Sunday, January 4, 2015

Alabama rolls Missouri in SEC Championship Game

Last Saturday in Atlanta, the most dominating force in college football, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, overwhelmed the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri (10-3) showed plenty of mental toughness and resilience in winning the East and making it to this game, but the gap between Missouri and Alabama (12-1) was obvious as the Tide rolled 42-13.

Alabama’s Million Dollar Band played the booming opening notes to “Yea, Alabama,” the heavily pro-Alabama crowd rocked the Georgia Dome, and within minutes the Crimson Tide had a touchdown on the opening drive.

Alabama led 21-3 at the half, but Missouri kept competing, as the team has all season long. The Tigers got a touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter, with two plays where Maty Mauk eluded Alabama defenders and heaved the ball down the field for a completion.

But Alabama is No. 1 for a reason, and the Tide put the game away with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Missouri could not get anything going on the ground against Alabama’s ferocious defensive front. The Tigers ran the ball 23 times but had just 41 yards to show for it, a paltry 1.8 yards per rush.

Crimson Tide Blake Sims completed 23 of his 27 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama put the pressure on Missouri’s secondary with a barrage of quick, short passes to the outside. The Tide’s super talented Amari Cooper racked up 12 receptions.

Missouri’s defense excelled this season, but on Saturday the Tigers yielded 504 yards of offense, continuing a disturbing trend of Missouri getting shredded in conference championship games.
Coach Gary Pinkel is now 0-4 in conference title games. Some of those games have been more competitive than others, but Missouri has allowed 38, 62, 59 and 42 points in those games. That’s an average of 50.25 points allowed per game.

These games have obviously been against top-shelf competition. Two of those four opponents, 2008 Oklahoma and 2013 Auburn, played for a national title, and 2014 Alabama might play for it next month.

Pinkel transformed Missouri from a snoozing program with potential into a consistent winner. But the conference title has eluded him, a major hole in an otherwise impressive resume.

This was Crimson Tide’s 24th SEC title, as Alabama has menaced the South for generations. Missouri fans have been waiting since 1969 for a conference title. Will Pinkel ever get that brass ring? He’s taken the Tigers so far, but on Saturday night a conference championship still felt far away.

Still, Pinkel did a fine coaching job with this team, and 10-3 seasons should be celebrated. The Tigers were rewarded with a trip to the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 (noon on ABC) in Orlando. Missouri will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4), who are probably grateful they’ll be in Florida instead of Minnesota on Jan. 1. The Gophers have shown signs of progress under coach Jerry Kill, so it should be a pretty good game. A win would be a nice finish to a successful season.

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