The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

4 months ago

Alabama falls short in overtime loss to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

The Alabama Crimson Tide’s magical basketball season came to an end Sunday night, falling to the UCLA Bruins 88-78.

The Tide started the matchup off very slow, allowing UCLA to jump out to a 7-1 lead in the opening minutes of the game.

Bama star Herb Jones got in foul trouble very early on, with back-to-back charges called on him. As the senior leader of coach Nate Oats’ team, Jones is a big part of what Alabama likes to do on defense as well as offense.

With two fouls in the opening 45 seconds of the game, it looked like the Tide were going to be in for a long night. However, when Jones hit the bench, Bama started its comeback.

Jahvon Quinerly entered the game and helped things up 7-7 after six minutes of play. The guard had the most points of any player on the court, scoring 20 total.

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Johnny Juzang for UCLA and the rest of coach Mick Cronin’s team started to fight back midway through the first half.

The Bruins came clawing back into the game, and with under seven minutes left in the first half finally grabbed the lead again for the first time since the opening minutes. After UCLA rallied back to grab a 27-25 lead, it was back and forth down the stretch until a late run for the Bruins put them ahead of Alabama.

At the half, UCLA managed to pull ahead 40-29 over the Tide thanks to the play of Juzang and Jules Bernard.

Bernard scored 13 points off of four three-point shots, including one with a foul after the make. However, Alabama was not ready to give up on the opportunity to keep dancing.

The Bruins hit their last four three-point shots at the half. Yet, to start out the second half of play, UCLA missed their first three shots of the half. All three were from beyond the arc.

Bama went on a 7-0 run to start the second half to slowly chip away at the lead that UCLA had carried with them into the half.

The Tide then went on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 40 early in the second half.

Juzang and Bernard started out the second half cold, combining to go 0-5 from deep to start the half as it took six minutes for UCLA to score a point.

UCLA later tied the game at 61 a piece on the first of a pair of Jaime Jaquez, Jr.’s free throws up with 45 seconds left, and then remained tied with a miss on the second. Jones for Alabama then also went one of two for free throws on the other end.

With less than 30 seconds left, the Tide led by one, and UCLA managed to get the ball down low to big man Cody Riley for the Bruins to flip the lead of one to their side.

Alabama then had 15 seconds left down one with the ball in their possession. Herb Jones got fouled in the final seconds and comes up to the line to possibly put the game away. Jones missed both free throws.

On the other side, the Bruins hit two free throws to give them a three-point lead over the Tide with only five seconds remaining in the game.

Alex Reese for the Tide, who has been battling injury and has seen his numbers decline slightly in the last few weeks, was given the ball for a last-second desperation shot.

Reese hit the deep shot from the March Madness logo to send the game to overtime.

UCLA took over the game in overtime to defeat Alabama 88-78 and advance to the Elite Eight.

Alabama’s trip to the Sweet 16 was its first time doing so since 2004.

The team that has lived by the three all season was not able to live by the three on Sunday. Instead, Bama went just 7-28 from deep.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

4 months ago

Alabama marches past Iona to round two of the NCAA Tournament

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide are playing their best basketball in March, and they are looking better than ever.

The second-seeded Tide continued their winning ways against a tough 15-seed in Iona, winning 68-55 on Saturday.

Iona, coached by Rick Pitino, who has upset Alabama before in the Tournament before, came out strong against the Tide. The Gaels went on a 7-0 run before the half to bring them within one point at half-time. The two teams went back and forth trading blows for the beginning of the second half until Jahvon Quinerly began to take over the game.

A 9-0 run midway through the second half for the Tide built up a seven-point lead over the Gaels. Alabama eventually went on to win the game 68-55 by playing stiff defense and not allowing Iona to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball.

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Herb Jones paved the way with 20 points to go along with six rebounds in the first-round win. Jones has been a leader for the Crimson Tide all year, and today was no different.

While Jones scored the most points for coach Nate Oats’ squad, Quinerly really stepped up when the Tide needed him the most. Quinerly seemed to score almost every time Iona tried to go on a run in the final five minutes of the game.

He managed to never let the Gaels get in a rhythm by driving to the basket, and his speed and quickness were too much for the opposition every time he drove in late in the game.

Other Tide players who made a big impact in the win were Jaden Shackelford and John Petty, who both scored in the double digits. The two both struggled from deep this game as they each shot 1-5 from beyond the arc. However, Petty’s seven rebounds led the team.

Alex Reese went 2-2 from deep, but couldn’t get any more buckets besides those two.

Next for the Tide will be a matchup against the winner of UCONN versus Maryland. If Bama can survive round two, they would be projected to face off against three-seed Texas in the Sweet 16.

One thing to keep in mind during Alabama’s run in this tournament is that the one-seed in their region is Michigan, who lost arguably their best player at the end of the season.

Alabama’s round of 32 game is set for Monday, March 22. The Tide will look to keep this magical season moving forward no matter the opponent.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Alabama defeats LSU to win SEC Tournament — ‘We are a championship school’

(Alabama Athletics/Twitter)

It has been a long journey already, but after Alabama’s SEC Tournament Championship win on Sunday the Tide hope that one of the greatest seasons in school history is far from over yet.

After winning both the regular season SEC Championship and then the SEC Tournament title, Bama has their sights set on the NCAA Tournament. What Nate Oats and company has been able to do so far is especially impressive for a second-year coach.

After the game Oats spoke to the media and had some high praise for Alabama’s athletics program as a whole. On what the university’s basketball and football teams have been able to accomplish, he said, “We aren’t a football school or a basketball school. We are a championship school.”

However, Oats isn’t satisfied yet with his team’s season. He wants to take his players far into the big dance with Alabama as a projected two-seed.

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In the SEC Tournament finale LSU stayed toe-to-toe with Alabama down to the final buzzer. No team led by more than eight points the entire game and neither squad kept a lead for long in the second half.

Alabama, much like they have all season, got a huge impact from their bench while LSU relied heavily on their starting five to get their points. In the first 33 minutes of the game Alabama led 26-0 in the points off-bench category.

One of those bench players for the Tide is Jahvon Quinerly who finished the championship game with five rebounds and 14 points — including going three for seven from deep. Quinerly has been playing at a high level down the back stretch of this season.

He has been giving Alabama a lift while John Petty seems to be in a bit of a shooting slump and Josh Primo is injured with a sprained MCL.

Quinerly was recognized for his efforts by winning the SEC Tournament most valuable player (MVP) award. His 47 total points over three games and shooting 46% from behind the arc pushed Quinerly past Herb Jones for the honor.

Jones did have a dominant performance in the championship game by grabbing his second double-double of the tournament. Rebounding was key and Alabama had one of their best games on the glass of the season. Jones is partly responsible for that feat by leading the team with 11 rebounds.

Although it looked like Alabama was going to come away with an easy win early, the Tigers’ Trendon Watford made sure to make it a tough game for the Tide. Watford is a Birmingham native who attended Mountain Brook High School.

That made this game mean a little more to Watford who went on to have a career high night with 30 points and eight rebounds. Alabama wasn’t able to stop Watford in the second half, but they were able to outlast him to come away with the championship win.

Jaden Shackelford led the Tide in scoring with 21 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists on Saturday. He made five three-point shots against the Bayou Bengals to boost his team to a win.

The NCAA Tournament officially begins this Thursday. Alabama will find out what seed they will be and who they will matchup against first, Sunday at 5:00 p.m. CT. While most experts think Bama is locked in at a two-seed, it is possible that the Tide could sneak their way into a one-seed.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Alabama basketball heads to the SEC Championship Game for the first time in 19 years

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

Alabama kept on rolling to defeat Tennessee 73-68 on Saturday in a huge comeback win in the SEC Tournament semi-finals.

Tennessee came out on fire by scoring points in a hurry as well as playing suffocating defense, causing the Tide to start out 3-13 from the three-point line. Usually a great three-point team, Alabama needed to adapt to the Volunteer’s defense.

The Volunteers were able to run out to a 15-point lead in the first half before Alabama came roaring back from behind. That deficit is big in its own right, but to the Alabama faithful, it probably felt like a 25-point lead the way Tennessee was beginning to run away with it.

Bama did adapt to the Vol defense in the closing minutes of the first half by driving the lane and getting to the basket.

Only a handful of teams have been able to shut down the Tide’s perimeter game. While Alabama does love to shoot the deep ball, they are just as comfortable at the rim. When those adjustments are needed, one name always seems to rise to the top of the stat chart: Herb Jones.

