Richard Mullaney

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Ex-Bama WR Chris Black to stay in SEC, play at Mizzou

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Chris Black may have left Alabama, but he’s not leaving the SEC.

As he did when he announced his decision on Twitter to leave Alabama back in December, Black took to the same social media website to announce his landing spot, revealing in a tweet that he will continue his playing career at Missouri.  Because he’ll join the Tigers as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2016.

This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Black was fifth on the team in 2014 with 15 receptions for 188 yards.  With the departures of Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones, Black was the Tide’s leading returning wide receiver.  However, he caught just two passes for 23 yards this past season due to a combination of the emergence of transfer Richard Mullaney (54-600-4) and true freshman Calvin Ridley (75-893-5) as well as an ankle injury.

A four-star member of Alabama’s 2012 recruiting class, Black was rated as the No. 8 receiver in the country; the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 58 player overall by Rivals.com.

No. 2 Alabama claims SEC title, Playoff spot with blowout of No. 18 Florida

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With Will Grier sidelined, Florida has an elite defense and Antonio Callaway. That combination enough to squeak by Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic, and it was enough for the Gators to hang around with Alabama. But Alabama ripped No. 18 Florida apart in the second half, and the second-ranked Tide cruised to a 29-15 win in the SEC Championship.

The win makes Alabama the first team to claim back-to-back SEC titles since Tennessee did the same in 1997-98, and all but guarantees the Tide will be the first and only team to make repeat appearances in the College Football Playoff.

After taking a 12-7 lead into the locker room, Alabama essentially broke the game open by leaning on the Gators until they cracked. And crack they did. The Tide opened the second half with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes of clock and culminated in a 30-yard Adam Griffith field goal.

After a three-and-out, Alabama then marched 10 plays in 81 yards, this time eating nearly five minutes, finished off by a 32-yard touchdown pass from Jake Coker to ArDarius Stewart, which pushed the lead to 22-7.

After a missed field goal, Coker all but sealed the game when he found Richard Mullaney for a nine-yard touchdown that put the Tide up 29-7 with 8:50 remaining.

The final score, lopsided as it was, masks the effort Geoff Collins‘ defense and Callaway’s legs posted in the first half to keep Florida in the game – and even lead it for a nine-minute spell. The Tide’s first four possessions ended scoreless, and its first five died short of the end zone. Callaway’s 46-yard first quarter reception threatened to give Florida the lead, and his 85-yard second quarter punt return score did just that.

But Kirby Smart‘s defense was just too much — far, far too much — for Treon Harris and the Gators’ offense. Florida did not score until its 12th touch of the game — a 46-yard heave from Harris to C.J. Worton with 5:03 remaining, the Gators’ first offensive points since the overtime touchdown that finally put Florida Atlantic away back on Nov. 21. All but one of those 12 possession, the drive that ended in Austin Hardin‘s blocked 40-yard field goal try, lasted four plays or less and seven of them either failed to gain yardage or moved backwards.

The Gators went deep into the fourth quarter with just three first downs and less than 100 yards of total offense, in fact.

Florida ended the game with 180 yards, on 3.27 yards per snap, seven first downs and zero third-down conversions in 11 tries. Alabama gained 437 yards of total offense and 25 first downs.

Seven days after carrying a career-high 46 times for 271 yards, Derrick Henry continued to be the locomotive that powered Alabama’s football economy. Florida successfully contained the junior Heisman Trophy candidate for much of the day, but still he charged on for 189 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries. Henry’s output was enough to put him at 1,986 yards on the season, surpassing Herschel Walker‘s 1,891 yards in 1981 for the SEC’s single-season rushing record.

Coker completed an efficient 18-of-24 passes for 204 yards and two scores, and Calvin Ridley hauled in eight grabs for 102 yards.

The win sends Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC) to tomorrow’s Selection Sunday announcement awaiting their opponent — likely Oklahoma, Iowa or Michigan State — and their destination — either South Florida or North Texas. Florida (10-3, 7-2 SEC) awaits a Sunday evening announcement of whether they’re driving downstate to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl or Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

Tide averts disaster, pulls away from Hogs

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As late as midway through the third quarter, it appeared Alabama’s players were going to follow-up their head coach’s “six-feet under” blast directed at the media by grabbing some shovels and digging their own postseason graves.  Instead, they dug deep and pulled themselves out of their hole.

