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

Running Backs—Overall [A]

Derrick Henry [A] – Derrick Henry electrified Alabama’s fan base in the Sugar Bowl for a second time. He displayed patience in the hole, and dominated Ohio State’s defense on the ground. Henry totaled 149 yards (95 rushing, 54 receiving) and a touchdown.

Summary: Derrick Henry was special for Alabama against Ohio State. Good things happened when the ball was in his hands. Henry trusted Alabama’s offense line, and ran well behind his pads. T.J. Yeldon didn’t play much, but he did total 47 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Offensive Line—Overall [B]

Summary: Alabama’s offensive line excelled at run blocking against Ohio State. Freshman left tackle Cam Robinson did a great job of providing lanes for Henry and Yeldon. Alabama’s offensive line guided the team to 407 yards (237 passing, 170 rushing). It didn’t register a penalty. Pass protection was inconsistent for the Crimson Tide. Blake Sims received a clean pocket on some possessions, but was under pressure on others. He was sacked three times.

Receivers—Overall [B]

Amari Cooper [B] – He didn’t totaled 100+ yards receiving, but Amari Cooper made his presence felt. He caught nine passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper’s 6-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter cut Ohio State’s lead to 42-35. He’s averaged at least eight receptions in 12 games this season. Cooper finished 2014 with 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Summary: Alabama’s receivers had an average game. DeAndrew White put in a solid performance, totaling 65 yards on three catches. Derrick Henry caught two passes for 54 yards. O.J. Howard, Chris Black, Jalston Fowler and Brian Vogler all had two receptions apiece.

Special Teams—Overall [A]

JK Scott [A] – JK Scott is one of few players that aggravated Ohio State. He had a masterful game flipping field position. Scott averaged 55.0 yards per punt, including a long of 73 yards. Five of Scott’s seven kicks pinned the Buckeyes inside the 20-yard line. Scott dropped four punts inside the 10.

Summary: The stage is never too big for JK Scott. His leg was on full display once again inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Ohio State had to drive the ball on Alabama because of Scott’s ability to pin it deep. Adam Griffith didn’t attempt a field goal, but he collected three touchbacks on kickoffs. Griffith averaged 64.4 yards per kick.

Quarterback Play—Overall [C-]

Blake Sims [C-] – Blake Sims showed a lot of resiliency, but it wasn’t enough. He didn’t follow through on his reads. Two of Sims’s three interceptions were a product of forcing the ball and not putting enough air on his touch passes. Sims didn’t look comfortable in the pocket in the second half, yet he engineered two critical scoring drives. He was en route of delivering Alabama a game-tying touchdown drive, but Ohio State’s defensive back Tyvis Powell intercepted Sims’s Hail Mary attempt. He ended the game with 237 passing yards, three total touchdowns (one rushing) and three interceptions.

Summary: The story book season of Blake Sims ends in a Sugar Bowl loss. He made some good plays, but also some costly mistakes. Sims ends 2014 with 3,487 passing yards, 35 total touchdowns (28 passing, 7 rushing) and 10 interceptions. He completed 64.5 percent of his passes this season.

Defensive Play—Overall [D]

Defensive Line [C] – Alabama’s defensive line was inconsistent in its pass rush. Ohio State’s quarterback Cardale Jones was sacked three times, but he had opportunities to locate receivers. Xzavier Dickson, Jonathan Allen and D.J. Pettway each had a sack. Dickson led the trio with five tackles.  Alabama’s defensive line allowed 281 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Linebackers [D] – Alabama’s linebackers missed a lot of tackles. Many of Ohio State’s third down conversions (10/18) came from missed tackles. Reggie Ragland led all linebackers with seven stops. Trey DePriest collected six tackles. Denzel Devall and Reuben Foster each had two stops.

Secondary [D] – Alabama’s secondary has seen better days, but Thursday’s Sugar Bowl match wasn’t one of them. Cardale Jones lit it up for 243 yards and a touchdown. Ohio State’s receivers made plays in space, and Alabama couldn’t defend the deep ball. Devin Smith and Michael Thomas played well. Smith caught two passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. Thomas brought in seven passes for 66 yards and a score.

The Crimson Tide made some plays in the secondary, but it wasn’t fully prepared. Landon Collins led the team in tackles (12) with one pass breakup and a fumble recovery.  Nick Perry and Geno Smith both had six tackles. Cyrus Jones had an interception and four pass breakups.

Summary: Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot established a physical tone for Ohio State. Alabama allowed 88.6 yards rushing per game. Elliot gashed Alabama for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Cardale Jones picked Alabama’s secondary apart. He converted a few third downs with his legs. The Crimson Tide surrendered 537 yards of offense. It couldn’t stop Ohio State on third down.

Final Analysis

Play calling was crucial in Ohio State’s win and Alabama’s loss. Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator Tom Herman did a great job of feeding his playmakers. He didn’t go away from Elliot when the run game was hot, and Herman kept Jones in manageable situations.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry was feasting on Ohio State’s defense in the first quarter. He was averaging over seven yards per carry. Positive things were happening when the Crimson Tide gave him the ball. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin went away from Henry in the second quarter. It caused Alabama’s offense to become stagnant, and Ohio State got back in the game.

The Buckeyes won the turnover battle, and kept its offense on the field longer. Alabama couldn’t match Ohio State’s intensity in the second half. Henry and JK Scott both performed well, but it ends in no avail as Alabama fell to Ohio State 42-34. The Crimson Tide finished 2014 at 12-2.

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