Alabama rolls all over MSU, moves on to CFP Final
In the end, MSU just wasn't up to the task of taking down Alabama, falling 38-0 in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.
The Spartans run game was nearly non-existent (29 yards), and Alabama quarterback Jake Coker had a field day, looking like the best player on the field. The guy nobody paid attention to coming into the game went off, going 25-for-30 for 286 yards and two touchdowns on the MSU secondary. His counterpart, Connor Cook, was pedestrian at best (19-for-39, 210 yards, 2 INT).
The biggest turning point of the game was unquestionably when Cook threw an interception just before halftime, as MSU had a big opportunity to cut into the 10-0 Alabama lead. When the second half started, the Tide rolled hard over a deflated Spartans squad.
Though he won't be in the mood, Mark Dantonio will no doubt have to answer questions about why his team was so ill-prepared. There aren't many excuses for the Spartans to get rolled this badly, no matter how good the opponent is.
Alabama will take on Clemson for the College Football Playoff Championship on Monday, January 11th.
The Tide keep rolling
After another MSU punt, Alabama again wasted little time in reeling off a big play, as Kenyan Drake went 58 yards down to the 11. Heisman winner Derrick Henry did the rest, netting his second score of the night on an 11-yard touchdown run.
Spartans stall in 'Bama territory...again
Aaron Burbridge reeled off an 11-yard run, Connor Cook hit Josiah Price for 18 yards, and MSU got the ball down to the Alabama 28. After running the ball on 3rd-and-5 (???), Cook's 4th down pass was batted down at the line, and it's starting to look like MSU might get shutout by an awesome Crimson Tide defense. The Spartans have found themselves in Alabama territory four times tonight with nothing to show for it.
It's still 31-0, Alabama leading, with 13:19 left to play.
Crimson Tide with the kill shot
The Spartans had another three and out, and Alabama wasn't quite ready to just sit on its lead, as Jake Coker hit Calvin Ridley on the first play of its next drive for a 50-yard touchdown. Things have gotten out of control in Dallas. Alabama leads MSU, 31-0, with 2:20 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
Things couldn't look worse right now for Spartans
Cyrus Jones turned another MSU three-and-out into a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown. It's now 24-0, Bama leads, with 3:24 left to play in the third quarter.
The Spartans are having trouble climbing the mountain that is a long field against what might be the nation's best defense. It hasn't been pretty. They're trying to run the ball on first down with little success, and the Alabama defensive line is pinning its ears back on 2nd and 3rd down, making things very tough on Connor Cook. The MSU offensive line, considered one of the strengths of the team, isn't holding its own.
Overturned call costs MSU big time
The Spartans are in for it now, as Alabama put together a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the second half and take a 17-0 lead.
A second costly MSU penalty put the Tide in prime position to take a dominant lead, and that's just what they did when Jake Coker hit Calvin Ridley for a 6-yard score. The play was originally called incomplete, as Ridley battled with Jermaine Edmundson for possession, but review overturned the call in questionable fashion.
On the first play of the half, Alabama turned a seemingly broken play into a big-gainer to get into MSU territory. When it looked like the Spartans would get off the field on third down, they committed two big penalties, including a hands to the face personal foul, to keep the Tide's drive alive.
MSU left licking its wounds at halftime
The drive before the half can be summed up in only one word as it pertains to MSU: Devastating.
The Spartans had worked their way into Alabama territory before Connor Cook was sacked and dropped back across midfield. Facing a 3rd-and-18, Cook bounced back for a 26-yard completion to Macgarrett Kings down to the Bama 30. On the next play, with less than 30 seconds to play in the half, Cook hit Aaron Burbridge for 18 yards down to the 12. That's when tragedy struck, as Cook stared down his receiver on the next play and was intercepted, costing the Spartans any chance for points before the half.
MSU has hit on a couple plays, but sustaining any kind of momentum on offense has proven to be next to impossible. Those points left on the board before halftime, when they were already in field goal range, could prove to be more costly than anything else that happened in the first half.
As it stands, Alabama leads 10-0 at the break and will get the ball to start the second half.
Tide extend lead before the half
Adam Griffith knocked through a 47-yard field goal, and Alabama has stretched its lead to 10-0 with 1:25 to play before halftime.
It looked like things were about to get much worse for MSU heading into the half, but the defense stiffened and forced the long field goal attempt with 1:25 remaining in the half. The Crimson Tide got into Spartans territory on a 41-yard hookup between Jake Coker and OJ Howard after a couple false start penalties looked like they might derail the drive.
