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Alabama safety Xavier McKinney held his own in Tide’s win over Sooners

Tommy Gilligan - USA TODAY Sports

Aside from Charleston Rambo getting behind him for a touchdown reception in the second half, Alabama safety Xavier McKinney held his own versus the weapons of Oklahoma. 

He was all over Hard Rock Stadium, recording five total tackles in the Crimson Tide’s 45-34 victory in the Orange Bowl over the Sooners. While his stops tied him for second on the team, McKinney’s hands came close to snagging two interceptions off Kyler Murray. 

The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder was in position for a team-high four pass breakups and despite not recording a potential pick-six, he was the anchor that guided the Tide’s secondary in shutting down Murray and company in the first half.

McKinney had five breakups prior to the matchup, but his performance has improved his mark to nine – placing him third on the roster. 

RELATED: Xavier McKinney to be Alabama’s defensive X-factor versus Oklahoma

He remains fourth on the team in total tackles (67) and while the Sooners were able to generate offense in the second half, redshirt senior Deionte Thompson said it was McKinney’s “natural leadership” that helped Alabama’s defense frustrate college football’s most explosive group. 

“When he was able to start speaking up, getting us communicating and getting us into the right calls, it really helped us out a lot,” Thompson said of McKinney. “He has grown a lot. He has become more physical, more aggressive and he knows what’s going on. He has a feel for the game and he is playing fast.” 

For his efforts, the native Georgian was awarded Defensive MVP. 

He accepted the honor with a smile; however, McKinney knows the challenge with Clemson will be a tough task.

Like Oklahoma, the Tigers have game changers at wide receiver and a quarterback in Trevor Lawrence that is booming with confidence. McKinney and the Tide will start practice on Tuesday in preparing for round three of the national championship trilogy.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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