(Photo Credit: Ryan Leopando- Arch City Sports)
After winning their second straight SEC East championship the #16 Missouri Tigers traveled back to Atlanta to take on the top team in the country, the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tigers looked to shock the football world and somehow beat the NCAA’s juggernaut, but that simply wasn’t going to happen.
After electing to receive the Crimson Tide showed why they are the nations top team by picking apart the Missouri defense. Blake Sims was able to use screen passes to his talented wide outs, which made it extremely difficult for the defensive ends to apply pressure.
The Tide ran 10 plays for 68 yards, which was capped off by a T.J. Yeldon one-yard run to give Alabama a quick 7-0 lead. Needing an answer the Tiger offense came out on the field and did the exact opposite going three and out on their first drive. Throughout the first half Alabama’s defense remained strong taking away the run game.
Unforced errors on the part of Missouri cost them multiple times during the game, but most noticeably in the passing department. Several times Maty Mauk over shot his receivers and many times his receivers dropped catchable balls. Little mistakes were the reason they found themselves trailing 21-13 at the half.
No play was more crucial in the half than when Sims tossed a ball deep to DeAndrew White for a 58-yard touchdown to give Alabama the 21-3 lead. Following the throw Missouri defensive end Shane Ray made contact with Sims in what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet collision, despite the fact that he led with his hands. Ray was ejected from the game for targeting and Missouri was forced to play on without its star player.
In the first half Alabama held Missouri to a mediocre 21 yards on the ground as Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy struggled to get anything going. With the Tigers two biggest offensive weapons controlled it was difficult for Missouri to generate any sort of offensive output.
Tiger fans weren’t ready to give up just yet as Missouri had been a second half team all season long. On the first drive of the third quarter Mauk connected with senior wide receiver Jimme Hunt twice on long third down plays. The second connection went for 63 yards and set Missouri up inside the Alabama 5-yard line.
After nearly failing to convert, on fourth down Mauk hit Bud Sasser to cut the deficit to 21-10. Then following a defensive stop the Crimson Tide were forced to punt giving the Missouri offense a chance to turn it back into a ball game. Though the Tigers were unable to find the end zone, Andrew Baggett converted the second of his two 33-yard field-goal makes to bring Missouri within eight.
At the end of the third quarter Missouri only trailed 21-13, which was a surprise seeing as how Alabama had dominated in all facets up to this point.
Missouri had been a fourth quarter team all season long, but tonight wasn’t its night. After Sims found Christian Jones for a 6-yard score to push the Tide lead to 28-13 it was all but certain that the Tigers would come up short once again in the championship game.
Alabama added a pair of rushing touchdowns from Derrick Henry to polish things off as the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 42-13 to claim the SEC championship.
Missouri gave it a tough fight, but in the end Alabama was just too much. The Sims to Amari Cooper connection was on point all game long as the Tigers had no answer for one of the nations leading receivers. Cooper finished the day with a record 12 receptions for 83-yards and he wasn’t even Alabama’s biggest weapon.
On the Tigers side Mauk completed 16 of 34 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, which are hardly great numbers. Hunt had a nice day recording six catches for 169 yards, which is a single-game record by a Tiger wide out.
Missouri made a plethora of dumb errors, but what it really came down to was the running game. When the Tiger’s run game is on they generally win their games. When they can’t stop the run they generally lose their games. Today both happened.
Alabama held Missouri to a combined 41 yards rushing on the ground on 23 attempts. Likewise the Crimson Tide rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns between Sims and their backs.
No one expected Missouri to come in and beat the Tide in this game, but they do deserve credit for playing a great season amidst all that happened. After bad losses at home to two very beatable teams, they were able to go out and win six straight, three on the road, and made it back to the SEC championship. Sure they aren’t the caliber of Alabama, but you can’t discredit them for what they’ve done this season.
Sure this team could have performed better if they limit some stupid mistakes, but they deserve applause for a hard fought season. Now we wait to find out Missouri’s bowl fate, which will be announced tomorrow afternoon.
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