Crimson Conclusions: The Cotton Bowl

Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) hoists the Cotton Bowl championship trophy after defeating the Michigan State Spartans in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) hoists the Cotton Bowl championship trophy after defeating the Michigan State Spartans in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Some final thoughts from last night’s Cotton Bowl beatdown between Alabama and Michigan State.

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Saturday night the second ranked SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide demolished the third ranked Big Ten Champion Michigan State Spartans 38-0 in the National Championship Semifinals at the GoodYear Cotton Bowl. The Tide earns a chance to play first ranked Clemson in a week from Monday with the National Championship on the line. The Tide defense suffocated the Spartan offense all night long and Alabama QB Jake Coker put on the finest performance of his career en-route to the shutout victory.

Jake Coker, Lane Kiffin Shines
Michigan State said all month leading up to the Cotton Bowl that they would concentrate on stopping Derrick Henry, and they sold out to do just that. Jake Coker had to step up and make plays for Alabama to win and Coker did it consistently all night long. Henry was held to a pretty tame night for him, except for the insane stiff arm he threw on a Spartan defender late in the game, while Coker hit several big throws down the stretch and played very poised all night. Kiffin’s play calling to start the game was very straight forward: attack the edges with screens and jet sweeps. This was done to soften Michigan State up for a big throw down the field and it worked to perfection. As the throws down the field continue to open for Coker the defense began to wear down and both Kenyan Drake and Henry were able to break off some big runs late in the game to put the game away. Coker’s 50-yard pass to Calvin Ridley in the second quarter, which led to Derrick Henry’s first touchdown, may have been the biggest play in the entire game as both defenses had been shutting down both offenses at that point. The Alabama offense also found OJ Howard again for the first time in weeks. Howard made several catches in the game including a beautiful 41-yard catch from Coker which set up Riddley’s first TD. Derrick Henry became the first running back in Alabama and SEC history to go over 2,000 yards rushing in a season and Ridley became just the second Alabama freshman to go over 1,000 yards receiving in a season (Amari Cooper was the first in 2012). With 1,031 yards on the season he breaks Cooper’s 2012 record for freshmen receiving yards.

Defense Dominates
Michigan State never went into positive rushing yards until late in the third quarter and never got the rushing game going at all. Spartan QB Connor Cook was beat up all night long with a hellacious pass rush from the Tide defensive line and Alabama did it the majority of the game without having to blitz which was huge for pass coverage down the field. Michigan State’s best drive of the game came at the end of the first half and was snuffed out by a Cyrus Jones interception at the goal line. The game was very reminiscent of the beating that Alabama put on Michigan State in 2010 in the second half. Alabama held the Spartans to just 29 yards rushing in the game and 239 total yards along with four sacks. A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, and Reggie Ragland did a fantastic job clogging up any and every hole that a Spartan back tried to find, and Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, and Jonathan Allen lived in the backfield all night as well.

Cyrus The Playmaker
Alabama cornerback/punt returner Cyrus Jones made two of the biggest plays in the game with his interception late in the first half and his second half punt return for a TD which started the second half domination. Jones played very well in pass coverage all night and his interception really felt like it took all of the air out of Michigan State at halftime.

Back In The National Championship
With the win Alabama is back in the National Championship for the first time since 2012 and Alabama wins its first bowl game since that 2012 National Championship against Notre Dame. The Tide’s win over Michigan State snapped a two game losing stream in Bowl Game’s for the Tide as well.

Player of the Game: Jake Coker
Coker was unquestionably the Player of the Game as the unquestioned leader of the Alabama offense. Coker made several huge throws in the game and he helped Alabama control the game with his effecient passing.

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Jake Coker: 25-30, 286 yards, 2 TD
Cooper Bateman: 0-1, 0 yards

Derrick Henry: 20 carries, 75 yards, 2 TD
Kenyan Drake: 4 carries, 60 yards; 3 catches, 5 yards
Bo Scarbrough: 3 carries, 17 yards
Damien Harris: 1 carry, 2 yards

Calvin Ridley: 8 catches, 138 yards, 2 TD
OJ Howard: 3 catches, 59 yards
Richard Mullaney: 3 catches, 53 yards
ArDarius Stewart: 7 catches, 37 yards; 1 carry, 7 yards

Reggie Ragland: 7 TKL, 1 PBU
Dillon Lee: 6 TKL, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT
Ryan Anderson: 4 TKL, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack
Geno Matias-Smith: 4 TKL
Reuben Foster: 4 TKL, 1 PBU
Eddie Jackson: 3 TKL
Cyrus Jones: 3 TKL, 1 INT, 21 yards
Shaun Dion Hamilton: 3 TKL, 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU
Jarran Reed: 3 TKL
Jonathan Allen: 2 TKL, 2.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Maurice Smith: 2 TKL, 1 FF
Ronnie Harrison: 2 TKL, 1 PBU
Tim Williams: 1 TKL, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sack
DJ Pettway: 1 TKL
Anthony Averett: 1 TKL
Bradley Sylve: 1 TKL, 1 PBU
Denzel Devall: 1 TKL
Keith Holcombe: 1 TKL
Dakota Ball: 1 TKL
A’Shawn Robinson: 1 TKL, 1 QBH
Marlon Humphrey: 1 PBU
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 1 PBU

Adam Griffith: 5/5 XPs, 1/1 FGs
JK Scott: 6 punts, 46.5 YPP, Long: Long: 56 yards
Cyrus Jones: 5 PR, 80 yards, 1 TD

Alabama battles Clemson for the National Championship on January 11th, 2016.