By Stan J. Griffin: February 1, 2016
Much like Avery Johnson with the University of Alabama basketball team, Ben Howland is in his first year of leading the Mississippi State hoops program, while also facing a similar rebuilding process that Johnson is encountering with the Crimson Tide.
Under Howland, a veteran coach whose impressive resume includes taking tradition-rich UCLA to back-to-back Final Fours in 2007 and 2008, the Bulldogs have struggled thus far to a 9-11 overall record, including a 2-6 mark in Southeastern Conference play that matches the Tide's conference record.
Those two rebuilding programs square off Tuesday night in Starkville as Johnson's Crimson Tide team (11-9 overall) will battle the Bulldogs in Humphrey Coliseum.
The game is set for an 8 p.m tip and will be televised by SEC Network.
Johnson, whose team is coming off a physical 78-64 loss at South Carolina on Saturday, a foul-plagued effort by his team which saw four of his players disqualified due to fouls, said Monday that he hopes his team is ready to rebound from the loss with another road challenge.
"Ready to get back on the court and we had a really good practice today and we get back on the road tomorrow," he said. "We're playing against a team that's pretty dangerous, and they've got a lot of guys that can handle the basketball with (freshman guard Quinndary) Witherspoon, (freshman guard Malik) Newman and (senior guard Craig) Sword. They can all handle the ball and make 3s, they can get inside your defense and they have a couple of big guys that can shoot the ball for three. So it puts your defense in a bind, and we've got to play well and sustain more of our effort for a longer period of time, handle some of the what I call down cycles of the game better as we continue to go through this maturation process. We're always excited to strap it up today in practice and then we'll be ready to play tomorrow."
Happy Spring Break, Tuscaloosa! As with each spring break, the calendar gets a little on the thin side. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do, though. Get outside, enjoy spending time with your kiddos, and above all else, have fun.
Enjoy your week, T-Town!
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
In its last non-conference game before entering Southeastern Conference play next week, Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team struggled somewhat in the early going against Robert Jones' Norfolk State team on Saturday, allowing the Spartans to hang around for a half.
But the Crimson Tide (9-3), led by seniors Retin Obasohan and Arthur Edwards, turned it up a notch offensively and defensively in the final 20 minutes on the way to a 68-49 victory in front of 10,884 at Coleman Coliseum.
SEC Weekend Recap: Henry strengthens grip on Heisman with machine-like performance in Iron Bowl and more (via DCM Fan Zone)30 Nov 2015
Courtesy of DCM Fan Zone
By Erik Stinnett
He's been called a machine. As he powered his way into the history books last Saturday at Auburn, Derrick Henry looked every bit of that description.
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 25, 2015
Where have we seen this script before?
The No. 2 University of Alabama football team, very much in the chase for Southeastern Conference and national titles, heads into Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday as it looks to at least lock up the SEC West championship against its biggest rival in the Iron Bowl.
If it sounds familiar, it should, as this was the exact scenario entering the Iron Bowl on The Plains in 2013 as Nick Saban's Crimson Tide entered that game with similar aspirations.
Fast start and big plays lead No. 2 Crimson Tide to 56-6 romp over Buccaneers on Senior Day (via Crimson Magazine)21 Nov 2015
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 21, 2015
On a wild and wacky day of college football that saw South Carolina fall to FCS opponent The Citadel at home, No. 8 Florida forced into overtime before finally getting past 30-point underdog Florida Atlantic and No. 3 Ohio State beaten at home by Michigan State, Nick Saban's No. 2 Alabama team made it abundantly clear early that it was not about to become yet another victim to the chaos of the day.
The Crimson Tide used an efficient and balanced offensive onslaught, while the Alabama defense registered yet another shutdown performance, to lead Alabama to a convincing 56-6 romp over FCS member Charleston Southern Saturday before a crowd of 100,611 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Tide improved to 10-1 on the season, guaranteeing a seventh-consecutive season of 10 victories or more, while Jamey Chadwell's Buccaneers of the Big South Conference fell to 9-2.
“I was really pleased with the way our guys came out today," said Saban about his team's big win on Senior Day. "Sometimes we have played a little lackluster in games like this, especially this time of year. With the players, I told them if you’re not inspired to play every play that you play, then you’re kind of cheating yourself because you’re not who you are and how you compete. I certainly was pleased with the way we went out there and executed well. Their guys really played well when they believe in what they do, and they do it well. I was surprised that they didn’t play No. 4 (senior Austin Brown) at quarterback. I thought our guys did a better job on the option today, which was hard to simulate. We got to play a lot of players on both sides of the ball, and I think that’s something that we really needed to do in this game to get those guys some experience and to get more guys ready to play down the road. I thought it was great to recognize our seniors as they have made a tremendous contribution to the program not only on the field, but additionally in the way that they represented off the field with how well they’ve done in the classroom and the kind of ambassadors they’ve been for the University and the program."
