Key play: Senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent, an Olathe North graduate, and junior defensive end Shane Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate, teamed up for a third-down sack of Blake Sims, forcing a punt on Alabama’s second drive.
Key stat: Alabama gained 68 of its 101 yards on the opening drive, a 10-play march capped by T.J. Yeldon’s 1-yard touchdown run. The Crimson Tide only gained 33 yards in 12 plays the rest of the period. Missouri only gained 21 total yards in the first quarter.
Key play: It was a double whammy for Missouri with 11:48 remaining in the second quarter when Sims launched a 58-yard touchdown to DeAndrew White, who split the Tigers’ safeties for a touchdown. Ray was ejected on the play for hitting Sims in the chin with the crown of his helmet.
Key stat: Missouri rushed for 21 yards in 10 carries in the first half, including six carries for 4 yards by junior running back Russell Hansbrough. Combined with protection issues in the passing game, the Tigers’ offense managed only 4 yards per play and three first-half points.
Key play: On the sixth play of the second half, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk scrambled from pressure and heaved a 63-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jimmie Hunt, which set up a 1-yard touchdown pass four plays later.
Key stat: Mauk was six of 10 for 134 yards with a touchdown to senior wide receiver Bud Sasser in the third quarter. Mauk was seven of 17 for 87 yards in the first half. Hunt caught three passes for 120 yards in the period.
Key play: Rolling to his right, Sims fired a 6-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Christion Jones, who got open when sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer got tangled up in traffic and fell down. It proved to be a backbreaker.
Key stat: Alabama’s last touchdown drive was a five-play, 62-yard victory lap. Each snap was a handoff to 6-foot-3, 241-pound sophomore running back Derrick Henry, who finished with 141 yards and two touchdowns in 20 carries.
Player of the game: Sims was selected as the SEC championship game MVP. It’s hard to argue after he completed 23 of 27 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His ability to make throws rolling out was a difference-maker, and he added nine carries for 19 yards.
Reason to hope: Missouri showed some resolve after getting punched in the mouth on the game’s opening drive and losing Ray, who was ejected for targeting, early in the second quarter. The Tigers didn’t embarrass themselves against the No. 1 team in the nation.
Reason to mope: Missouri dropped to 0-14 all-time against the Associated Press’ No. 1-ranked team and is 0-4 in conference championship games, including a pair of losses in both the Big 12 and the SEC. The Tigers still haven’t won a conference title since sharing the 1969 Big Eight crown with Nebraska.
Looking ahead: Missouri will find out its bowl destination and opponent Sunday afternoon after the College Football Playoff bowl games are settled. The Citrus, Outback or TaxSlayer Bowls remain likely destinations, but the Music City, Liberty or Belk Bowls remain in play as well.
Tod Palmer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Missouri totaled 313 yards, which is pretty much dead-on Alabama’s average yards allowed per game (312.3). An inability to establish the running game and protection issues in the passing game limited the Tigers’ production, but there were signs of life after halftime.
Ultimately, Missouri coughed up 504 yards and 42 points, but the defense kept the game within reach until wearing down in the fourth quarter. Alabama averaged 9.5 yards per play in the final period after averaging fewer than 5.8 yards during the first three quarters.
Senior Christian Brinser punted well, averaging 43.4 yards on seven punts, and there no major breakdowns in coverage, which had become something of an issue in recent weeks. Junior Andrew Baggett was perfect on two 33-yard field goals.
Alabama had 108 yards rushing in 35 carries through three quarters, and the game plan to contain junior Amari Cooper worked well. Offensively, the same issues that have plagued Missouri cropped up (unsurprisingly) against one of the SEC’s better defenses. The coaching was sound.