’t break show for Alabama’s secondary. Mauk’s ability to extend plays came in handy for Missouri. 272 of Missouri’s 313 yards offensively, resulted from Mauk’s ability throw it deep and trust his receivers to make plays. Jimmie Hunt led Missouri’s receiving corps with six catches for 169 yards.

Landon Collins led Alabama’s secondary with seven tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Geno Smith had five stops and a pass breakup. Eddie Jackson and Nick Perry each totaled three tackles and a pass breakup.

Summary: Maty Mauk extended a lot of plays for Missouri, but it was their lone form of offense. Alabama took away the run and pressured Mauk constantly. Jimmie Hunt had the stats and Bud Sasser caught Mauk’s lone touchdown pass, but Missouri couldn’t establish balance offensively.

Quarterback Play—Overall [A]

Blake Sims [A] – It’s good to have a cheerleader. It’s better when family cheers for you. Kayla Sims looked on as her father had a record-setting game. Blake Sims was in sync, despite a few communication issues. He showed poise, confidence and guts in the pocket. Sims took a shot to the helmet (Shane Ray) in the second quarter, but delivered a 58-yard touchdown pass to DeAndrew White. He finished completing 85.2 percent of his passes (23/27) for 262 yards and two touchdowns.

Summary: Blake Sims was on point against Missouri. He passed the ball well and made plays with his feet. Sims got everyone involved offensively. His 85.2 percent completion rating is the highest in SEC title game history. (Auburn’s Jason Campbell—77.1 percent)

The Smoke Clears

Alabama is the 2014 SEC Champion. Head coach Nick Saban is now tied with Steve Spurier for five conference titles, most all-time. The Crimson Tide has achieved its 24th conference title in program history, its third under Saban. Missouri fought its way back in the second half, but the Crimson Tide outscored the Tigers 21-10 to seal the deal.

Senior quarterback Blake Sims wanted to out with a bang. He did just that against Missouri. Sims became Alabama’s second quarterback to pass for 3,000+ yards in a season. He’s passed former Alabama’s quarterback AJ McCarron (3,063) with 3,250 yards. Sims’s performance against Missouri earned him an MVP award.

“God has given me the ability to step up in big games,” Sims said. “My confidence has grown throughout the season. I wanted to end the season on a high note.”

Alabama dominated Missouri 21-3 in the first half. Maty Mauk and the Tigers made the contest interesting, but the Crimson Tide cemented a victory with three touchdowns in the second half.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team,” Saban said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been so anxious to win a game with a group of guys that have done a phenomenal job all year long. These guys did a great job of handling adversity. I’ve backed them when I needed to and booted them in the butt when I needed to, but they’ve always responded correctly.”

Coach Saban has defended Sims from day one. He stuck with Sims, despite three interceptions against Auburn. Sims rewarded Alabama’s head coach with terrific play in the second half. Sims carried the same positive momentum into the SEC title game. He rewarded Saban again with a clutch performance.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player go through what Blake has gone through for four years and not do anything he could to help a team,” Saban said. “He played on the scout team many times as a backup quarterback and never complained about it. He has done a phenomenal job all year long. As a coach, you love to see guys that always persevere and then have success.”

Saban credits the success Sims has had this season to his character and work ethic.

Saban made his remarks and Sims’s performance was dazzling, but it was Kyla Sims that captivated the audience. Blake Sims’s daughter, Kyla, was a camera favorite all game long. With a pink shirt, a “ROLL TIDE” poster and a smile, Kyla cheered on her father and the Crimson Tide. CBS’s sideline reporter Allie LaForce caught up with Blake and Kyla Sims after the game. LaForce asked Kyla how Blake did. Kyla paused and with a bright smile, she responded with “Daddy did well.”

College Football Playoff/Heisman Implications

Alabama’s 42-13 victory over Missouri will secure its No.1 ranking in the College Football Playoff. Sunday will bring about the committee’s deliberation on the matchups for the playoff. Alabama’s receiver Amari Cooper will make an appearance in New York for the Heisman presentation. He registered 115 catches for 1,666 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Wisconsin’s running back Melvin Gordon totaled 76 rushing yards. Ohio State beat Wisconsin 59-0. Cooper can win a Heisman if enough votes fall in his favor. Oregon’s quarterback Marcus Mariota is the frontrunner for the coveted bronze trophy.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 15 years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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