Thanks to some timely big-play offense and their always-stout defense, ‘Bama was able to overcome their nearly three-quarter malaise and pull away from Arkansas in a 27-14 win.  Two sequences, one late in the third and the other early in the fourth, caused a monumental shift in momentum and keyed the comeback from a 7-3 halftime deficit.

Largely lethargic on offense throughout the game, an Arkansas punt gave the Tide the ball back at their own 19-yard line.  81 yards later, Jake Coker‘s pass to Calvin Ridley, following a sublime double-move on Ridley’s part, reignited the Bryant-Denny crowd and gave the Tide their first lead, at 10-7, since 3-0 in the middle of the first quarter.

On the Razorbacks’ ensuing possession, a failed fourth-and-two from their own 41-yard line handed the ball back to the Tide.  Eight plays later, Coker hit Richard Mullaney from three yards out to, given how the combination of the Tide’s defense and Razorbacks’ offense were performing, effectively put the game out of reach at 17-7.

Adding the icing to the top of the cake, Brandon Allen was intercepted by Eddie Jackson on the next series, with the return setting the Tide up at the Hogs’ 13-yard line.  While they failed to punch it across the goal line, Adam Griffith‘s second field goal of the game gave the Tide a 20-7 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth.

The cherry on top of that iced cake began with Cyrus Jones‘ 27-yard punt return to the Hogs’ 16-yard line and ended with Derrick Henry‘s one-yard touchdown run that was set up by his 15-yard run on the previous play.  The three-score deficit officially put the final nail in the road UA’s coffin.

The Hogs, though, at least tried to make things interesting as Allen hit Dominique Reed on a 54-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 remaining.  The onside kick was recovered by the Tide, though, and the home team was able to run out the remainder of the clock

The Tide was able to limit the Razorbacks to just 220 yards of offense.  Putting a statistical emphasis on the Tide’s defensive dominance, the Hogs averaged just five yards per pass attempt and 1.8 yards per rush attempt.

Coker followed up his two first-half interceptions with the pair of second-half scoring tosses.  His 249 passing yards were a ‘Bama and career-high for the transfer from Florida State.

Henry, with 95 yards, was held under 100 for the third time in six games this season, although he has now rushed for at least one touchdown in 11 straight games dating back to last season.

Ole Miss survives pair of comebacks, upsets Tide in Tuscaloosa

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Alabama came into Saturday night looking to make a statement and exact a little revenge.  In the end, it was the team on the other sidelines doing the former while impressively avoiding the latter — but not before surviving a significant scare.  Or two.

Up 20 late in the third quarter, 15th-ranked Ole Miss withstood a flurry of Tide haymakers to head back to Oxford with a nail-biting 43-37 win over the second-ranked team in the country.  The loss ends ‘Bama’s 17-game home winning streak, which had been tied with Baylor for the longest streak in the country.

Up 17-10 at the half, the Rebels extended that lead to 30-10 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter on a pair of field goals and a touchdown.  The latter score was one of the wackiest you’ll see all season long as Chad Kelly channeled his inner Garo Yepremian, tossed up what amounted to a Hail Mary, had it bounce off a Tide defenders helmet… and right into the arms of Quincy Adeboyejo, who raced the remaining distance for what looked to be a dagger.

The score instead seemed to wake the Tide up as they drove 69 yards on the ensuing drive and capped it with a Jake Coker touchdown run. The Rebels’ next possession was a three-and-and-out that featured three plays that lost yardage. Another touchdown on the next drive, a Coker eight-yard pass to ArDarius Stewart, sliced the lead to 30-24 and seemed to leave the Rebels back on their toes and reeling.

Instead, the visiting team proceeded to connect on what appeared to be a one-two kill shot.