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Yes, Jones is a star in almost all of Alabama’s wins.  He can knock down a three as good as anyone and when they really need to play ball underneath, he is the biggest star on the court.

Jones finished with a game-high 21 points. To put into perspective how much Jones took over this game, he was one of only two players for his team with double digit scoring and also managed to snag 13 rebounds to make it a double-double.

As a matter of fact Jones led his team in the “big three” statistics in the Tide’s win over Tennessee — scoring, rebounds and assists.

He scored over a quarter of the Tide’s points with only Jahvon Quinerly coming close with a solid 19 points.

Quinerly has become one of the Tide’s most consistent players as just a sophomore. His numbers may never be at the top, but his scoring has been above average and consistent in the latter half of the season.

Jaden Shackelford had an off night with just two points in the game. Yet it is a good sign to see players like Shackelford, Bruner and Ellis all struggle and the Tide still come out with a win. That is a testament to the talent and teamwork on this team from top to bottom.

The Crimson Tide will play in the SEC Championship game on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. CT. Bama will face off against the winner of the semi-final game between Arkansas and LSU.

Alabama swept LSU in the regular season but did suffer a loss to Arkansas on February 24.

Arkansas has been picking up steam lately and has a similar record to Alabama, but the Tide is still the top dog in the conference and will be the favorite for the title game.

Alabama has the unique opportunity to win a conference championship in football and basketball in the same academic year tomorrow in what could be a historic year for Bama athletics.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Auburn defeats Mississippi State 78-71 for Bruce Pearl’s 600th career win

(Auburn Men's Basketball/Twitter)

In a season filled with uncertainty, injuries, and the looming notion that Auburn had self-imposed a post-season ban, the Auburn Tigers finished their season on a high note.

Bruce Pearl managed to get his team involved and excited in a season where they could have easily folded and written this season off. However, Pearl got his team focused on the season at-hand and managed to pick up his 600th career win against Mississippi State today.

On Auburn’s post-game radio broadcast, Pearl talked to Andy Burcham after the game. On how he got his team motivated in a year like this, he said, “Really happy with our effort tonight. I was concerned heading into this game knowing that this is our last practice, and this is our last game. You know, we aren’t playing for the tournament, so what is going to be the motivation?”

Effort is the main takeaway from Pearl’s response, and his team has struggled with almost every problem this season except effort.

With what is an admittedly underwhelming season by Auburn’s standards, the Tigers used effort to defeat Mississippi State 78-71 in front of their home crowd in Auburn Arena.

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Earlier in the week, Pearl said that this week of practice was different than any he has ever had at Auburn because the players and coaches knew that this was without a doubt the last game of the season.

For the Tigers, four different players scored in double figures. Allen Flanigan continued to improve and led the team in scoring with 22 points along with four rebounds and two assists.

The team as a whole had one of their best halves of the season in the second half of this game.

Auburn shot 82% from the charity stripe this game which is well above average for the Tigers. They also shot 5-10 from three in the second half, and were over 50% from the field as a whole.

Defensively, the Tigers stepped up big and made it more difficult for the Bulldogs to answer Auburn’s scoring runs. On what changed in the second half, Pearl said, “We played a little bit more zone in the second half. I think we did really well in the zone in this game.”

With Sharife Cooper still out, Auburn needed players to step up again. While Flanigan and Williams led the way in scoring, Jamal Johnson stepped into the point guard role once again this season.

Johnson has been selfless in bouncing around to whatever position he has been needed. He shot 4-8 from deep and dished out seven assists in this game.

On Cooper’s absence, Pearl said, “To win two out of the last three games without Sharife, is just a testament to how much our guys have improved as well as how great of a job my staff has done.”

JT Thor led the team in rebounding with nine boards in the game. Thor also scored ten points against the Bulldogs including a three-pointer.

Dylan Cardwell had one of the more impressive highlights of the game with a turn around three-point jumper as time was running out on the shot clock. In the final game of the season, Cardwell took his first and only long range shot of the season and drained it.

On Cardwell’s circus-type shot, Pearl said, “You know what’s funny is that he hasn’t worked on that shot, but he has been working on his three-point shot. So that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

On what it means to get his 600th career win, Pearl said, “It means I’m old, that’s what it means. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Pearl later continued saying, “I hold myself to a high standard. I answer to God and God only, and he has a really high standard. There is no way I can meet that standard, but I’m going to try, and that is what I expect from the people around me.”

Auburn’s coach will be looking for more wins in the future. As for now, the Tiger’s season is officially over, and Pearl will be looking forward to getting to work on next season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Alabama finishes regular season with win over Georgia, looks ahead to SEC tournament

(Alabama Men's Basketball/Twitter)

Alabama is enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory and continued with their winning ways today as they defeated Georgia 89-79 in the Bulldogs’ house.

The Tide have been cruising through the SEC this season, with only two blemishes on their conference record.

With the regular season SEC championship already claimed by Bama, they now have their sights set on the SEC tournament title. They will get a double bye in the tournament and will be the favorite to win it all as the number one seed.

Simply put, if Alabama plays like they have all year, they should have no problem winning the SEC tournament. They have not won their conference tournament in 20 years, so this team will be looking to make a statement that Tide basketball is back.

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Continuing to play as they have all season will consist of not straying far from their game plan, as well as keeping the ball in the hot hand. However, for Alabama the hot hand is almost everywhere on the court.

In the win today over the Georgia Bulldogs, they had five players score in double figures. Jahvon Quinerly led the team in scoring with 18 points. Quinerly also had four rebounds and four assists in today’s game.

Georgia got out to an early 14-point lead in the first half of this matchup but couldn’t hold on as Alabama took over the second half. The Bulldogs kept the game close in the closing minutes, but there was no stopping the Tide’s barrage of threes.

Alabama went 10-22 from deep, which at 45% is well above their season average of 35%. Even from the three-point line where Alabama has looked comfortable all year, they are still improving.

John Petty and Jordan Bruner both went 2-3 from downtown in the win over Georgia. If these two can keep shooting lights out along with Jaden Shackelford and Quinerly, then the Tide will have to continue to live on the three-point line. Head coach Nate Oats has stated he doesn’t want to “live or die by the three,” but Bama has prescribed to the don’t fix what isn’t broken method this season.

While their players can score underneath on the drive, when a team is hitting long range shots like the Tide are, they don’t just stop for philosophy’s sake unless a team makes them abandon the three.

For a team like Alabama, which has been dominant all year, to continue improving into March should have other teams concerned for the upcoming tournaments. As a one seed in the conference tournament, and a projected two seed in the NCAA tournament, the Tide are by no means underrated.

However, with limited non-conference play this season, the Tide could possibly show the nation that they deserve a one seed in the NCAA tournament if they can win their conference tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Alabama basketball completes the sweep against Auburn

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

Fresh off of winning the SEC regular season championship for the first time in 19 years, the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday completed a sweep of Auburn for the first time in six years after defeating the Tigers at home 70-58.

Jayden Shackelford led the way for Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as the talented sophomore guard went 5-9 from behind the arc to finish with 23 total points in the win over Auburn.

Sophomore Jahvon Quinerly scored 11 points off of the bench and provided sparks for Alabama in crucial moments of the game.

While Alabama led by as much as 16 points in the first half, Auburn was able to cut the lead to five in the second. However, Alabama’s defense began to stiffen up, and seniors Herbert Jones and John Petty stalled the Tiger’s offense out before they could get too hot.

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For the Tide, the three-ball has become a major part of their offense. Second-year head coach Nate Oats always tells his players to get at least one touch in the paint first before shooting. This green-light mentality is becoming more and more popular throughout college hoops.

Bama has done really well with this philosophy by becoming one of the most dominant teams from downtown in the conference. Tuesday’s game showed that even when the three doesn’t come through for the Tide, they have other ways of scoring.

Alabama drove the basketball extremely well in the second half against Auburn and proved to be the more physical team in their win on Tuesday night. When tournament time begins, they may have to lean on this more physical style of play in certain games.

The Tide have one more regular season game against Georgia in Athens on Saturday. Bama will look to finish the regular season on a win before the SEC Tournament in Nashville gets underway.

The Tide are currently projected to be a two seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Alabama defeats Mississippi State, wins 2021 SEC regular season title

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

Since the arrival of Alabama basketball head coach Nate Oats, the Tide have been waiting on their time to come. With what Oats did at Buffalo prior to coming to Tuscaloosa, it was clear that he could bring a team from low spots to national prominence.

