Adam Griffith

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Peach Bowl First Half Recap: Alabama defense scores TD and begins putting Washington in sleeper hold

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Washington held their own in the first quarter, aside from one late lost fumble that led to an Alabama field goal at the start of the second quarter, but Alabama’s defense is beginning to gain control of this game. Alabama leads Washington, 17-7, at halftime in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl.

The Huskies have had two turnovers lead to 10 points for Alabama, including a pick-six by Ryan Anderson late in the first half to push Alabama’s lead to 17-7 at halftime.

Washington’s defense has done its part to keep this game from getting out of hand, however. Washington has forced Alabama to punt the ball away twice since scoring the go-ahead field goal from Adam Griffith, with the Crimson Tide only getting as far as the Washington 28-yard line, but an intentional grounding penalty on Jalen Hurts cost the Tide 16 yards (and likely prevented Alabama from at least another three points). The field position battle is not going in Washington’s favor, and the Huskies offense have not been able to get a drive going with three consecutive three-and-outs since fumbling the football away in the first quarter.

The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter, with Jake Browning completing a touchdown pass to Dante Pettis for a 7-0 lead, but Bo Scarbrough powered his way to a game-tying touchdown on the ensuing possession for Alabama.

Unless the Huskies can find some way to crack Alabama’s defense, the Crimson Tide look primed and ready to head to the national championship game to defend their title against either Ohio State or Clemson.

No. 5 Alabama escapes Death Valley with life in playoff chase


Alabama and LSU renewed their rivalry the only way they know how it seems. The two teams played a defensive battle and had to go to overtime to settle the score. In the overtime, it was No. 5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) celebrating a big win over No. 16 LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC), 20-13. The win helps keep Alabama in the playoff hunt, and this was a very good day to pick up that win on the road.

With Auburn going down at home to an unranked Texas A&M, Alabama is the likely top candidate to slide into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings when the next ranking is released Tuesday night. TCU will make a case with its win over Kansas State, but Alabama was already on the door stop waiting for the door to open. For a while Saturday night it looked as though Alabama was destined to stumble, and they nearly did.

Alabama lost running back T.J. Yeldon to injury late in the fourth quarter (Head coach Nick Saban did not seem too concerned about the extent of the injury in a brief on-field postgame interview). Yeldon fumbled the football away to LSU deep in Alabama’s end of the field, but the defense held strong enough to force the home team to settle for a field goal. The late field goal gave LSU a 13-10 lead, but the ensuing kickoff dribbled out-of-bounds to set the Alabama offense up in good starting field position. With just 50 seconds to use, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin came through with some good play-calling and Blake Sims ran the offense to near perfection to move into position for a game-tying field goal in the final seconds. Adam Griffith, who had one field goal bounce off the goal post earlier in the game, came through with a 27-yard field goal to send the game to an extra session.

In the overtime, Alabama’s offense got creative and confused LSU’s defense by sending an offensive lineman out at a wide receiver position, only to send beefy tight end Brandon Greene for a 24-yard gain. A silly unsportsmanlike penalty ended up taking away a chunk of that gain, but Alabama ended the opening overtime possession with Sims connecting with an open DeAndrew White for a touchdown. LSU’s offense was unable to match it, with Anthony Jennings seeing his fourth down pass attempt fall incomplete to clinch the victory for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama took a 10-7 lead into the halftime, thanks in part to wide receiver Amari Cooper rewriting the history books while putting the team on his back for the only touchdown of the game. Cooper’s touchdown reception from Blake Sims in the second quarter was the highlight of the game for Alabama’s offense, but he also became the school’s all-time leading receiver in the first half while making some key plays to move the offense.

This sets the stage for another mega match-up in the SEC West next week. Alabama returns home to host top-ranked Mississippi State with first place in the division on the line. Mississippi State remains the only undefeated team in the SEC, but Alabama will hope to take advantage of playing at home. Alabama has won six straight meetings with Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs have not won in Tuscaloosa since 2006. Whichever team wins next week will likely be the SEC’s best hope to make the College Football Playoff, while the loser will be likely to be left out o the mix at the end.

LSU will wrap up the regular season on the road for its final two games. Next week LSU plays at Arkansas. The Tigers end the regular season at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving.

