Alabama Football makes a statement in the Big Easy

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /

It might be too late to send a message to the College Football Playoff committee, but Alabama football did it anyway. After a slow start, the Crimson Tide blew the doors off the Big 12 Champion Kansas State Wildcats.

The Tide found itself down 10-0 early, but proceeded to go on a 45-3 spurt to silence the Wildcat faithful in the New Orleans Superdome. The game was not nearly as close as the 45-20 final score suggests; Alabama could’ve named the final score.

It was the closest thing to a complete performance the 2022 iteration of the Alabama football team ever put together. Bryce Young looked out of sync early before putting together a nearly flawless game. Young’s 321 yards and five touchdowns on over 15 yards per attempt earned him a well-deserved Sugar Bowl MVP trophy.

Jahmyr Gibbs saw a lot of work in the Alabama backfield, racking up 142 yards from scrimmage on 17 touches. Jase McClellan got just seven carries, but ran for 42 yards and scored his 10th total touchdown this season. Roydell Williams and Jamarion Miller saw some fourth quarter action and gashed the Wildcats for 67 yards on eight combined carries.

The Alabama receivers were the beneficiaries of Bryce Young’s field day, and helped their quarterback out by making tough grabs and breaking tackles after the catch. Junior Jermaine Burton won vertically all game, finishing with three catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Ja’Corey Brooks had two catches for 51 yards and a score.

Senior tight end Cameron Latu added five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. True freshman slot receiver Kobe Prentice’s only catch of the day went 47 yards for a touchdown. Fellow freshman Isaiah Bond scored his first touchdown of the season on a 6-yard grab.

Defensively, Brian Branch was the best player on the field. Coming into the game, Branch was already a projected first-round draft pick and arguably the best player on the Alabama defense. He responded with the best performance of his Alabama career, unofficially recording 12 tackles, four TFLs, a sack, and an interception.

He met K-State running back Deuce Vaughn repeatedly in the open field and dropped the elusive back every time. Alabama football fans still hope Branch will return for his senior season, but that possibility is looking increasingly unlikely.

Senior safeties DeMarcco Hellams (team-high 13 tackles) and Jordan Battle (nine tackles, interception) went out with a bang as well. Redshirt freshman inside linebacker Deontae Lawson could be the next star linebacker in Tuscaloosa, and he delivered in the Sugar Bowl with six tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

A dominant win over a top-10 team is a great way to punctuate what was otherwise a disappointing season. More importantly, this game should serve as the springboard into the offseason and the 2023 campaign.

The past month has felt like a hard reset for the Alabama football program. There are a few necessary changes to be made this offseason, but the Crimson Tide have a loaded haul of reinforcements on the way.

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If the right moves are made, Alabama has all the pieces to return to prominence next year.