That time is finally here for Bama hoops fans, as Alabama won at least a share of the SEC regular season championship Saturday after defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs 64-59.

Jahvon Quinerly has become one of the most important pieces to the Bama offense in the late-season, along with fellow guard Jaden Shackelford. Saturday was no different, as Quinerly led the team in scoring with 19 points in the win.

Shackelford actually did end up being second in scoring this game with 15 points, along with grabbing six boards on the night.

However, just reading stat lines does not always show the entire story of a game. The unsung hero for the Tide on Saturday was without a doubt James Rojas. Although he had a modest stat line of nine points, six rebounds and zero assists, Rojas was one of the keys of the game.

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Rojas played very stingy defense when it mattered. Also, he was able to drain a three-point shot with under a minute left to put the dagger in the Bulldogs by putting Bama ahead by two possessions.

It is worth noting that Rojas has only hit four threes this year while attempting 22 long-distance shots, making him 18% from deep on the season.

Coach Oats is known to give his players the freedom to shoot whenever they feel necessary. That is a lot of freedom, but it does come with one stipulation: You have to play hard on defense to have free-range to shoot the ball.

Rojas, Quinerly and Shackelford all played great defense all game. Coincidently, these three also had great offensive performances. That is the system Oats has put in place in Tuscaloosa.

Senior Herb Jones, a fan favorite, went 1-9 from the field with only two points total, but he was a menace at the rim. While going 0-3 from downtown, he had 14 total rebounds on the night. His defense was also tough, and he made sure to make things hard on Mississippi State, especially in the paint.

Alabama’s next matchup is against an improving Auburn team in a big rivalry game. Auburn is coming off of a big win over Tennessee. However, freshman star Sharife Cooper’s status for the game is in question as he deals with an injury.

Cooper played his first college game against Alabama in Auburn Arena earlier this season and had a great night. However, even if he is available for the Tigers, Oats and the Tide will be ready for Cooper this time at home.

The two teams are set to square off Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 months ago

Auburn extends winning streak versus Tennessee to six with Cooper still out

(Twitter/AuburnMBB)

Auburn’s basketball team has had the most up-and-down seasons in recent memory — starting with freshman phenom point guard Sharife Cooper waiting nearly half the season for his eligibility to go along with Auburn self-imposing a postseason ban.

With a 12-13 overall record, 6-10 in conference play, the Tigers needed something to make this season positive. The Auburn players, coaches and fans got a chance to host ranked rival Tennessee inside of Auburn Arena.

In the only meeting this season between the two teams, Auburn defeated the Volunteers 77-72. Auburn led the game the entire second half, but Tennessee kept things interesting in the final minutes.

Bruce Pearl spoke to Andy Burcham on the “Auburn Basketball Review” show the day before the matchup with Tennessee and explained how he felt about the matchup.

On how good Tennessee has been this year, Pearl said, “The league has been much more competitive than most people realized. … Tennessee is still one of the best teams in the league, but probably isn’t going to win it this year.”

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It is worth noting that Auburn has not lost to Tennessee since January 2017, meaning it has been over four years since the Tigers have lost a game to the Vols. Saturday’s win actually extends the win streak to six games for Bruce Pearl and the Tigers.

Pearl described Tennessee as a “really good defensive ball club that is physical and tough.”

He added, “They are probably not too happy about the fact that they have lost five straight to Auburn. They will come in here with their hair on fire.”

With Cooper still being out with an ankle injury suffered last week in practice, the Tigers knew they would have to rely on their sophomores to step up. That is just what happened Saturday, with Allen Flanigan and Devan Cambridge leading the team in points.

Flanigan was the point leader, as well as the team leader, shooting two for five from beyond the arc; he put in most of his work in the paint to get to 23 points in the win.

Guard Jamal Johnson also had a great game shooting two for three from downtown and adding 14 total points to the Tiger’s score.

All five of Auburn’s starters were in the double-digit scoring. Jaylin Williams also had one of his best performances this season with 13 points and two rebounds.

While the Tiger defense played exceptionally well, they still couldn’t stop Tennessee star guard Keon Johnson from hitting nine three-point shots as part of his total of 23 points. Auburn was able to return the favor on offense almost every time Johnson and the Vols started trying to claw back into the lead.

It was positive to see Auburn play one of their best games without arguably their best two players on the court. When Bruce Pearl called on his players to step up in Cooper’s absence, they showed out.

Saturday’s game was an AUTLIVE Cancer game for Auburn where the school raises awareness and money for cancer prevention and detection. It is worth noting that this great cause has been great for Auburn as they are 6-0 in AUTLIVE Cancer games.

Auburn will travel to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. to take on the Crimson Tide, who sit at the top of the league and will be playing for at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship Saturday night against the Mississippi Bulldogs.

If Bama falls to Mississippi State, that game on Tuesday will be a chance for Auburn to help ruin Bama’s championship season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Alabama basketball breaks long-time record in rout over Georgia

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide were already being noticed all around the country by basketball fans and national sports media.

However, Alabama on Saturday broke a program record to put even more people on notice of what is going on in Tuscaloosa. Bama scored the most points in an SEC game in program history on a pair of Darius Miles free-throws with less than five seconds left in the game.

The record that had stood since 1976 vs. LSU is now officially broken. The new benchmark is now an incredible 115 points after the Tide won at home 115-82 over the Georgia Bulldogs.

Miles is a bench player who doesn’t usually see many minutes of the Tide’s games. Yet, with a massive lead late in the game, he came in and threw down a monster dunk in the last 25 seconds of play.

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Shortly afterwards, he got fouled in the paint with a chance to break the record at the charity stripe. He did just that and will now go down in Tide basketball history as just a freshman.

To get to that point, though, the starters had some work to do first.

John Petty was one of those guys, and again proved himself as a leader and a weapon on the court. Petty had 13 points against Georgia and spoke to SEC Network after the game to discuss Alabama’s dominant performance.

On what it was like playing in this explosive offense on the day, Petty said, “I mean, when we have guys making shots at a high level it’s kind of scary. We have fun within our system.”

Herb Jones came to play as usual but broke even his own personal single game record for points by scoring 21 points against the Dawgs. Believe it or not, this was the first game Jones has ever scored in the 20s. Jones also snatched five rebounds and dished out four assists in a career night for the senior.

Josh Primo had 19 points, and Jaden Shackleford scored 18 to round out the top three scorers for the Bama hoops team today.

Primo has slowly become a key piece for the Tide this season and continues to improve each and every week.

Offense is thought to be Alabama’s strength this season, and thanks to the weekly barrage of three-pointers made, it probably is. Against the Bulldogs, though, the Tide were very impressive on the defensive end of the ball.

On how Alabama’s defense has been locked in this season, Petty remarked, “Coach Oats always said once you play hard and do everything right on the defensive end, the offense will come easily. All of our guys really bought into that.”

Georgia’s leading scorer was a bench player, K.D. Johnson, who had 24 points — the highest total for either team on the court. While Johnson is a very good player, the reason he was at the top was that players like Wheeler and Fagan were held to relatively low point totals.

The Alabama defense was all over Fagan and wouldn’t open up the floor for anyone in a Georgia uniform, causing the Bulldogs to take many ill-advised threes instead of driving to the rim. This brought on an embarrassing 10.5% shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

Bama on the other hand shot 60% from three, which has become the norm for the Tide this season.

To end his interview, Petty added, “I didn’t think we would get this far honestly, but with the guys we have, the senior leadership, and the dedication this year, I couldn’t picture it any other way.” He is starting to see how far this team can really go.

Alabama only has four regular-season games left and looks primed for a two-seed for the NCAA Tournament if they can play strong down the stretch. Oats will begin preparing his team to travel to College Station on Wednesday to take on the Texas A&M Aggies to keep their winning ways going.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Auburn basketball can’t hold on to lead, Ole Miss gets big overtime win

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

The Auburn Tigers held the lead for most of the game but couldn’t hold onto the lead as Ole Miss ultimately landed the 86-84 victory on Devontae Shuler’s game winning shot on Saturday.

Auburn managed to hold the lead for most of the game, including all of the second half until the final minute of regulation. In the last minute, Romello White gave the Rebels/Bears/Sharks the tie.

Ole Miss then got the chance to win the game from Shuler, who missed his jump shot.

