Friday, January 1st, 2016

Bama Wins Cotton Bowl Classic

Photo By: Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

It took a quarter and a half for Alabama to score the game’s first points, but once it did, the Crimson Tide absolutely rolled to an all-around impressive 38-0 victory from the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the  Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in front of 82,812 fans, the fourth-largest crowd in Classic History.

Senior quarterback and offensive MVP Jake Coker was brilliant, going 25-for-30 through the air for 286 yards and two scores, while Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry added 75 yards and two TDs on the ground. The Alabama defense was as much, if not more a part of the storyline.

The nation’s No. 2 ranked total defense (258.2 yards allowed per game) was tremendous for all 60 minutes, limiting the Spartans to a season-low 239 yards of total offense en route to the first shutout at the Cotton Bowl since 1963, when LSU blanked the Texas Longhorns 13-0.

Michigan State seriously threatened the end zone just one time, but a Cyrus Jones interception at the one-yard line right before the end of the first half kept the shutout intact.

Reggie Ragland led the way for the dominant Tide defense, recording seven tackles (five solo) and one pass breakup. Dillon Lee added six stops, an INT and a half tackle for a loss, and Cyrus Jones had three tackles to go along with a punt return TD and an interception in the game.

Additionally for Bama, true freshman wide out Calvin Ridley grabbed eight passes for 138 yards and both receiving scores in the game, and Jones’ punt return score from 57 yards out marked his fourth punt return TD of the year, an Alabama school record.

Henry set multiple milestones in the game, clearing the 2,000-yard rushing mark (2,061 yards) while scoring his SEC record 24th and 25th rushing TDs. Henry also scored for the 19th consecutive game, which is the longest active streak in the NCAA and the longest such streak in SEC history.

The Crimson Tide broke the seal to make it 7-0 with 5:36 to go in the second quarter when Henry took it in from a yard out. The score came just a play after Coker hooked up with Ridley on a deep 50-yard completion down the right-side, and the entire drive consumed 80 yards in just six plays over 2:38. 

The Tide then added to their lead on their next possession when place kicker Adam Griffith drilled a 47-yard field goal with 1:25 to go in the first half to make it 10-0.

Michigan State nearly cut it to a one-possession game right before half, marching to the ‘Bama 12-yard line, but Jones’ interception at the one kept the Tide up 10 points heading into the half.

Alabama then completely separated themselves from the Spartans with an outstanding third quarter, scoring three TDs and holding MSU to just two first downs to push the lead to 31-0.

The first score of the quarter came on the initial drive of the second half when Alabama went on a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a six-yard TD pass from Coker to Ridley on second-and-goal.

Then, on a fourth-and-long that saw MSU punter Jake Hartbarger kicking from the back of his own end zone, Jones broke the game wide open with a shifty 57-yard touchdown return that put the Tide up 24-0 late in the third.

Immediately following the third three-and-out from the ‘Bama defense in the third quarter, Coker again hooked up with Ridley for a score with a 50-yard missile that put the Tide up by 31. 

In the fourth, Henry punched in his second score and final score of the game to make it 38-0. The 11-yard run around the right side followed an explosive 58-yard run by Kenyan Drake on the first play of the drive.

The win by No. 2 Alabama in the first Goodyear Cotton Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal game sets up a matchup with the No. 1 Clemson Tigers on January 11, 2016 at 8:30 ET in the College Football Playoff National Championship from Glendale, Arizona.

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