Revisiting the Road to 16

Revisiting+the+Road+to+16

Tyler Waldrep

Before the season began, coach Nick Saban wanted Alabama to get back to doing what it used to do.

Alabama was sick of hearing that its time at the top of the sport was over. The team was ready to get back to winning championships.

“We just want people to hate playing us and really just be a nightmare for our opponents,” linebacker Dillon Lee said.

It took some time, and different players struggled early on, but the Crimson Tide eventually became the type of team it wanted to be and claimed the school’s 16th national title.

Alabama 35 Wisconsin 17

Derrick Henry: 147 rushing yards // 3 TDs

Secondary makes strides: Eddie Jackson returned an interception for 41 yards.

Alabama started the season off with a huge win over the Badgers that officially put the country on notice. Wisconsin (usually a school that has no problem running the ball) found itself unable to get anything going on the ground due to Alabama’s front seven. Jake Coker appeared to put some distance between himself and challenger Cooper Bateman when he threw for 213 yards and one touchdown. The only real negative from the game was the special teams, which managed to struggle in virtually every opportunity.

Alabama 37 Middle Tennessee 10

Derrick Henry: 96 rushing yards // 3 TDs

Dominant defense: Alabama’s defense recovered three fumbles and grabbed one interception.

The home opener went as most would have expected as the Crimson Tide rolled over Middle Tennessee. Coker seemed to take the starting role in all but name despite some questionable decisions. The defense played well against a modern looking offense as it prevented Middle Tennessee from converting more than one third down. Adam Griffith missed another pair of field goals to bring his total to 0-for-4 on the season.

Ole Miss 43 Alabama 37

Derrick Henry: 127 rushing yards // 1 TD

Ball Security: Alabama fumbled and lost the ball on two kick returns and the quarterbacks combined to throw three interceptions.

Saban shocked everyone by starting Bateman at quarterback, but Coker found himself back on the field after Bateman threw an interception. Despite four turnovers Alabama dug itself out of a huge hole to pull within six with less than three minutes remaining on the clock. Coker forced a long ball downfield, and the Rebels’ interception essentially sealed Alabama’s defeat to Ole Miss for the second consecutive year. Alabama also lost then top receiver Robert Foster, elevating Calvin Ridley into the starting lineup.

Alabama 34 Louisiana-Lafayette 0

Derrick Henry: 52 rushing yards // 1 TD

Dominant Defense II: Alabama held ULM to only 92 yards of total offense.w

Coker returned to the starting lineup and Bateman only attempted a single pass. Adam Griffith connected on both his field goals to finish the game with three consecutive makes.

Alabama 38 Georgia 10

Derrick Henry: 148 rushing yards // 1 TD

Let the offense rest: Alabama scored on a blocked punt and Eddie Jackson scored on a pick-six.

Alabama played as an underdog for the first time since 2009, and the chip on the Crimson Tide’s shoulder was evident as the Alabama came out and played its most complete game of the season to that point. Nick Chubb was largely contained, except when a busted assignment allowed him to score on an 83-yard run once the game was essentially decided in Alabama’s favor. It rained a lot.

Alabama 27 Arkansas 14

Derrick Henry: 95 rushing yards // 1 TD

Calvin Ridley: 9 receptions // 140 yards // 1 TD.

Coker continued to make poor decisions with the football, but Alabama’s stifling front seven completely contained one of the SEC’s top running games for the second week in a row. Alabama trailed at halftime, but a huge fourth quarter gave the Crimson Tide its third consecutive victory.

Alabama 41 Texas A&M 23

Derrick Henry: 236 rushing yards // 2 TDs

Let the offense rest II: Minkah Fitzpatrick recorded two pick-sixes, and Eddie Jackson added a third.

If Coker hadn’t won the team over before, he did with his performance in College Station, Texas. Coker only threw for 138 yards, but he did not shy away from contact and he took some tough hits running the ball. The special teams unit also improved as JK Scott averaged 48.3 yards on eight punts and Griffith made an additional two field goals.

