Alabama Shuts Out Michigan State 38-0, Advances to National Championship
The Alabama Crimson Tide (13-1 overall), ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, produced a dominant performance in a 38-0 victory over the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (12-2) Thursday night in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in front of a crowd of 82,812 at AT&T Stadium (capacity: 71,815). With the victory, Alabama advances to the CFP National Championship Game against the No. 1 Clemson Tigers set for Monday, January 11, 2016, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The Alabama defense produced another excellent performance against a quality opponent, shutting down the Spartans' offense for much of the game, holding the Spartans to only 29 rushing yards and 239 total yards. Meanwhile, Tide cornerback Cyrus Jones produced game-changing plays with an interception to stop an MSU scoring threat and a punt return for a touchdown that sealed the verdict. The Tide defense registered four quarterback sacks, posted six tackles for loss, and intercepted two passes.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland led Alabama with seven tackles while linebacker Dillon Lee had six stops and intercepted a pass. Linebacker Ryan Anderson had four tackles, including a sack and two tackles for losses. Linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Geno Matias-Smith also had four tackles in the game. Alabama limited MSU’s outstanding quarterback, Connor Cook, to 186 passing yards on 17 completions in 33 attempts with an interception and no touchdowns.
Alabama's offense produced 440 total yards (286 passing, 154 rushing) led by senior quarterback Jake Coker's career-best 286 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. Coker was deadly accurate, completing 25 of 30 pass attempts. Freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley had 138 receiving yards on 8 catches for 2 touchdowns, setting a new Alabama freshman record for single-season receiving yards in the process (1,031 yards). Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry rushed for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries, becoming only the 25th running back in NCAA history (encompassing all divisions) to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He enters the CFP title game with 2,061 rushing yards in 2015.
After a scoreless first quarter, the teams continued in a standoff well into the second quarter until the Tide moved 80 yards in six plays to a touchdown to break on top, 7-0, on a 1-yard run by Henry with 5:36 left in the first half. Clutch plays in the passing game keyed the drive that was highlighted by a 50-yard pass from Coker to Ridley that reached the MSU 1-yard line. Henry's touchdown run was his 24th, breaking the Southeastern Conference record for rushing TDs in a season (previously held by Auburn's Tre Mason in 2013 and Florida's Tim Tebow in 2006). Placekicker Adam Griffith connected on a 47-yard field goal to give the Tide a 10-0 lead with 1:25 left in the half. Tide cornerback Cyrus Jones made a huge play at the end of the first half. The Spartans had marched to the Tide 12 in the final minute of the half before Jones leaped high to intercept a Connor Cook pass at the Tide 2-yard line in the waning seconds of the half, ending a scoring threat and protecting the Tide's 10-0 lead heading into halftime.
Alabama extended the lead to 17-0 on the opening drive of the second half, moving 75 yards in nine plays to pay dirt on a six-yard pass to Ridley along the sideline in the end zone. Later in the third period, Jones returned an MSU punt 57 yards for a touchdown to give the Tide a 24-0 lead with 3:24 left in the third period. Just 1:04 later, Coker and Ridley connected on a 50-yard touchdown bomb to move the Tide to a 31-0 lead with 2:20 left in the third period. Henry closed the scoring with an 11-yard run with 7:52 left in the game.
Kickoff time for Alabama's upcoming clash with Clemson is set for 7:30 p.m. Central Time (8:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m.Mountain, 5:30 p.m. Pacific). The game will be televised by ESPN.