Alabama, led by the big efforts of Cyrus Jones, Derrick Henry and Calvin Ridley among others, rolled to a 28-0 advantage at the end of the first 15 minutes, a 49-0 cushion by halftime, and then cruised in the second half, playing a host of reserves and younger players.
The Tide scored on its first five offensive possessions, and also scored on a pair of punt returns for touchdowns by Jones to overwhelm the visiting Bucs early and often.
The UA defense, meanwhile, held CSU to 134 total yards (85 rushing, 49 passing) and eight first downs in the game, holding the Buccaneers to 1-of-10 on third downs while causing two turnovers (one fumble and one interception).
Cornerback Bradley Sylve and defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson both had four tackles each to lead Alabama.
After taking the opening kickoff, it did not take long for the Crimson Tide offense to get going behind the play of Coker and Henry.
Beginning its initial possession at the UA 36, the Tide methodically drove 64 yards in 9 plays, with Henry capping the march with a 17-yard touchdown run, his 20th TD of the season. Despite playing only the first quarter of Saturday's contest, the junior tailback rushed for 68 yards on 9 carries with two touchdowns.
With just under six minutes left in the opening quarter, Henry capped a 10-play, 55-yard Alabama drive with his 21st touchdown of the season, a 2-yard run to make the score 14-0. His 21 scoring runs ties the UA single-season touchdown rush record of Trent Richardson, set in 2011.
Following a poor punt by the Buccaneers later in the period, Alabama set up shop at the CSU 35.
On the second play of the series, Coker found senior receiver Richard Mullaney on a 21-yard scoring pass in which Mullaney did a nice job of keeping his feet in bounds and corralling the pass. Alabama now led 21-0.
With no time remaining in the quarter, Jones took a CSU punt and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to make the score 28-0. Jones, the senior cornerback, also had a punt return for a touchdown in the Tide's previous game against Mississippi State.
"It was a bittersweet moment with it being my last game here with the guys I came in with," said Jones, who also had a forced fumble and recovered fumble on the same play in the contest. "Just with this team, it’s been a special year. I felt good about that, making plays and doing what I had to do.”
About midway through the second quarter, Alabama put together a solid 86-yard drive, and the Tide went back to the air to complete the march as Coker connected with Ridley on a 30-yard TD pass to build the advantage to 35-0.
A few moments later, Jones took another line drive punt by the Bucs and went the distance again for a 72-yard touchdown. He became the first Tide player to return two punts for scores in a game. Alabama's advantage had now swelled to 42-0.
With just under two minutes left before halftime, freshman tailback Bo Scarbrough accounted for Alabama's final points of the first half as he scored on a 1-yard run.
The 49 points scored by the Tide were the most in a half by an Alabama team since scoring 52 points against Vanderbilt in 1990 when Gene Stallings was coaching the Crimson Tide
After a scoreless third period, the Buccaneers struck for their only points of the contest early in the fourth quarter as quarterback Kyle Copeland scored on a 3-yard run to cap a 7-play, 74-yard CSU drive to prevent a shutout by the home team. A two-point conversion failed and the new score was 49-6.
Late in the fourth quarter, Alabama scored its final points as freshman tailback Damien Harris scored his first touchdown at UA via a 6-yard run.
The Tide racked up 23 first downs in the romp, as well as 403 total yards (195 on the ground and 208 in the air).
Scarbrough, in his first significant action at UA, led the Tide in rushing with 69 yards on 10 carries and a score. Harris added 44 yards on his 10 carries while also adding his late TD.
Coker was an efficient 11 of 13 on the day for 155 yards and two TDs while backup Cooper Bateman completed 7 of 11 passes for 47 yards.
Ridley had 4 catches for 49 yards and a score while Ardarius Stewart also caught 4 passes for 45 yards. Cam Sims caught 3 passes for 25 yards.
Jones totaled 115 return yards on his two big scoring plays.
He also had three tackles for loss in the Tide win while Jabriel Washington contributed an interception.
"Well, the outcome was probably what we expected," said Chadwell. "I was hoping we would put up a little more of a fight there in the first half. Our other guys came out and competed in the second half, which was good to see. Our main goal was to come in here and not get hurt, not get injured. I think we accomplished that. They’re obviously a good team.”
