Christmas is a time of giving. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban has earned three of four items on his shopping list: a victory over Auburn, a Southeastern Conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Alabama’s 16th national title is the lone object remaining. The Crimson Tide can achieve it, if it wins the next two games.
Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State all had a journey to get to this point. All four programs dealt with great highs and devastating lows (Florida State, undefeated). A trip to the Promised Land isn’t secure without some important moments. Here are the top 10 best moments in Alabama football from 2014.
10. Tony Brown’s Big Play
- Game: #1 Alabama vs. #11 Ole Miss
- Final Score: Ole Miss 23—Alabama 17
- Contribution: Blocked extra point
Summary: Freshman cornerback Tony Brown filled in admirably for Eddie Jackson early in the season. He recorded four tackles and a pass breakup against Ole Miss, but his most memorable play occurred in the fourth quarter. Mississippi’s quarterback Bo Wallace engineered a 3-play, 56-yard drive with 2:54 remaining in the game. The drive ended on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Jaylen Walton. Alabama’s defense was flagged for roughing the kicker on Gary Wunderlich’s first attempt. Wunderlich was replaced by Andrew Flecther, and Brown made the Rebels pay. He came around the left side of the formation, got both hands up and blocked Flecther’s kick. Alabama was 32 yards shy from achieving a win, but Brown’s effort was huge.
9. Cam Sims’s first TD reception
- Game: #1 Alabama vs. Western Carolina
- Final Score: Alabama 48—W. Carolina 14
- Contribution: Alabama’s first score of the game
Summary: Cam Sims is a star receiver in the making. He had a clutch reception against Arkansas, and displayed exceptional blocking skills against Tennessee. Alabama’s offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin decided to reward Sims on the team’s first possession against Western Carolina. The Crimson Tide took 3:03 off the clock with a 9-play, 75-yard drive. Alabama ended its possession on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Blake Sims to Cam Sims. The score tied the game at 7, and it was Sims’s first touchdown reception of his collegiate career.
8. Reuben Foster: The Enforcer
- Game: #5 Alabama vs. #16 LSU
- Final Score: Alabama 20—LSU 13 (OT)
- Contribution: Huge tackle on special teams
Summary: College football has some hard hitters, but none better than Alabama’s linebacker Reuben Foster. LSU’s freshman running back Leonard Fournette got his taste of Foster in the fourth quarter. Alabama’s placekicker Adam Griffith put the ball in play, after tying the game on a 27-yard field goal attempt. Fournette corralled the ball and headed up field. He reached the 20-yard line and was met immediately by Foster. Foster drilled Fournette and knocked him backwards. The blow knocked fear into LSU, but it elated Alabama’s bench. Crimson Tide players ran onto the field to congratulate Foster on his huge play.
7. Defensive Stand/JK Scott Show
- Game: #7 Alabama vs. Arkansas
- Final Score: Alabama 14—Arkansas 13
- Contributions: Run support, forced turnovers and field position
Summary: Alabama’s offense struggled, but its defense played lights out. The Crimson Tide sacked Arkansas’s quarterback Brandon Allen four times, and held the Razorbacks’ to 89 rushing yards. Alabama forced three turnovers, including two critical ones from Trey DePriest and Landon Collins. DePriest stripped Kody Walker of the ball at the 1-yard line. It rolled out of the endzone for a touchback. Collins intercepted Allen on Arkansas’s final possession of the game. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen channeled his inner Tony Brown against Arkansas in the second quarter. Allen blocked John Henson’s extra point attempt (Alabama 7, Arkansas 6). Freshman punter JK Scott was Alabama’s most valuable player. He averaged 44.2 yards per punt, accounting for seven kicks inside the 20. Six of Scott’s eight punts downed Arkansas inside the 15.