The Tigers then got the first score from an Allen Flanigan layup to put them up two in overtime. After that, Ole Miss wouldn’t be passed by again. Sharife Cooper hit a three-point shot to tie the game up with 13 seconds left in overtime, however Auburn could not pull the game out.

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Before facing off against Ole Miss, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said, “Shuler and (Jarkel) Joiner are playing really, really well right now. They’ve got a lot of depth too.”

Pearl was correct, as Shuler was ready to go in this game, and the Reb’s depth also showed tonight in a big way against the younger Tigers.

Shuler would get a second chance to win the game, and this time he made it count. Shuler took it upon himself to pull up for a jumper again for the win, and this time he hit it to give Ole Miss the win at the end of overtime.

A fall to 4-7 in conference play was the result of this overtime loss for the Tigers. Auburn also got their overall record evened to 10-10, which isn’t what the Auburn faithful have been used to over the last few years with Pearl leading the program.

With Auburn self-imposing a post-season ban on their team this year, it isn’t the worst time to drop some games. Plus, the Tigers are one of the youngest teams in the nation.

However, with Cooper at point guard the Tigers were supposed to be much more dominant this year. With that, the question has to be asked: how much can Auburn grow this offseason? If the answer is ‘a lot,’ the Tigers will be in good shape.

If the answer is ‘not much,’ Auburn is going to have a long season again next year.

On Saturday, they had three players tied for leading scorer. Flanigan, Jaylin Williams and Devan Cambridge each had 16 points against Ole Miss, but that wasn’t enough to win the game.

White really showed out for Ole Miss with 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Shuler had a 26-point showing facing the Tigers, while adding six rebounds of his own.

Auburn gets the chance Tuesday to either rise above an even record or fall into a losing record on the season when they face off against the Commodores of Vanderbilt. Vandy is at 1-6 in conference play, but they do get Auburn in Nashville.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Alabama can’t complete comeback in hard fought loss to Missouri for the Tide’s first conference loss

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide’s basketball team came into their matchup on Saturday ranked 10th nationally and undefeated in the SEC. Meanwhile, the Missouri Tigers came into the game ranked 18th, and are the closest team behind Alabama in the conference race.

Alabama head coach Nate Oats mentioned before the game, “We have got to get back to playing better on the offensive end.” However, the Tide ultimately came out looking stiff during the first half on offense.

With Missouri only three games behind the Tide, this game was a big one. Missouri started the game off hot and carried their dominance into the beginning of the second half.

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However, after the Tigers gained a 20-point lead with under seven minutes left in the game, they started to let Alabama creep back into the game. The Tide completely shut down the Tiger’s offense and went on a 21-2 run to bring the score within one point with just a little over a minute left in the game.

It looked like Bama was going to be able to complete the comeback, but Missouri’s defense tightened up in the end and kept the score 66-65 for over a minute at the end of the game before extending their lead to three with only five seconds left.

In Oats’ opening statements to the media after the game, he started off by saying, “First SEC loss, and obviously our guys are disappointed and I’m disappointed. We gave ourselves a chance there at the end to win it, but I don’t think we played like we needed to in the first half. Somehow we have got to get these guys ready to go a little better.”

Herb Jones is without a doubt the senior leader of the Tide, and rightfully so. Jones has been the driving force behind the team’s success this season, but on Saturday he only managed to get seven points and grab five boards.

The senior had the ball in his hands twice in the last seven seconds with an opportunity to secure the lead, but both layup attempts were unsuccessful, including the last one which was a questionable no-call and could have changed the 68-65 outcome of the game that favored Missouri.

On what he saw on the final Jones layup attempt, Oats remarked, “I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t want to say. From what I saw I thought he landed on his back, but as a coach you want every foul to go your way.”

He later added, “I haven’t seen it [on replay] so I don’t want to say for sure. Our refs in the SEC are pretty good. If he missed it, he missed it, but we have to do a better job of not putting them in a spot where the game is in their hands in the last 10 seconds of the game.”

Three-point shooting woes for the Tide were a surprising part of the problem in this game, and while they shot 36% from deep, it felt like Alabama was missing left and right in this game. With the percentage being what it was, it doesn’t seem terrible on paper, but fans are used to seeing the Tide hit much more when the game is on the line. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case against the Tigers.

Jaden Shackelford had 15 points for Bama in this matchup along with four rebounds as the Tide’s leading scorer. Keon Ellis and Jahvon Quinerly were both tied for second on the team for points with 12 each. Alex Reese went only 1-5 from downtown.

Alabama is still up two games in the race for the SEC, with just seven games left on the schedule. It is very likely that the Tide will still be able to grab the regular season conference championship for this year — a feat which Alabama basketball has not accomplished in 19 years.

If Bama continues to be efficient on offense and fight like they did at the end of this game, the ball will continue to roll their way. With their first loss in conference play coming in February, this is one of Alabama’s best seasons in program history thus far.

Oats said he had to give his players credit after the game for rallying from behind and bringing the score within one. “We were down 22 [points] with 13 minutes left in the game and had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the last minute and a half. I couldn’t have asked for much better effort in the last 13 minutes of the game.”

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Bama falls short against Oklahoma in competitive SEC vs. Big 12 matchup

(Alabama Men's Basketball/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide hoops squad came into this SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge having won their last 10 games in a row. However, when playing another ranked team in Oklahoma, the Tide couldn’t quite pull out the win.

Bama looked great in their 66-61 defeat and showed that they do in fact deserve to be ranked, just maybe not in the top 10.

Alex Reese led the way for Alabama today with 15 points and five rebounds. Jaden Shackelford also had a solid day while shooting 67% from beyond the arc, along with his 14 points overall.

Offense was a little shaky for the Tide today, but scoring turned out not to be the issue. The defense for Alabama was the real problem, and while at times they were stiff, at two key moments in the game the defense slipped when needed most.

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At the end of the first half, they allowed the Sooners to have a small six-to-nothing run that flipped the score from 29-26 Bama, to 32-29 Oklahoma. Then, at the end of the game, Bama was up 60-59 with three and a half minutes left in the game. They then allowed another flip scoring just one more basket and allowing Oklahoma to outscore them seven-to-two for the win.

With all of this being said, there should be no panic for the Crimson Tide fan base.

In fact, being competitive with a team as good as Oklahoma would have been a shock the last five years. Yet, now the Alabama fan-base, as well as the experts, expected the Tide to win the game. That in itself is a huge jump for this team.

John Petty is regularly a star for the Tide, yet was held under double-digit scoring today. When a team’s best player has an off night, and they still look this good, you are in good shape. While Petty didn’t light up the scoreboard he still managed to be the leader for the team as well as coming away with five boards.

Also, Alabama had multiple players banged up on the court. Herb Jones and Reese were both battling injuries during this game.

On Jones’ condition for this game, Nate Oats talked to the media before the game saying, “Herb hasn’t practiced since the last game. He is still banged up but knowing Herb he is going to go. I mean, you could tell he wasn’t 100% against Kentucky, but he still almost had a triple-double.”

Reese was also battling an injury, but you could hardly tell it with the way he played today. Nate Oats mentioned his status before the game as well saying, “Reese, I held him out of yesterday’s practice to try to get him better, and he did look a lot better today… he is ready to go.”

One more thing to point out to the Crimson Tide faithful: Oklahoma’s last two wins before this one was against number five Texas, and number six Kansas. So, this team will most likely be ranked in the top-five come Monday.

Nate Oats is building something special at Alabama. This team is one of the best in program history, and as they return to SEC play Wednesday Bama hoops will be looking to stay undefeated in conference play.

As the clear front-runner for the SEC regular season championship, Bama has so much to play for and will still be in the running for a possible two or three seed in the tournament come March.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Alabama basketball defeats Mississippi State to stay undefeated in SEC play

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide are now 8-0 in conference play after defeating Mississippi State 81-73 on Saturday.

With a formula of driving the lane and passing out to perimeter shooters, Alabama has made the three-point shot their go-to game plan behind shooters like John Petty and Jaden Shackelford.

For the Bulldogs, their defense was up to the task at times. However, in crucial moments of the game, Mississippi State was unable to cover Bama’s three-point specialists and ended up getting burned.

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In their victory over the Bulldogs, Bama shot over 42% from behind the line, and Petty tied with freshman guard Joshua Primo for the most threes in the game at four. Mississippi State as a team only hit four three-pointers on Saturday.

