ARLINGTON – The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide demolished the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans 38-0. It marked the first time Michigan State has been shut out under Mark Dantonio.
After a defensive battle in the first quarter, Alabama broke the scoreless tie in the second quarter with a Derrick Henry 1-yard touchdown, which was set up by a 50-yard hookup between quarterback Jack Coker and wide receiver Calvin Ridley.
Coker to Ridley became a trend throughout the night as the freshman wideout hauled in eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
Coker went 25-30 for 286 yards and tossed the two scores to Ridley earning him offensive MVP.
Alabama managed to rack 440 total yards. Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry only picked up 75 total rushing yards in the night.
“It is a catch-22. They have a Heisman winner in the backfield. What are you going to do? Alabama has tremendous athletes on the perimeter,” head coach Mark Dantonio said.
Defensively, Alabama proved why they are the best defense in the entire country shutting down fifth-year senior Connor Cook and the Michigan State offense.
Cook went 19-39 for 210 yards and was intercepted twice.
Trailing 10-0, Cook led the Spartans down the field right before the first half closed, but before the Spartans could muster any points Cook threw a misplaced fade ball into the hands of defensive back Cyrus Jones.
The play shifted the momentum into the Tide’s favor and from the start of the second half Alabama fired up the engines and never looked back.
Jones earned himself the Cotton Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player Award, since the defensive back not only notched the big time interception but also returned a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown, which began the scoring spree for the Tide.
“I’ve seen make that move all the time in practice,” head coach Nick Saban jokingly said when asked if he has ever witnessed a stop and go juke like the one Ridley placed on Michigan State’s punter Jake Hartbarger.
Overall the Crimson Tide dominated every statistical category. Alabama’s tough defense held Michigan State’s running backs to 29 yards on 26 carries.
The magical ride for the Spartans might be over but the season was not a complete waste. It was the most successful Spartan team in recent years. Winning a Big Ten title and etching some of the most dramatic wins in college football history.
“I was talking with Shilique [Calhoun] after the game and we want to take away the positives from our careers. We’ve accomplished so much,” Connor Cook said.
Nonetheless – the Spartans have improved over the last five seasons, but there is still work to be done. Alabama’s crushing victory over the Spartans exploits what Michigan State needs to do to reach even higher and accomplish great things on the next level.
Alabama will play the No. 1 Clemson Tigers for the National Championship Game on Monday, January 11. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m.