Crimson Tide hit MSU hard
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin got sick of the quick-hitters and went for the home run, as Jake Coker hit Calvin Ridley for a 50-yard gain down to the MSU 1. Derrick Henry punched it in from there, and Alabama leads, 7-0, with 5:36 to play until halftime.
Can't count the Spartans out yet. They've made a living of coming from behind. But considering the defense they're facing, getting behind by more than one possession is probably a bad idea.
This time, MSU stalls in 'Bama territory
The Spartans used another Alabama pass interference call and a 17-yard completion to Paul Lang to get into Crimson Tide territory for the fist time today. A procedure penalty was followed by three consecutive incompletions, as both offenses are having trouble sustaining success.
'Bama stalls in MSU territory
Alabama hit a couple quick-hitters to get out of the shadow of its own goal line. Then, they unleashed Derrick Henry. Henry ran hard through the Spartans defense and got his team out across midfield before Jake Coker ran a quarterback sneak on a 4th-and-1. The Spartans hung tough, though, forcing Alabama to punt the ball back three plays later. This game is not for the faint of heart. This is big boy football. It's almost got the feeling of first one to score wins.
Spartans can't capitalize on big play
Facing a 3rd-and-8 from its own 34, MSU caught the Bama defense off-guard when Connor Cook went into hurry-up mode and hit Felton Davis for a 28-yard gain down to the Tide's 34. Obviously that type of play put Alabama's stud defense in a bad mood, as they blew up a couple Spartans plays and sacked Cook on third down back at midfield. MSU pinned Bama down at its own 4.
The good news here is the Spartans have flipped the field. When you're playing in a game where points are going to be few and far between, the battle of field position is huge.
MSU defense nearly forces big mistake by 'Bama QB Coker
Heisman winner Derrick Henry got his first carry of the night, running for six yards and a first down. After another short run on first down, things almost went sideways for the Tide. Arjen Colquhoun pressured Jake Coker out of the pocket on second down, where Coker fumbled the ball out of bounds as he attempted to throw. There was a split second where it seems as if the Spartans could have recovered the ball, but it was Colquhoun's foot that guided it out of bounds. Facing 3rd & 19, Alabama couldn't complete an attempted screen pass before punting the ball back to MSU.
MSU stalls after first down, punts it back to Bama
Staring at a long field, Connor Cook hit Josiah Price for a 14-yard gain to get the Spartans out of the shadow of their own goal line. Cook found Price again for a couple yards, but a second down run with LJ Scott went for a loss to set up a 3rd & 10. A fourth down catch by Macgarrett Kings was ruled incomplete after Kings' heel came down just out of bounds.
Bama punts it back, but MSU staring at a long field
Alabama started fast, picking up a first down with short catch and run plays to Calvin Ridley, but the Spartans defense stiffened and Bama punted it back to MSU. The Spartans will take over at their own 5 after a booming punt by JK Scott.
This game has started as expected, with the defenses making it known that points will be at a premium tonight.
MSU can't take advantage of early penalty
The Spartans got some help from the Alabama defense on the first play of the game, as Connor Cook looked for Aaron Burbridge down the sideline and drew a 14-yard pass interference penalty to get out to the Bama 40. Gerald Holmes had a nice pickup of five yards on first down, but he couldn't find room on second down, and Connor Cook couldn't execute a QB draw against a swarming Tide defense.
No. 1 Tigers dominate Oklahoma, await Cotton Bowl winner
Clemson used a big second half on both sides of the ball to outscore Oklahoma, 21-0, after the break. The final score was 37-17, and now the Tigers will be left waiting for the winner of Michigan State and Alabama.
The Clemson-Oklahoma semifinal is winding down, but probably won't end until the scheduled start time for the MSU-Bama game at 8 pm. Because of this, ESPN has officially moved kickoff for Michigan State's game to 8:20.
The battle is about to begin...
The time has come for Michigan State and Alabama to throw down at the semifinal of the College Football Playoff at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the right to play for the national championship.
This game isn't going to be for the faint of heart. These are two teams that like to line up and knock their opponent's head off. It's going to be a game of who's willing to step up and be the tougher man when that vaunted MSU defensive line tries to stop Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and Alabama's bruising rushing attack. It's going to be a game where quarterback Connor Cook is going to be called on to answer the bell and make plays when he takes on a Bama defense that flies around the field.
No, this isn't going to be college football as most of country knows it in 2015. This isn't Oklahoma vs. Clemson. This is Saban vs. Dantonio. This is SEC vs. Big Ten. This is smashmouth football. This is going to be fun. And for a Spartans program craving national respect, this is everything.