Alabama 19 Tennessee 14

Derrick Henry: 143 rushing yards // 2 TDs

Critical catches: Three Alabama players finished with at least five receptions. A couple of these catches were critical to keeping Alabama’s chances of winning the game alive in the fourth quarter.

Alabama scored the go-ahead touchdown off a run from Henry with less than three minutes left in the game. Tennessee pushed Alabama harder than almost any of the Crimson Tide’s other opponents, but the defense recovered a fumble with less than two minutes remaining to seal the victory for Alabama.

Alabama 30 LSU 16

Derrick Henry: 210 rushing yards // 3 TD

Killing a Heisman candidacy: Leonard Fournette – 31 rushing yards // 1 TD

While the Crimson Tide was warming up, Arkansas upset Ole Miss, paving the way for Alabama to take control of the SEC West with a win over LSU. Griffith tacked on a 55-yard field goal near the end of the second quarter, and linebacker Dillon Lee grabbed an interception on the first play of the second half to shift momentum in Alabama’s favor.

Alabama 31 Mississippi State 6

Derrick Henry: 204 rushing yards // 2 TDs

Who needs the red zone: All four of Alabama’s touchdowns were scored on plays that went at least 60 yards.

Cornerback Cyrus Jones finally found the end zone when he took a punt back 69 yards to get Alabama on the board first. Alabama’s defense struggled to shut down Mississippi State’s offense at times, but the Bulldogs never found the end zone, and the defense recovered a fumble and got another interception.

Alabama 56 Charleston Southern 6

Derrick Henry: 68 rushing yards // 2 TDs

Cyrus Jones: Two punts returned for 115 yards and a school-record two touchdowns. One fumble forced and recovered.

Alabama heard Saban’s earlier rant that week loud and clear. The Crimson Tide scored 49 points in the first half, and fans were able to see plenty of younger players like Bo Scarbrough get playing time.

Alabama 29 Auburn 13

Derrick Henry: 271 rushing yards // 1 TD

Kicking it: Griffith finished the day 5-for-5, and his longest attempt was a 50-yard field goal.

The win over rival Auburn gave the Crimson Tide its back-to-back SEC West titles for the first time since Saban took over. Ridley and ArDarius Stewart finished with 90 and 81 yards receiving respectively.

Alabama 29 Florida 15

Derrick Henry: 189 rushing yards // 1 TD

Dominant defense III: Florida went 0-for-11 on third down, and the Gators were held to 15 rushing yards.

Florida’s defense made Henry and Coker work for it, but Alabama was too much for an inept Gators offense led by Treon Harris. Marlon Humphrey grabbed an interception, JK Scott averaged 51 yards on six punts, and everyone celebrated the victory that essentially locked up Alabama’s spot in the playoff and the Crimson Tide’s first back-to-back SEC Championship under Saban.

Alabama 38 Michigan State 0

Derrick Henry: 75 rushing yards // 2 TDs

Jake Coker: 25-of-20 // 286 passing yards // 2 TDs

Alabama used a huge 21-point third quarter to essentially put the game away, as the Crimson Tide leaned on Coker over Henry for the first time this season. Ridley finished the game with eight receptions and 138 yards and a pair of third quarter touchdowns. Cyrus Jones also had a great game as the defensive back grabbed one of the team’s two interceptions that preserved the shutout and returned another punt for a touchdown. Alabama was ready to take on Clemson with a national title on the line.

Alabama 45 Clemson 40

Derrick Henry: 158 rushing yards // 3 TDs

O.J. Howard: Five receptions // 208 yards // 2 TDs

Alabama beat Clemson in what might be the most entertaining national championship game the country has seen in a while. Sacks kept Alabama from picking up momentum for much of the game, but a recovered onside kick allowed Alabama to take a lead it would not relinquish in a fourth quarter that both teams combine for 40 points. A 63-yard pass to Howard got the team close, and Henry all but guaranteed the school’s 16th championship when he extended the ball over the goal line with roughly a minute remaining.