6. Blake Sims tosses for 400+ yards
- Game: #3 Alabama vs. Florida
- Final Score: Alabama 42—Florida 21
- Contribution: Record-setting performance
Summary: Blake Sims’s first huge performance came against a quality SEC opponent. Alabama’s offensive game plan was crisp, and Sims was on target with the ball. The Crimson Tide’s first possession of the contest said it all. Sims hooked up with running back Kenyan Drake for an 87-yard touchdown. He completed 69.7 percent of his passes (23/33) for 445 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Sims’s 445 yards was good for second-best in school history (Scott Hunter, 484 in 1969 against Auburn).
5. Alabama’s secondary gets a hat trick
- Game: #1 Mississippi State vs. #5 Alabama
- Final Score: Alabama 25—Mississippi State 20
- Contribution: Three interceptions
Summary: Mississippi State’s quarterback Dak Prescott entered Bryant-Denny Stadium as a Heisman frontrunner. He left as the first competitor removed from the conversation. Trey DePriest got it started by forcing a safety, but Alabama’s secondary did a number on Prescott. Cyrus Jones, Nick Perry and Landon Collins all registered an interception apiece. Perry’s take away came in the second quarter. Jones’s interception occurred in the third quarter. Collins secured an Alabama victory on his interception in the fourth quarter.
4. Amari Cooper’s trifecta against SEC competition
- #1 Alabama vs. Florida (42-14)
- #4 Alabama vs. Tennessee (Alabama 34—Tennessee 20)
- #1 Alabama vs. #14 Auburn (Alabama 55—Auburn 44)
- Contribution: 200+ yards receiving performances
Summary: It helps to have a dynamic receiver like Amari Cooper. 2014 has been a record-setting year for him. He’s played well all season, but his finest games were against Florida, Tennessee and Auburn. Cooper caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns against Florida. He surpassed Julio Jones’s 2010 mark against Tennessee, posting nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper dismantled the Jonathan triplets (Ford, Jones and Jonathon Mincy) in the 79th Iron Bowl. He registered 13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
3. Sims and Cooper both set records
- Game: #1 Alabama vs. #16 Missouri (SEC Championship Game)
- Final Score: Alabama 42—Missouri 13
- Contribution: Completion percentage, total receptions
Summary: Blake Sims was flawless through the air against Missouri. His 85.2 percent completion rating set an SEC title game record (Auburn’s Jason Campbell, 77.1 percent in 2004). Sims threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Amari Cooper’s 12 receptions set an SEC title game record (Florida’s Reidel Anthony, 11 receptions in 1996). He totaled 83 yards receiving. Sims’s was rewarded with the game’s most valuable player trophy.
2. “The Drive” Part Three
- Game: #5 Alabama vs. #16 LSU
- Final Score: Alabama 20—LSU 13 (OT)
- Contribution: Game-winning drive, touchdown in overtime
Summary: Blake Sims dazzled against Florida, but he earned respect from his critics against LSU. Sims battled nerves throughout the contest, but he delivered a final drive for the ages. Alabama had the ball on its own 35-yard line with 50 seconds left in regulation. The Crimson Tide trailed LSU 13-10, needing a field goal to force overtime. Sims guided the team on a 9-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a game-tying, 27-yard field goal from Adam Griffith. Sims completed passes to O.J. Howard, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones on the drive. Alabama’s first overtime possession was all it needed to secure a win. Sims found White for a 6-yard touchdown. The Crimson Tide’s defense handled the rest. Alabama escaped Tiger Stadium.
1. The Great Response
- Game: #1 Alabama vs. #14 Auburn
- Final Score: Alabama 55—Auburn 44
- Contribution: Second half confidence
Summary: One of the best Iron Bowls in series history ended in a shootout. It was a heavyweight prize fight, and both fighters were exchanging blows. Alabama’s red-zone defense held Auburn to two touchdowns on eight possessions. Blake Sims couldn’t spin the pigskin in the first half, but he came to life in the second half. He overcame three interceptions, and guided Alabama to a huge comeback victory. Sims recorded four total touchdowns in second half, including two touchdown passes to Amari Cooper. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry both wore down Auburn’s run defense. Yeldon had 127 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Henry collected 72 rushing yards and a touchdown, averaging 14.4 yards per carry.