Petty spoke to Dari Nowkhah and Daymeon Fishback on the SEC Network’s “SEC Now” after the game. On how he and his teammates have had so much success from behind the arc, Petty said, “We honestly don’t shoot as many threes in practice as you would expect from what we shoot in our games.”

That is hard to believe, considering how well the Tide have done this season shooting the three. Through just 16 games, the Alabama hoops squad has hit 165 three-point shots.

Herb Jones is arguably Bama’s best all-around player. On both offense and defense, he is able to be a difference-maker for his team. Saturday, Jones was the leading scorer on his team with 17 points. He also added five rebounds and seven assists to his stat line.

Bama head coach Nate Oats has completely changed the way Alabama is playing basketball, and his players seem to not only enjoy but also flourish in his system. His system is predicated on the players having the freedom to shoot almost anytime they want as long as the ball has touched the paint, or inside, at least once on the possession.

On playing for Oats, Petty said, “It’s been great playing for coach Oats. He gives us freedom on the offensive end, as long as you’re playing hard on defense, he gives you that freedom on offense to just play.”

Petty added that he was used to the freedom of his play in high school, and he enjoys being able to play with the freedom to shoot when he wants.

For a player like Petty, shot freedom is the reason he has become a star the last two seasons.

On how many threes he would make out of 100 wide-open shots, Petty stated, “If I shot 100 wide-open threes, I would probably hit at least 85.”

He added with a laugh, “I’m pretty high level when I’m wide open.”

Alabama is playing better and better each week, even beating some of the top SEC schools handily, including Kentucky, Florida and Auburn.

The Tide are on their way up and remain at the top of the conference with the only true challenges left being teams they have already beaten.

One of those teams travels to Tuscaloosa this week, as Alabama takes on Kentucky in Coleman Coliseum for a rematch. The first time the two teams met this season, Bama defeated the Wildcats by 20 points. The game is set to take place on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT in another tough test for the Tide and their unblemished conference record.

Alabama’s win on Saturday moves their overall record to 13-3 on the season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Auburn basketball begins to find its stride in a 109-86 beat down of South Carolina

AU MBB v Alabama on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

The Auburn Tigers have had a rough going in the beginning of SEC play, losing five of their last seven SEC games coming into Saturday’s matchup with South Carolina. However, recent wins against Kentucky and Georgia have put the Tigers on a much brighter path with endless possibilities.

One big factor for the turnaround is point guard Sharife Cooper, who had to work out eligibility issues with the NCAA early in the season.

In the game Saturday, Cooper picked up a double-double by scoring 16 points and recording 12 assists to propel Auburn to a 109-86 victory over the Gamecocks. The 6’1” point guard also managed to snag six rebounds for the Tigers.

Guard Allen Flanigan scored the most points of anyone in this contest, which has become normal for the sophomore this season. Flanigan went 4-6 from the three-point line to help get him to his team-high 24 points.

Defeating the Gamecocks was a big win for this young Tiger team, considering that even the most experienced Bruce Pearl-coached teams have had trouble facing Frank Martin’s squads.

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However, the Tigers were able to get it done in Columbia. The key to the win was getting the entire team involved. Pearl’s group had no problem there with five players scoring in double figures.

This Auburn team made history with 109 points being the most ever against an SEC team on the road in program history. On the record-breaking performance, Flanigan said, “Everybody who comes to Auburn, we come here to make history. We made history tonight.”

Forwards J.T. Thor and Jaylin Williams tied for the most rebounds on Saturday at seven a piece. Auburn’s big men are starting to attack the boards, which is something the Tigers have been missing even from their great teams in recent years. Williams added 18 points to his stat line, which was second on the team.

Williams has been a key player in the Tiger’s offense this season so far, but he seemed to start growing towards a more pivotal role this week. That could pay off for Auburn in the long run, considering he is very athletic with a big frame and a confident perimeter shot.

If Pearl can get Williams more comfortable on offense and give him a larger role, the Tigers will have multiple star players to lean on in crucial situations, which is great for a young team.

The Auburn Tigers improve to 3-5 in conference play. They will have a quick turnaround this week, hosting the 19th-ranked Missouri Tigers on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN 2. If Auburn wants to climb up the SEC ladder, what better opportunity is there than a team in the top five of the conference?

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 months ago

Allen Flanigan leads the way for Auburn as the Tigers defeat Kentucky at home

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

Auburn Arena wasn’t as crazy as it usually is when Kentucky comes to town. Yet, the game was just as exciting as ever.

The Tigers defeated Kentucky 66-59 on Saturday in a back and forth game in which neither team had a lead larger than seven points. Sharife Cooper becoming eligible has changed the way Auburn plays, and the ball is being spread around more in the last three games than it has all season.

Cooper had 11 points and seven assists against the Wildcats, but it was Allen Flanigan that led the way in scoring. Flanigan finished the game with 21 points along with nine rebounds, which were both the highest numbers on the court today.

After the game, Bruce Pearl praised Flanigan’s style of play saying, “Allen Flanigan is a man out there, he is a full-grown man.”

So far this season, Auburn hasn’t looked like the same team of the past couple of years. Shooting on the perimeter has been a struggle for the Tigers, only hitting 4-23 in this game, and Auburn has only shot 33% from deep this season. However, Bruce Pearl is letting his team play to their strengths.

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On the inside Auburn has a big man, TJ Thor, who is built for the NBA. Thor only had six points against the Wildcats but was able to create havoc down low in the paint to create space for other players to get clean shots at the rim. Stretch Akingbola is another big man who had zero points today, but his presence was felt down low opening up the floor for his teammates.

Pearl would be the first one to admit that his team was struggling earlier this season without Cooper being eligible to play. For that beginning stretch of the season, Auburn didn’t even have a true point guard on the court, but now the Tigers are starting to trend upwards.

Before the game, Pearl explained what it meant to play Kentucky. On what it takes to beat the Wildcats team, he said, “We’ll have to play our best game of the year to beat Kentucky… They’re the benchmark of our league.” He continued, “People will be measured on how you play against Kentucky, and that’s how you should be measured.”

At the end of the day, Pearl’s team was able to measure themselves against Kentucky to see where they stand in the league.

On his team’s win over the Cats, Pearl commented, “Give Kentucky credit, but we managed to to score 42 points in the second half to get the victory.”

Kentucky isn’t the same juggernaut that college basketball fans are used to seeing, but a win over the Wildcats is always a big deal for any team. After the loss today, they fall to 4-8 on the season and are 3-2 in conference play after starting off 3-0.

The two SEC teams to beat the Cats this season were the two teams from the state of Alabama. While Auburn has recently become the “basketball school” of the state, Alabama is the top team in the SEC at this point of the season with five straight conference wins.

The Tide look a lot like the last few Auburn teams who lived or died by the three-point shot.

These two Yellowhammer State teams will meet again later in the year, but for now Auburn have their sights set on Arkansas. Auburn will travel to Fayetteville to take on the 10-4 (2-3 in conference) Razorbacks on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

Alabama basketball team defeats blue blood Kentucky by 20 to stay undefeated in conference play

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

Just a day after Alabama’s football team won the national championship, the Tide basketball team pulled off a 20-point victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.

Nate Oats is in just his second year as head coach of the Crimson Tide hoop squad, but he is already putting the program on the map. Kentucky is one of the biggest names in basketball and the biggest in the SEC.

This is only the second win for the Tide in the last 14 meetings between the two teams, and the first win in Rupp Arena since 2006.

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After the game, Oats sat down for his post-game interview to discuss the victory they just had over a historically good team. On his team defeating a great Kentucky team, Oats said, “Obviously Kentucky is a little down this year, but they are still Kentucky. They have got pros on that team that our guys went head to head with and guarded.”

Oats has come in and revitalized the school’s basketball program and is now 5-0 in conference play for the first time in a long time. To do this Alabama has had to defeat big names like Florida, Auburn and now Kentucky.

Of all of these, none were as impressive as defeating the Wildcats by 20 points, considering they were also undefeated in league play.

On the keys to getting the win against a great team, Oats said, “I thought the whole defensive philosophy and just getting stops when we needed to. … Obviously, it helps when you make threes. So, it’s great when you have shooters like Petty and Shack. Our big guys can also make shots and Primo played good as well.”

The Crimson Tide are loaded with experienced upper-classmen, and they came through in a big way Tuesday night. In particular, senior John Petty had a fantastic showing with 23 points and shooting over 50% from beyond the arc.