Alabama completes its regular season next Saturday, Nov. 28 in arguably college football's biggest rivalry, as the Tide travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the annual Iron Bowl clash with Gus Malzahn's 6-6 Auburn Tigers. Auburn defeated Idaho Saturday to become bowl-eligible.
Kickoff is slated for 2:39 p.m. CST, and the game will be nationally televised by CBS Sports.
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 18, 2015
After a long regular season, and then two rounds of the state high school football playoff following that weekly grind, the season is still alive for six schools in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area.
Also alive are dreams of possibly advancing to the Super Seven state title games at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium, with those contest set to begin on Dec. 2.
First things first, however, and those title aspirations must be put on hold for now as most of the remaining area teams must be focused on taking care of business in quarterfinal play Friday night.
One team, however, that will actually be playing for a state title this Friday is Webb Tutt's Marengo Academy Longhorns.
The Longhorns, led by quarterback/running back Hayden Huckabee and defensive end/tight end Cason Cook among others, have rolled to a 10-1 record, and are now set to play for the AISA Class AA championship at Troy University in Tutt's first season as Longhorn coach.
No. 4 Marengo Academy, which ousted Pickens Academy last week 48-7 will go up against 12-0 Edgewood in a rematch of last season's title game, which Edgewood captured 55-25.
Saban says Tide faces test from talented FCS team in Charleston Southern on Senior Day (via Crimson Magazine)17 Nov 2015
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 16, 2015
As the No. 2 Alabama football team steps away from conference play this week for a Saturday battle against Big South Conference opponent Charleston Southern, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban acknowledged Monday that much of the emphasis of this week, as per usual, is improvement in his own team from its last game, a 31-6 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.
"We got off to a little bit of a slow start (against the Bulldogs) in the game and just didn't seem to have the energy, especially offensively, to pay attention to detail and get the kind of execution we needed against a very good defensive team," he said. "We played a lot better in the second half and made some big, explosive plays that made a big difference in the game. Defensively, we did a good job of affecting the quarterback (sacking MSU quarterback Dak Prescott nine times) and played well in the red zone. That was probably the difference in the game. We probably didn't tackle as well in space as we'd like to, and we gave up a few big plays that we probably shouldn't have. Those are things that we definitely need to work on and try to fix."
Saban noted that senior tailback Kenyan Drake, who sustained a fractured arm during Saturday's game, had successful surgery Monday and will likely be out at least a couple of week.
"Then (after that period where he cannot play), it will be, how functional can he be at this position with what he has," he said, also noting that freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is day-to-day in terms of practice this week, and he will be questionable for Saturday's game.
Fitzpatrick suffered a sprained knee against MSU, and he and Drake both suffered their injuries during second quarter play against the Bulldogs.
This week's contest marks the last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium for Alabama's seniors, and Saban spoke about that fact, and praised the senior players for their representation of UA both on and off the field.
"It's the last game for a lot of our seniors who have had a great career here and contributed and had a lot of success, and I certainly hope that our fans will show the kind of appreciation that we all should have for what their hard work, and their blood, sweat and tears have contributed to the program over the last four or five years," he said. "A lot of good people and a lot of successful guys, and guys that are going to be successful in life. They've been great ambassadors for the University of Alabama and this program. We're just very thankful for them for what they've contributed."
In terms of Saturday's 3 p.m. game (SEC Network) against Charleston Southern, Saban said third-year coach Jamey Chadwell will bring in a very talented Buccaneer team.
"Charleston Southern is 9 and 1, and probably one of the best teams in their FCS division, and they're ranked in the Top 10 in almost every current category, and one of the top defenses in that league, as well as very productive offensively," he said. "A different style of offense than we've played against, a lot of option and split back and a lot of options that we have not played against and their quarterback Austin Brown does a really good job. He's a very athletic guy who can run as well as he is a good passer. So this is going to be a challenging game for us from a preparation standpoint. Their defense has created a lot of negative plays and very quick. They play a 3-4 and they do a good job in their pressure package in creating negative plays, so this is a good team that we're playing, and hopefully our players will have the kind of respect they need to go out and play good, positive and winning football against them."
He said there are similarities between Charleston Southern and the Georgia Southern team that Alabama played in 2011, in terms of the Buccaneer option offense. But he added that Georgia Southern ran more of a Georgia Tech-style true option offense, and that Charleston Southern presents more multiple formations which create adjustment issues for an opposing defense relative to remaining sound on the option.
When asked about the play of junior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who was a key part of Alabama's effective pass rush against MSU Saturday, Saban began his response with a lighthearted reference to the inadvertent hit that he took from the 6-foot-3, 283-pound lineman before that game started, leading to a noticeable abrasion on the coach's cheek.
