Gehrig Dieter

Alabama’s loss to Clemson was ‘like a death in the family’

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The juxtaposition, as is normally the case, was startling and jarring.

On the one hand, you had Clemson, dancing and celebrating the football program’s first national championship in over three decades.  On the other, there was Alabama, stunned by its first loss after winning 26 straight and its first defeat in a title game since winning four in seven years under Nick Saban.

It may be cliché, but the postgame locker room was akin to a funeral, one with feelings no one inside it had ever felt pouring out.

“People are hurt,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “You work so hard to get to this point and you lose the game. It’s like a death in the family.”

“I never felt that feeling probably my whole life,” said wide receiver Gehrig Dieter. “To be that close to the ultimate goal and not get it, it hurts. It’s probably going to hurt a lot more the next couple of weeks when it really sinks in.”

Tim Williams, whose last game as a member of the Crimson Tide was the loss, implored his somber teammates to “remember this feeling,” which will no doubt be one of  Saban’s rallying cries throughout the upcoming offseason and on into the 2017 season. Here’s more of Williams’ poignant and heartfelt locker-room message, from al.com:

I left everything out on the field, bro,” he told them early Tuesday morning.

He paused before repeating the line.

“I love y’all, bro,” he blurted.

The sentence hung in the dead silence.

“Remember this feeling,” the outside linebacker appealed.

The verbal stream of consciousness continued to flow.

“We are a championship program, bro. Real talk, bro.

No. 1 Alabama strolls into Playoff with 3rd straight SEC championship

Associated Press
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Though no one will ever come out and say it, Alabama didn’t have to win on Saturday. The Tide clinched their third straight College Football Playoff trip with last week’s 30-12 victory over Auburn, and nothing that happened under the Georgia Dome roof would change that. As far as the next month is considered, the only thing on the line in Atlanta was whether Florida or Auburn would represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.

But, to quote a famous, fictional Alabamian, Alabama did as Alabama does. They won anyway. And they won big.

No. 1 Alabama waltzed to a 54-16 rout over No. 15 Florida, securing the Tide’s third straight SEC championship and its third straight Playoff berth.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway, then immediately forced a three-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Any shot at a Florida second-half comeback ended in the middle of the third quarter when, staked to a 1st-and-goal at the Alabama 2-yard line, three consecutive runs netted zero yards and Appleby’s fourth down connection to Goolsby sailed out of bounds. Alabama immediately answered by moving 98 yards in eight snaps, most of which came on the legs of Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough.

Scarborough capped Alabama’s next drive — this a 14-play, 13-run, 7-minute, 34-second, 91-yard migration — with his second rushing touchdown of the day, opening the gap to 47-16 with 9:15 remaining. Derrick Gore closed the scoring with a 10-yard burst up the middle with 3:48 to play.

For the game, Alabama rushed 38 times for 234 yards and four touchdowns; Scarborough carried 11 times for 91 yards and two scores, and Harris added eight rushes for 86 yards. Hurts booked a modest day of 11-of-20 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown. Appleby completed his day with 26 completions on 39 attempts for 261 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Florida totaled precisely zero rushing yards on 30 credited rushes.

Alabama became the second team in the league’s championship game era to win three straight SEC titles; next season they’ll attempt to tie Florida’s record of four straight SEC Championship victories from 1993-96. The win secured Nick Saban‘s fifth SEC championship at Alabama (and his seventh overall) . It also pushed Alabama past Florida for the most SEC Championship victories at eight in 12 total appearances and edged the Tide to a 5-4 lead in head-to-head SEC title games. The victory extended the Tide’s overall SEC championship lead to 26 total crowns.

The Tide’s 54 points were five off the SEC Championship record (Auburn, 2013) and the most by a Florida opponent since Nebraska steamrolled the Gators 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Saturday’s game was notable for a number of reasons. It was the 25th SEC Championship. It was the final SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome. It was the final SEC game legendary broadcaster Verne Lundquist will ever call. And it was the first SEC title game since, oh, about 2005 with absolutely zero national championship stakes on the line.