On what role he had to play with a few players out against Kentucky, Petty advised, “The same role I’ve been playing. Even though Herb went out, we still have got leadership on our team.”

Petty continued by saying, “It was just a collective effort, everybody holding each other accountable, and everybody responding to the adversity. I feel like all of our guys stayed focused on staying locked in on the game plan to get the W.”

Petty has struggled to get going at times this year, but really came alive on Tuesday and led the team in scoring. He also added five rebounds to his stat line.

Herb Jones is probably the Tide’s best player and is on average hitting over half of his three-pointers. His coach and teammates brag about the leadership he has in the locker room.

In the first half of the game, Jones went out with an unfortunate hand injury. The extent of the injury is unknown, but he did not return to the game. This could be a huge loss to the Tide, and the team will be hopeful for some good news coming from the trainers soon.

On Jones’ injury, Oats stated, “Our trainers said he will be evaluated in the morning … it’s his hand, finger injury. So, we will have an update, hopefully sometime tomorrow afternoon.”

Oats was asked about Jones again later in his post-game interview and gave a little more information by saying, “From what I’ve heard on the top rope, it looks like he is going to be out for a little while.”

Turnovers are always a key stat to look at in basketball, and Alabama won that battle by forcing Kentucky to turn the ball over 19 times in the game. They were also able to move the ball around well, more than doubling the Wildcats’ assist total.

Bama has started off hot in conference play, and things don’t get easier just yet. Arkansas is coming to Tuscaloosa Saturday boasting a 10-2 record and a dominating rebound duo of Justin Smith and Connor Vanover. The Razorbacks are coming off a huge performance beating Georgia by 30 and will be a tough test for the Tide when they host them this coming Saturday.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

Alabama Crimson Tide roll against Ohio State, complete historic undefeated season

(Alabama Athletics/Twitter)

The University of Alabama has won the college football national championship for the 18th time in school history.

The Crimson Tide on Monday night added to their legacy of being the best college football program ever by winning the College Football Playoff.

Head coach Nick Saban also solidified himself as perhaps the greatest college football coach of all time, adding a seventh title for his personal record. Six of those came at Alabama, with the other one coming at LSU.

Dynasty is the word used to describe the Tide football program, and that has never been more evident than after their 52-24 demolition of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Bama has now won six championships in the last 11 years.

Saban keeps saying this team is special, though, and we can see why after the season has come to an end. The players on this team were all top recruits, but it wasn’t the same as the other championship seasons.

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Saban said after the game, “To go undefeated, win 11 SEC games, and win the National Championship… I can’t tell you how proud I am of that.” He continued to praise his team, saying, “I really can’t say enough, and I can’t really put it into words in terms of how proud I am of this group, this team. They are the ultimate team.”

Quarterback Mac Jones was considered not good enough by naysayers coming into the season, and receiver DeVonta Smith was likewise considered not big or strong enough for the SEC earlier in his career. On defense, the beginning of the season was rough, and analysts everywhere said that the Tide didn’t have a good enough unit to go all the way.

This year, Alabama was counted out for the first time in a while, but the Tide proved everybody wrong.

Jones was a Heisman finalist and finished his season with exactly 4,500 passing yards after putting up 464 in the title game. He also tossed five touchdowns in the championship game.

Three of those touchdown passes were to Heisman Trophy winner Smith. The receiver proved everybody wrong about his size by finishing the season with 23 receiving touchdowns as well as getting the offensive MVP in the title game.

Saban had some high praise for the receiver when joining ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on Sports Center after the game, remarking, “He is the ultimate team guy. He sets a great example for his teammates he cares about his teammates, and he sets a great example for them every day. He is hard to beat, and I just love that guy.”

On the change in Bama’s offensive style the past few years, Saban added, “We have gradually changed throughout the years to be more spread oriented, but still sort of drop-back concepts with our passes and legitimate play-action passes. It is sort of that blend.” Saban continued, “We knew we would have to throw the ball to win, and we did it effectively.”

As for the defense being counted out this season for the Tide, that may have been the most upside-down prediction of the year. This defense has grown each and every week of this season. With names emerging such as Patrick Surtain, Elijah Moore and Christian Barmore, the boys in Crimson shut down the Buckeyes, who went into the game perceived to be an offensive juggernaut.

Barmore, who won the defensive MVP on the night, emerged a little late in the year. He basically had his coming out party in the championship game — and what a time to shine.

On the Tide defense, Barmore had this to say: “We are all brothers. We all fight together, practice hard together, and just do everything together. Nobody has as strong a relationship as we do as a whole team.”

The defense as a whole held Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields to just 194 yards in the air, and only one touchdown.

To begin closing out his post-game interview, Saban said, “To me, this team accomplished more than almost any team… this team won 11 SEC games. They won the SEC, and then went undefeated in the SEC. Then they beat two great teams in the playoffs with no real break in the schedule.”

It was truly a special year for the Crimson Tide players, coaches and fans. The Tide overcame so many obstacles this year to get to the point they are at now. With COVID concerns threatening the season even happening, as well as players and coaches missing games, it is amazing to see the Crimson Tide finishing dominantly on top.

As Saban would say, it’s time to get back to work. Roll Tide.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

National Championship preview: Ohio State vs. Alabama

(College Football Playoff/Facebook, YHN)

The College Football Playoff National Championship is finally here.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are considered to be the best team by most, but the Ohio State Buckeyes shocked the world in their 49-28 rout of Clemson in the playoff semifinals.

Bama handled their business, too, but most people saw a demolition of Notre Dame coming before the opening kickoff of that game considering the Crimson Tide is loaded Heisman Trophy finalists all over the field and a defense that has improved each and every week of the season.

First, let’s see how we got to this point, even during the crazy year that was 2020.

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How we got here

No one knew if there was even going to be a National Championship or even a season a few months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, teams made their voices heard that they wanted to play. One of those young men that fought for a season was Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields.

While Fields has been impressive this year, he showed out when it really mattered against Clemson. It is reasonable to think that he is fighting extra hard as one of the players that helped the Big 10 Conference even have a season.

Generally, there is a consensus out there that Ohio State only having played eight games doesn’t give them a right to even be playing in this game. Fans of the Buckeyes will argue that after the win over Clemson, they do deserve it.

Yet, the argument is not over the talent of the team at all.

Football seasons are long and challenging for a team. There have been more injuries, fatigue and plays called for the Tide. So, while Ohio State’s team is fresh, Bama is the opposite after a 10-game SEC schedule.

Also, play calling goes into the argument because Alabama has had to show everything that they have to stay perfect, while the Buckeyes could still have some tricks up their sleeve.

How Alabama wins

Cliché answers would be too easy here, no matter how easy it would to say “just get off the bus.”

Tide coach Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time, and there is no debate. This year has seemed to mean a little more to him ever since he had to sit out a game due to COVID. Post-game he said he didn’t want to take being on the sidelines for granted anymore.

Saban also hasn’t won a title since 2017, which is a bit of a drought for him.

DeVonta Smith would also be a lazy answer to why the Tide will win. Smith just won the Heisman Trophy and was the most dominant college player in recent memory for any team. Up to this point, he has 1,641 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.

Quarterback Mac Jones is another member of the “big three” at Bama and has put up unbelievable numbers this season. Jones has thrown for over 4,000 yards this year. He has also thrown 36 touchdowns to only four interceptions on the year. That is an impressive ratio already, but consider that two of those were actually tipped passes.

For running back Najee Harris, it has been a quiet season. Not for his play at all, but for the media hype around him. Harris has been loud on the field with over 1,300 rushing yards this season and more touchdowns than Smith.

It is unfortunate that Harris has been overshadowed by the other two aforementioned star players. Yes, it’s understandable why. Yet, Harris can run, catch and truck any player in his path. In case you didn’t know he can also jump over defenders.

The real key to Alabama’s success is the way this team has worked together. Saban has a secret of success, and it is making sure everybody plays their role. Somehow, he convinces all these five-star athletes to not be the star of the team.

If everybody stays focused on the goal ahead and trusts the process, the Tide will get the win today. However, with the season ending and the draft coming up, it is easy to try to show out on the biggest stage. If everyone for Alabama stays grounded and plays as hard as they have all year, they should have no problem with Ohio State.

How Ohio State wins

Ohio State is sick of being told they shouldn’t be here. They are ready to challenge the best team in the country.

The Buckeyes definitely have the talent and resources to get the job done.