"The first thing is knocking the hell out of the coach," he said, drawing a big chorus of laughter from the assembled media. "Jonathan was a really good high school on-the-edge pass rush guy, very, very good. I think he has gotten bigger and developed a lot of strength to where now he can rush off the edge, but he's a really effective inside rusher because he's gotten bigger and stronger. Certainly he plays the run a lot better and he's athletic and he can still move. I think that's the biggest difference, he just gotten, each year he's been here, a little bigger and stronger. He's always been very athletic and great first-step quickness. He does a great job of using his hands and moving his feet, which is critical in being a good pass rusher."
Asked about the process that goes into the scheduling of non-conference tilts against opponents such as Charleston Southern, the Tide coach said Alabama is sometimes limited in terms of its option when trying to assemble a schedule.
"We don't have a lot of choices," said Saban. "It's not like when you go into a restaurant and you get the menu and say, 'OK, we can play these 24 different teams, which one do we want to play?' Most of the time we're bargaining and begging to get anybody to play us, and so we don't always have a lot of choice, and especially lately where since we went to 14 teams in the league, it put the SEC schedule back a little bit in terms of when we got it so (the Tide was forced to fill in their schedule as well as it could), so those things have been challenges for us in scheduling, and we're going to continue to do the best we can in trying to get the best opponents, but we always don't have a lot of choice."
Alabama junior running back Derrick Henry and Allen earned SEC Player of the Week recognition following the win at Starkville Saturday, the league office announced on Monday.
Henry was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this season after rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against the Bulldogs. He has rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games and three of the past four overall, with each coming against teams ranked in the top-20 nationally. Henry broke free for touchdown runs of 74 and 65 yards to extend his school record of consecutive games with a rushing touchdown to 15, the longest such streak by an SEC player in the last 20 seasons.
In his first season as the team’s starting running back, Henry has amassed 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns on 240 carries for a 6.1 yard average. He is currently the national leader in rushing touchdowns and ranks second overall in yards rushing. The junior tailback has performed his best in the Tide’s six games against ranked opponents, averaging 178.7 yards per game (1,072 yards) and scoring 12 touchdowns.
Allen was recognized as the Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week after a dominant performance in Starkville. The junior defensive end finished the day with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss (-17 yards), to go along with three sacks, one forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry. Allen is the first Alabama player to record three sacks in a game since Courtney Upshaw did it against Auburn in 2010. The Alabama defense collectively totaled nine sacks, representing the most by any unit in a single game under head coach Nick Saban.
In addition to those honors, Saban and his coaching staff recognized ten Crimson Tide standouts as players of the week following the win against MSU.
Henry, Cam Robinson and ArDarius Stewart were the honorees on offense, while Allen, Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster represented the defense. Kenyan Drake, Adam Griffith, Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve made the special teams list.
It was announced by the SEC Monday that the Nov. 28 Iron Bowl contest between Alabama and Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium will begin at 2:30 p.m., with CBS televising the game.
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 16, 2015
The second round of the state high school football playoffs proved fruitful for six teams in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area as lived to play for at least another week, with their dreams of capturing a state championship still very much alive.
However, for seven other local schools, their title hopes were squelched as successful seasons ended in defeat.
One of those teams that continues its hunt for that state title trophy, while also chasing perfection is Ryan Lolley's Gordo Greenwave.
The No. 2 Greenwave moved to 12-0 on the season last Friday, while advancing in the Class 3A playoffs with an impressive 33-14 road win against Opp.
After a scoreless first quarter, Gordo exploded in the second period, outscoring the host Opp team 21-0.
At the end of three, Gordo still had a comfortable 27-6 advantage and was able to hold onto a comfortable lead in the final quarter.
Opp's season ended at 8-4.
Koy Chapman threw three touchdown passes, to Tyler Davis, Ben Davis and Collin Herring, for the Greenwave, which now hosts Bayside Academy.
In other playoff action involving Tuscaloosa/West Alabama teams last Friday, it was:
Fayette County 40, Cleburne County 23: Lance Tucker's Tigers improved to 8-4 and advanced in the Class 4A playoffs by defeating Cleburne County in Heflin.
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 14, 2015
On a day when the No. 2 Alabama football team seemingly could not find any consistent offensive rhythm for the most part, especially in the early going, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide needed something significant to provide a lift as it found itself involved in a gritty affair against Dan Mullen's feisty No. 17 Mississippi State team in Starkville Saturday.
Alabama finally began to find a bit of that offensively and in the special teams department through big plays from Jake Coker, Calvin Ridley, Derrick Henry and Cyrus Jones.