And as long as the Tide stays this far ahead of the rest of the SEC, it won’t be the last.

Alabama having its way with hapless Florida

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The SEC Championship was competitive… for about a drive.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway. Florida then forced 3-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Appleby closed the half completing 17-of-26 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, while Hurts hit 8-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a score. Alabama has out-rushed Florida 52-7.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

No. 1 Alabama puts a Hurts-ing on No. 20 USC

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With a score this lopsided, you have to wonder how else No. 1 Alabama might have needed to handicap itself to make romp over No. 20 USC competitive. Because as it is, the Tide played with a true freshman quarterback playing in his first game behind an offensive line that is still congealing, and in its first game without its longtime defensive coordinator and Heisman Trophy-winning running back. And Alabama still won 52-6.

USC was simply no match for Alabama. Perhaps it USC is still paying for the residual effect of the Reggie Bush sanctions. Perhaps it was playing with a rookie head coach against the greatest to ever do it. Perhaps USC just simply wasn’t ready. Perhaps it was all of those things combined. The final result saw its former head coach Lane Kiffin drop half a hundred on the team that fired him, and the Trojans learned exactly how far they have to go to reach the level of college football they once owned.

Saturday’s game before a sold out AT&T Stadium actually started well for the Trojans. USC accepted the ball to open the game, hit a 36-yard connection from Max Browne to Darreus Rogers on its second play and took a 3-0 lead, which it held to the midway point of the second quarter.

Then Alabama grabbed the lead on a 39-yard scoring strike from Jalen Hurts to ArDarius Stewart, and it never looked back.

In barely a quarter of game action, Alabama turned a 3-0 deficit into a 38-3 laugher. Marlon Humphrey returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown to put the Tide’s defense on the board, and Hurts accounted for three third-quarter touchdowns — another long strike to Stewart (71 yards, this one) and two short runs.

Hurts endured some typical boneheaded freshman plays — including fumbling away a zone read exchange on his very first snap — but recovered to connect on 6-of-11 passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing nine times for 32 yards and two touchdowns. And this is probably a low point for him.

USC notched a second field goal late in the third quarter, and Alabama responded by tacking on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a two-yard plunge by Bo Scarborough and a 45-yard catch-and-run score from starter Blake Barnett to Gehrig Dieter.

Overall, Alabama (1-0) held just a 15-11 edge in first downs but out-gained the Trojans 465-194. The Tide gained 7.4 yards per play to USC’s 2.9, and held a 242-64 edge on the ground. Ronald Jones II led USC (0-1) in rushing with seven carries for 46 yards — 46 of which came on one play — while Damien Harris paced Alabama with nine carries for 138 yards.

Bowling Green WR Gehrig Dieter transferring to Alabama

Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP
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Alabama will be adding a 1,000-yard wide receiver by way of a graduate transfer from the MAC. Gehrig Dieter will transfer from Bowling Green to Alabama in 2016, and he will be available to play right away. Dieter announced the news of his transfer to Alabama on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon.

Dieter is scheduled to graduate from Bowling Green in May, which means he will be a graduate transfer. This makes him eligible to play right away next fall at any other FBS program with a spot available. That FBS program just so happens to be the defending national champions. With freshman Calvin Ridley breaking out for the Crimson Tide in 2015 en route to a national championship, it looks as though Alabama will have quite a 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position. However, there could be a minor snag preventing Dieter from playing this season. Because this will be Dieter’s third four-year football program, he will need a waiver approved by the NCAA in order to be cleared to play this season. Dieter previously played at SMU before heading to Bowling Green.

Dieter was Bowling Green’s second-leading receiver in 015 with 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns. Together with Roger Lewis (1,544 yards, 16 touchdowns), and quarterback Matt Johnson (4,946 yards, 46 touchdowns), Bowling Green had a dynamic offense that now faces a bit of an uphill battle heading into the spring. With Dieter transferring and Johnson graduating to the NFL and head coach Dino Babers taking a job at Syracuse, Bowling Green could be set to take a step back next fall.