Everyone knows who star Fields is, especially considering he has been in the headlines seemingly every week since transferring from Georgia.

Fields has thrown for an unbelievable 1,906 yards this year, as well as 21 touchdowns. He has a chance to hit the 2,000-yard passing mark by the end of this game.

He very well could, but he may be too banged up. Everything needs to be perfect for Ohio State to pull off the upset. One thing that is far from perfect is your star quarterback struggling to walk around after a brutal hit to the abdomen in the playoff game versus Clemson.

Yes, Fields still showed out after the hit, but there was no doubt he was banged up.

Alabama has a strong history of winning, but they also have a recent history of struggling with mobile quarterbacks. Fields is about as mobile as it gets, and if he is somehow back to full strength this week, the Tide defense will have to be ready.

Speaking of defense, Ohio State has a really good one.

Even after losing players like Chase Young to the NFL last year, there are some great players on that side of the ball for OSU. The secondary in particular was impressive against Clemson. This is a secondary that was able to keep star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence down.

Lawrence, who will most likely go number one in the upcoming NFL Draft, is one of the best mechanical quarterbacks to come through the college ranks in recent history. Yet, the Buckeye defense was able to make him look average in the semifinals.

Monday’s game could turn into a shootout quickly, which Ohio State likely wants to prevent due to the weapons Bama has on offense.

The main key for OSU will be to keep the Bama offense off track. The defense for the Buckeyes has to limit big plays as much as they can, and their offense has to drag out their drives. The goal here should be to keep the ball out of Alabama’s hands as much as possible.

The big game will air on ESPN and elsewhere tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT. Alabama will look to get revenge on the team that defeated them in the semifinals back in the 2015 Sugar Bowl. Ohio State will be going for their second championship in the playoff Era.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

Alabama’s basketball team looks like legitimate tournament team in win over Auburn

(Alabama Men's Basketball, Auburn Men's Basketball/Facebook, YHN

The Iron Bowl on the Hardwood is complete after Alabama escaped Auburn Arena with a 94-90 victory in a thrilling game.

The Tide basketball team has been trending upwards under head coach Nate Oats, and Saturday was a big step towards getting where they want to be. Auburn has been up in recent years, but this season has started off slow for the Tigers.

That all changed when freshman point guard Sharife Cooper took the floor for the first time this season after finally being cleared eligible by the NCAA late Friday. Cooper was electrifying on the court, but, more than anything, opened up the floor for other players on his team.

Even with Cooper scoring 26 points and adding nine assists, Bama was able to pull out a win in Auburn Arena for the first time in six meetings.

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Tide freshman Joshua Primo looked like a seasoned veteran in Saturday’s win, scoring a team-high 22 points. He started off the game 4-6 from beyond the arc to give the guys in crimson an early lead.

Alongside freshman Primo were the three starting seniors Jordan Bruner, Jaden Shackelford and Herb Jones. Those three seniors accounted for over half of Alabama’s points, and, more importantly, controlled the game. They slowed the game down and were the key ingredient to a win in a close ending.

On the flip side, Auburn didn’t have a single senior on the court all game long, which can hurt a young team in a close game.

The most veteran player for Auburn was junior Jamal Johnson, a transfer from Memphis, who had 10 points and shot 50% from downtown.

John Petty and Herb Jones for the Tide are the names fans hear the most in leading the team to victory, but Petty was not able to get things going until late. Yet, his leadership was evident all game long and is arguably the reason for the Tide’s success Saturday.

Alabama is now 4-0 in the SEC and will travel to Rupp Arena to face off against another SEC power, Kentucky. Although the Wildcats have looked unrecognizable so far this season, they are still loaded with talent, and Alabama will have its hands full.

Auburn falls to 0-4 in the conference with this loss and will travel to Athens to face off against the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday to try to break their losing streak.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

Iron Bowl on the Hardwood preview: Things are different for Alabama and Auburn this year

Alabama and Auburn hate each other on the gridiron, and everybody knows it.

What outsiders might not know is that the hate extends year-round for the fans of the two schools, including basketball season. The Alabama Crimson Tide will travel to Auburn Arena to take on the Auburn Tigers, a recent top-tier power in SEC basketball.

Auburn’s rise

Auburn basketball has steadily grown from a below-average team with a decent season sprinkled in every 10 years, to a powerful program with a recent Final Four run and NBA production.

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A season after the Tigers’ magical 2018-2019 season under Bruce Pearl’s leadership, they went an incredible 25-6 during the regular season with a late-season peak similar to the year before. However, this time, a global pandemic shut down the tournament and ended the Tigers’ season early.

Alabama hires Nate Oats

Alabama fans, on the other hand, are worried about a National Championship game against Ohio State on Monday and do not have as much of an interest in this game as usual. Yet, there will still be plenty of Tide fans tuning in.

Head coach Nate Oats has only been at Alabama for two seasons, but the turnaround is underway and showing signs of things to come.

When Auburn started investing in basketball facilities, high-profile coaches and a new arena, Bama knew it couldn’t slip behind. So, not long after Auburn brought in Bruce Pearl, Alabama hired Avery Johnson.

Johnson was a good hire that just ended up not being a perfect fit, but the Tigers added some pressure by being the first team in the state to make it to the Final Four. This paved the way for Johnson to leave and Oats to come in.

The Alabama basketball team is now 3-0 in conference play under Oats this season, including wins over ranked Tennessee and a historically good Florida team.

The absence of the Jungle

On paper, Alabama should defeat Auburn with relative ease. However, Auburn is used to being the underdog and usually performs better when doubted. In a game that means so much to both fan bases, Auburn is missing one of its biggest weapons.

No, not Sharife Cooper, who the NCAA still hasn’t declared eligible or not, but the Jungle. That’s right, the student section for Auburn that makes Auburn Arena one of the toughest venues to play at in the entire country.

How powerful is the home-court advantage at Auburn Arena?

When playing in front of the Jungle the three previous seasons, Auburn’s record was 46-4. That is an incredible testament to the atmosphere inside at home.

With all of that being said, Alabama will not have to worry much about what Tide star John Petty calls “some of the best fans, probably, in the NCAA,” when discussing the Jungle.

With Bama hoops starting to look like a serious contender in the SEC, and Auburn struggling to get going without a true point guard, look for the Tide to take this game, especially with the Jungle not at full capacity.

The Iron Bowl on Hardwood will be this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. CT. Tune into ESPN 2 to watch the heated rivalry and see if Pearl’s Tigers get upset, or if Oats and company can cruise past their arch-rival.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

Alabama handles business in CFP semifinal to secure spot in National Championship for fifth time in seven years

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

Alabama was again dominant in their win over Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide cruised by the Fighting Irish 31-14 in the College Football Playoff semifinal game on Friday.

Nick Saban’s squad is now one win away from their sixth National Championship under the historically successful head coach.

In Saban’s opening remarks of his post-game press conference, he said, “I would like to congratulate Notre Dame’s team on an outstanding year, and you know, a tough game for us. I would also like to congratulate our team who played really well all year long and earned the right to be here.”

Saban continued, “It’s always an honor to say you won a playoff game and won a Rose Bowl. Our players earned that and a right to play in the National Championship Game.”

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Notre Dame without a doubt played well at times in the contest and even performed better overall than some people thought they would. However, the Crimson Tide proved to be too tall of an order for the Irish.

When asked if wide receiver DeVonta Smith solidified himself as the Heisman Trophy winner, Saban answered: “We love it when any of our players get recognized, and Smitty has done as much for our team as any player could do for any team… I don’t get the opportunity to see all players play and really know exactly what they have done for their team, but I would love to see another one of our players win the Heisman Trophy.”

Smith was once again the star of the game, with seven catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns. This is nothing new for the Tide this season. The Bama wideout has been burning opposing defenses all year long.

Mac Jones, as usual, was the key to getting the ball efficiently into Smith’s hands. Jones threw 30 passes, completing 25 of them. He had 297 yards through the air and also carried the ball for 12 yards — which was somehow the second most on the team.

Najee Harris was the leading rusher with 125 yards on the ground. Tonight was the sixth 100-plus yard game for the Tide running back so far this season. This included a long run to move Alabama down the field that featured a video game-like hurdle over a Notre Dame defender.

On how he instructs Harris on jumping over players, Saban remarked, “I actually try to teach him not to do it, but it doesn’t work… When he sees that head go down, man, he’ll go over them in a heartbeat, and it’s been very effective for him.”