Amari Cooper putting Alabama on his back for 10-7 lead


This year’s version of Alabama-LSU may not match the magnitude of the epic 9-6 game just a few seasons ago, but it sure is playing out to be quite the defensive battle in Death Valley tonight. After seeing Auburn come up short at home in the hours leading up to the game, Alabama is hoping to avoid being the second SEC team upset today. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is doing his part to keep the Tide in it with a second quarter touchdown to tie things up at 7-7. A late field goal in the first half gave Alabama a small 10-7 lead at the half. Cooper set a new school record for most receiving yards in the process.

Cooper did what the best players in the sport do. When his team needed a lift, he provided it. On a fourth down with four yards to go, Nick Saban kept his offense on the field and was rewarded with Cooper catching a pass for a first down from Blake Sims. Moments later, Cooper caught a ball and found room to the end zone to tie the game on a 23-yard scoring play. Saban has suggested before he would like to see others on offense step it up, but if Cooper is going to be able to carry the team on his back then Saban is not going to hesitate to let it happen.

It was LSU that opened the scoring in this one though, in the first quarter. Quarterback Anthony Jennings lobbed one up for Malachi Dupre from 14 yards out. Dupre hauled in he pass along the left side of the end zone, but the play was initially called incomplete. The SEC officials took to the instant replay to get a better look and wasted little time in overturning the initial ruling, awarding LSU a touchdown. LSU’s offense has not been able to do much outside of that possession though. Jennings has completed just two of 10 passes for 31 yards, the one touchdown and one interception.

Alabama had a chance to get on the scoreboard earlier in the second quarter, but kicker Adam Griffith had his 27-yard attempt smack the top of the left upright and fell back toward the end zone, keeping Alabama off the scoreboard and igniting a litany of Twitter jokes about Alabama’s kicking woes. Perhaps that led Nick Saban to keep his offense on the field on the next possession when faced with a fourth down from farther out. That decision paid off with the Cooper touchdown. Griffith would make up for the miss later in the second quarter by sending a 39-yard try through the uprights, giving Alabama a 10-7 lead.

Auburn returns field goal for SEC West clinching TD, hands Alabama first loss


Auburn is getting used to these wild endings. What’s next?

This may have been the craziest ending to an Iron Bowl ever. Alabama’s last-second 57-yard field goal attempt fell short and was returned by Auburn’s Chris Davis from the back of the end zone down the left side of the field and Alabama’s lack of athleticism on the field goal team was unable to catch him. Davis might as well keep running all the way to Atlanta, because the Auburn Tigers are going to play for the SEC Championship after claiming the SEC West Division title with the win over Alabama.

Auburn needed a touchdown to make overtime a possibility, and they got it by fooling Alabama’s secondary in to closing in on a mobile Nick Marshall. Marshall switched hands and tossed to a wide open Sammie Coates, who sprinted down the field for a 39-yard score to tie the game at 28-28. Alabama still had time to work with though with two timeouts and they started to move down field. The game appeared to end in regulation when Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon ran out-of-bounds on a 23-yard run. The clock appeared to expire but officials took another look and decided to add one more second on to the clock, ruling Yeldon stepped out-of-bounds with that much time on the clock. The extra second turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Auburn fans, who were initially not happy with the call.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban then made what turned out to be a poor decision, opting to try a 57-yard field goal with Adam Griffith. The Tide had been 0-3 on field goal attempts by Cade Foster earlier in the game. The decision not to take one more chance with McCarron on the field may have cost Alabama the win, an SEC title and perhaps a shot at a BCS title. Going for a 57-yard field goal given Alabama’s kicking production this season was certainly questionable, without hindsight. Considering the way a game was won at Auburn two weeks ago, Saban should have taken a chance letting McCarron toss one deep.

The longest play in Alabama history appeared to have saved the season’s ultimate goal for the Crimson Tide earlier in the quarter. Pinned inside their own one-yard line, AJ McCarron heaved a deep ball to Amari Cooper down the left side line, and Auburn’s defenders could not make the tackle to allow Cooper to run uncontested the length of the field for a 99-yard touchdown play in the fourth quarter. It gave Alabama a 28-21 lead before Marshall completed the pass to Coates to tie the game.

Auburn will take on either Missouri or South Carolina in next week’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. If Missouri defeats Texas A&M Saturday night it will be Missouri representing the SEC East in the conference championship game.