Playing his final game inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, Jones put on a historic display by returning two punts for touchdowns from 43 yards and a career-high 72 yards out. He is the first player in school history to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game, as well as having punt returns for scores in back-to-back games. His average of 57.5 yards per return is the highest ever single-game mark by an Alabama player, while his 115 total return yards ranks as the fifth-most all-time. Jones now leads the nation with three punt returns for touchdowns and ranks second overall in total return yards with 403.
What do you have to do to earn the SEC POW for Special Teams if not that? Goodness, any one of Cyrus's three huge plays could have won the game by itself.
Center Ryan Kelly has plenty of experience with the Iron Bowl, but he still struggles to communicate the significance of the game to his friends and family back home in Ohio. “I think they have to come to one of the games, or just an Alabama game in general, to understand how big it means," Kelly said. "People back home have the Ohio State-Michigan game, which is a huge rivalry, but back home you have 10 or 12 homes and pro sports, and down here you don’t have that, so this is all the people have. It means a lot to the people in the state and it means a lot to us."
Of all the interesting stories pertaining to the Iron Bowl and how it impacts players' families (among others,) the most interesting came from Ryan Kelly. Those of you accusing Big Ten fans of fart-sniffing may be correct. Hell, even we hayseeds know what Michigan-Ohio State, the Apple Cup, the Holy War, the Backyard Brawl mean. How on earth can they not understand what the Iron Bowl is?
Beautiful photos from an ugly rivalry
Despite the three-game losing streak and coinciding tumble in the polls, LSU ranks a healthy 13th in the S&P+ ratings. While the margin of defeat was disconcerting, your ratings are going to be pretty solid when your three losses come to teams ranked second (Alabama), eighth (Ole Miss), and 21st (Arkansas) and you possess wins over teams ranked 15th (WKU) and 19th (Mississippi State). Even with with an uptick of losses, LSU hasn't finished worse than 16th in S&P+ since 2008, when the Tigers ranked all of 24th. Of college football's ruling class, only Alabama can also boast that. Oregon can't. Florida State can't. USC and Oklahoma can't.
I'm torn here. LSU has been sooooo close so many times, but, at the end of the day, Les Miles and LSU are what they are -- second stringers. Les Miles' Tigers have only lost less than two games in the SEC twice: 2005 with Saban's roster and 2011, with an excellent roster that got trucked when it mattered the most. LSU is what it's always been, and shall remain: an 8-4, 9-3ish type team in their best years. As for this season, no one honestly knew what the Tigers would look like -- this was always going to be an 11-1 or a 9-3 year.
Those who have followed Henry closely, though, may have been surprised to see the usually unemotional junior hugging his teammates after Alabama’s 56-6 win over Charleston Southern in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Henry was seeking out the seniors who had played their final home game. “Those guys do a lot for this program,” Henry said. “They put in a lot of time and hours in. I just wanted to say thank you and I appreciate them.” He added that senior leadership has been “very good. The guys work hard; been working hard since the off-season. They carry the team with a chip on their shoulders and go out there and work hard and have set a good example for the young guys this year.”
Man, I am going to miss this guy. His leadership by example have really set a very high bar.
Alabama RB Derrick Henry joins The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss Alabama's successful season.
...and he says the right things too. And I, for one, believe him.
There's a different feel in the locker room entering the final stretch, a few players said Monday. Senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said he was talking to teammates about it Sunday. "It's one of the best feelings I've had in a long time about a team, since my freshman year," Ragland said. "These guys, everybody's just communicating. Every time you walk into the locker room you just feel at home and at peace. It ain't no animosity, anything like that. I just feel great about this team, man. If everybody keeps doing their job, we'll be where we want to be at the end of the year."
Speaking of leaders, Reggie Ragland nailed it. In Alabama's inexplicable losses, the next goal, the personal horizons were always bigger than the team. We've read this script so many times before. Without naming names (cough, Andre Smith,) this program has always seemingly had key players lose focus as draft grades arrive and non-championship games need to be played.
And then he got to the obvious. “I don't think I have to tell anybody anything they don't already know about this game,” he said. “The Iron Bowl is one of the great rivalries in college football. It means a lot to a lot of people in this state as well as all over the country. It's certainly an opportunity you appreciate as a competitor. “Our team has created an opportunity for themselves. I think it's all about staying focused on what you need to do to play your best football on the road. Not let the outside noise sort of affect your ability to do what you need to do to play well against a very, very good team.”
Saban also notes that API is playing its "best" football of the season -- if by that he means "Auburn lucked into redzone turnovers versus A&M and Idaho."
Hard to believe one of Alabama's offensive leaders wouldn't know the name of Auburn's best defensive player, but OK. It's possible. Maybe even plausible. These guys live in more of a bubble than we sometimes realize, and Kelly has a long, admirable record as a straight shooter. Then came Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones. Asked to comment on Auburn's wide receivers, he started out with a compliment that went south. "They're pretty good players, you know, athletic, fast," Jones said before suggesting the opposite. "I don't think they're nothing special, honestly.
No, don't apologize. Lawson on the DL and the Auburn WRs aren't special. You don't know their names, and if you do, you probably shouldn't (except for Kris Frost and Rudy Ford who are laughably awful.)
Nine days after fracturing his right arm against Mississippi State, Alabama running back Kenyan Drake was back practicing. Drake, with a heavily bandaged right arm, carried a football with his right hand and went through drills on Monday during the media viewing period. Alabama trainers watched as Drake went through drills and conferred with him after his turn in the rotation was over.
No, Drake will not be in the Iron Bowl. And, likely no, he will not be in the SECCG. This is purely for playoff preparation is my guess.
Alabama sophomore swimmer Mia Nonnenberg (Scranton Prep) made quite a splash at the three-day Georgia Tech Fall Invitational. On Nov. 19, Nonnenberg finished second in the 500-yard freestyle in 4 minutes, 43.98 seconds. That broke a school record that stood for 30 years. Laurence Bensimon set the previous mark of 4:47.16 in 1985. The next day, Nonnenberg won the 400-yard individual medley in 4:07.53. That bettered her school record of 4:09.03 that she set last season.
Well done, Mia. The Alabama swimmers overall dominated, but Ms. Nonnenberg was the star of the Georgia Tech meet.