Bama was never in trouble in the game, and had their hands less than full with the Fighting Irish. In the first quarter Alabama had already pulled ahead 14-0 and pretty much never looked back.

Saban discussed how his team handled the Irish’s offensive scheme, advising, “They did a lot of shifting and motion and shifting in and out of unbalanced formations… I think they had a good plan against us and did a good job.”

Alabama’s defense showed fans everything they wanted to see. Defensively, the Tide didn’t give Notre Dame room to breathe for most of the game; this included pressuring the quarterback often and an interception by linebacker Christian Harris that seemed to seal the result of the game.

“When you play in games like this you know that the other team practices too. So, they are going to something different, and try to take advantage of something you maybe didn’t do so well on at other points in the season. I think our players did a good job of adjusting to that,” said Saban when discussing how the Notre Dame offense prepared to attack the Bama defense.

Quarterback Ian Book played a decent game, throwing for 229 yards and running for 55 yards and a touchdown. However, when it really mattered the Alabama pass rush kept him at bay.

Part of the defensive success for Alabama has to be credited to Patrick Surtain II, who had an electric defensive performance. Surtain rightfully received defensive Player of the Game honors; Smith earned this honor on offense.

Saban thought this was much deserved, commenting, “Patrick has great size and great speed. He is very instinctive and is a very good athlete that can change direction… he is really smart and does a great job of preparing for a game. We ask our corners to do a lot of bump and run… it is really good to see him recognized tonight as a defensive player.”

Alabama will have to wait a few hours to see who they will face off against in the National Championship Game. Clemson and Ohio State are currently playing as of this writing.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

College Football Playoff preview: Alabama will face off against Notre Dame to see who goes to the title game

(College Football Playoff/Facebook, YHN)

The College Football Playoff will officially be underway at 3:00 p.m. CT.

Alabama is not new to the playoffs. They are tied with Clemson for the most playoff appearances, playoff wins and championships in the CFP era. So, needless to say, Bama has been here before and been quite successful along the way.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, has only been to the CFP once before, and that was a humiliating loss to Clemson back in 2018 in which they got beat 30-3.

Speaking of being here before, Alabama and Notre Dame have faced off in a National Championship in relatively recent history. Last time these two met was during the wind-down of the BCS era. Nick Saban and the Tide were just getting started on their way to dynasty status.

The Irish were demolished by Alabama, 42-14.

While some college football experts expect this game to be closer than it was in that 2012 BCS Championship game, horses ought to be held.

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This may be the best Alabama team Saban has ever had. It may even be the best Alabama team ever — period — but let’s discuss that after a championship, because there is still work to be done.

However, Notre Dame should be just a small speed bump on Bama’s road to championship No. 18.

Quarterback Mac Jones is ready to propel himself, as well as his teammate DeVonta Smith, into a huge lead in the Heisman race.

Jones has already thrown for 3,739 yards this season, which is pretty unbelievable considering that was against only SEC teams. Smith has caught 98 passes for over 1,500 yards and should be able to break 100 total receptions in this game.

Smith understandably gets the most attention from fans and media, but there are plenty of other receivers that have stepped up after the unfortunate injury to Jaylen Waddle earlier in the season. John Metchie III and Slade Bolden have both stepped up big for the Tide when their numbers have been called.

The under-appreciated threat this year is the running attack that Alabama uses to keep chopping away at opposing defenses in order to open up the explosive passing attack that gets all of the attention these days.

Najee Harris has over 1,200 yards rushing this season and has been nearly impossible to bring down on first contact. Whether he hurdles you or runs through you, it isn’t going to be easy to bring him down. He will be a big part of this game and should be able to run all over the Irish’s defense.

The offensive line will look a little different this game with center Landon Dickerson out. Dickerson was without a doubt the leader of that line group and an MVP of the team this season. Losing him will be a massive disadvantage if they meet Clemson in the championship game, but against Notre Dame it may not be enough to make the Tide struggle.

Defensively, Alabama no longer has a worry like they did earlier this season. Now, Saban has got his defensive squad tuned up and looking like past Bama defenses. After the Ole Miss game, Saban made sure his boys would not struggle against high powered offenses any more this year.

Aside from the SEC Championship game, they haven’t struggled with anybody since Lane Kiffin’s squad. It would be shocking if Notre Dame was able to be the team to crack the Tide defense.

Overall, this game will be fun for Alabama fans to watch their team dominate a historically great program in a playoff game, but to outsiders this game probably will not be entertaining unless you love blowouts.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 months ago

Alabama Crimson Tide defeats Florida Gators 52-46 in thriller to take home SEC Championship

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Florida Gators 52-46 in the SEC Championship game that, for the most part, Alabama had in hand. However, it ended with some drama.

In his post-game remarks, Tide head coach Nick Saban opened up his postgame press conference by saying, “Throughout the season to win 11 games is pretty phenomenal. It speaks to the togetherness on the team, with everybody buying in and trying to do the things they need to do to contribute to the team.”

Alabama came into Atlanta and dominated the game pretty much from start to finish, although there was a slight lull in the third quarter. But the Tide never seemed to be in any real trouble until the end of the game. Even then, the Tide defense sacked Gators quarterback Kyle Trask on his own side of the 50 for time to expire.

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Saban emphasized the importance of winning the SEC Championship game, outlining, “I think winning the SEC is really a significant thing to me, always has been, and I certainly appreciate the coaches and everybody who contributed to developing and helping this team have success this year. Our coaching staff did a phenomenal job and we have a great support staff as well.”

Mac Jones may have solidified his Heisman hopes with an amazing performance in the biggest game of his life so far. The star quarterback for the Tide threw for 418 yards and five touchdowns.

Being a championship quarterback is something Jones can now put on his résumé. Saban said after the win, “You win an SEC Championship and you come back 25 years later and show your kids I was on that team. You can also show them the ring you get for doing it.”

There may be more in Jones’ future, but the same could be said for the Tide star wideout who also had an incredible night: Heisman hopeful DeVonta Smith. The electric wide receiver for the Tide played just as well as he has all season. Florida’s defense just couldn’t find any way to guard him as he racked up 184 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 15 catches.

However, the key to this game was perhaps Alabama running back Najee Harris. His running ability is what opened up the passing game for Bama.

If not for Harris’ hard-nosed running attack, the Jones to Smith collaboration wouldn’t have worked out as well as it did. Harris also helped tremendously in the passing game with five receptions for 67 yards and three receiving touchdowns. He added 178 yards on the ground and two more rushing touchdowns, as well.

As football fans know, any team’s rushing game is predicated on a strong offensive line. The leader of that unit for Alabama, Landon Dickerson, went down late in the fourth quarter with an injury.

On Dickerson’s unfortunate injury, Saban said, “He has a knee injury. We don’t know the extent of it, but we will do an MRI tomorrow and find out. It’s pretty serious I think, but we don’t know how serious.”

This could be a huge loss for Bama as the playoffs approach if he can’t return to play.

Alabama’s defense looked good in the first half, but the unit was spotty at best in the second hald. That defense was still good enough to get the job done against one of the best passing attacks in the nation.

Whenever the Tide needed their defense to step up, they did just that. Kyle Trask still had a good game, throwing for 408 yards on 26 passes and adding three touchdowns through the air.

Saban expected a dog fight from the gators.

The legendary coach stated, “I expected that was exactly what would happen in this game. With the quarterback who does a fabulous job. They have a really good receiving core, but 84 and 1 are really good mismatch players … when you do get them guarded you get pass interference because they are just hard to play.”

Tight end Kyle Pitts for Florida at times looked like he was going to start exposing the Tide, but other than a few big plays, he was doubled up by the Bama secondary.

When discussing the Gators after the game, Saban added, “I can’t say enough good things about their team. They certainly had a lot of competitive character to keep fighting and giving themselves a chance to win. I mean they were an onside kick away from having a chance to win.”

The Tide offense was just too good for the Gators’ defense. Florida had no answers for the Tide air-raid attack that Alabama has made famous in the SEC.

The no-nonsense Alabama coach ended his post-game talk on a sweet note, stating, “I’d like to thank everybody.”

Talking to the journalists, he added, “You guys have done a really good job promoting our players this year and giving them a lot of self-gratification for their efforts and I know they appreciate it, and we appreciate it from a team standpoint. Thank you.”

Saban was proud of his team’s win in the SEC Championship, as he should be. Yet, it is easy to tell his eyes are now set on the College Football Playoff and the National Championship Game.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.