On a second-and-one from his own 27, Kelly took off on what looked like a run to the right side of the Tide defense and, at the last second, hit Cody Core on a pop pass, with the receiver racing 73 yards for the touchdown. An official’s review confirmed that nearly half of Kelly’s body was behind the original line of scrimmage and no penalty was warranted, although it also showed that at least one Rebel lineman was illegally downfield; that part of the play wasn’t reviewable.

On the next possession, Coker made a horrible throw and/or decision and was picked off. The very next play, Kelly sent a good chunk of the fans to the exits as he hit Laquon Treadwell from 24 yards out to push the lead to 43-24 with just over 10 minutes remaining.  But wait, ‘Bama wasn’t done.  Note even remotely close, as it turned out.

Derrick Henry touchdown run with 6:36 remaining cut the lead to 43-30 (two-point attempt failed), then, following a successful onside kick — and perhaps an illegal batting forward of the ball by a Tide player — Coker hit Richard Mullaney on a two-yard touchdown pass that sliced the deficit to six points with 4:33 remaining.  After forcing an Ole Miss punt and taking over the ball at their own seven-yard line with just over three minutes remaining, Coker’s 26-yard run on first down gave the Tide room and additional hope for those remaining in the stands.

The very next play, however, Coker made an ill-advised throw as he was being leveled that was picked off, the Tide’s fifth turnover of the game (three interceptions and no fumbles to zero turnovers for the Rebels) and what was certainly the absolute, final dagger.  Except it wasn’t as the Tide got the ball back with :31 seconds remaining at their own 31-yard line.

Four straight Coker incompletions, though, finally, officially ended any hopes of a monumental comeback.

Record-wise and based on the “look” test, both Ole Miss and LSU appear to be the class of the SEC West, with Texas A&M potentially lurking in the weeds ready to ambush someone.  The two teams will square off Nov. 21 in Oxford, although both will have to navigate a couple of obstacles before getting there — Ole Miss with road trips to A&M and a reeling Auburn, LSU on the road against ‘Bama.

Before you count out the Tide, just remember that ‘Bama lost to Ole Miss in Week 5 last season and still managed to find a seat at the College Football Playoff at season’s end.  Like last year, though, the Tide will have to take care of their own business the rest of the way and rely on other SEC West teams for help.

Turnovers help Tide dig first-half hole vs. Rebels, Coker helps begin climb out

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If Alabama is to continue a march toward 2015 perfection and a spot in the College Football Playoff, they’ll have to dig themselves out of a hole to do it.

On the strength of three turnovers, Ole Miss stunned the once-raucous Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd in taking a 17-3 lead before a late score by ‘Bama cut that margin to 17-14.  And, uncharacteristically, it was mistakes on the part of Nick Saban‘s bunch that has left the Tide with some serious digging to do.

On the game’s opening kickoff, ArDarius Stewart fumbled it over to the Rebels, although the Tide defense did hold them to a field goal and a 3-0 deficit. In the second quarter, the Tide’s offense and special teams, again, brought out the backhoe.

Cooper Bateman, making his first career start, tossed an interception in the middle of the second quarter that appeared to be the result of a miscommunication with his intended target, Stewart. Six plays later, a Jordan Wilkins one-yard touchdown run gave the Rebels a 10-3 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Kenyan Drake handed it right back to the Rebels with another fumble; three plays after that, and not counting a defensive pass interference penalty that put the ball at the UA 4-yard line, quarterback Chad Kelly leaped in (eventually) from four yards out for the 17-3 lead.

Bateman (11-14, 87 yards, one pick) was yanked on the next possession in favor of Jake Coker, who started the first two games of the season.  It turned out to be a prescient move as Coker proceeded to march the Tide down the field 75 yards, capping the 16-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Richard Mullaney with just over a minute left in the half to slice the lead to seven at 17-10.  Coker converted three third downs on that drive, and would seem to be a lock to take back hold of the offensive reins when the third quarter commences.

In one of the more stunning stats of the young season, Ole Miss leads by a touchdown despite totaling just 95 yards of offense.  When you score all of your points off opponent turnovers in their own territory, though, that will happen.

Ole Miss, incidentally, will get the ball to start the second half.