It’s not every day a defender is named the MVP of the SEC Championship Game. In fact, Reuben Foster is only the fourth defensive player to ever win the award, joining Antonio Langham, Ellis Johnson (DT, Florida) and Tyrann Mathieu (CB, LSU). The following day, Foster took home the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s best linebacker. He’s having a pretty decent year.
Against the Gators, Foster, who leads the team with 94 tackles, registered 11 total stops, 2 sacks, and another .5 tackle for a loss. He was all over the field.
2nd and 6: Alabama is in its 3-3-5 nickel with Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Ryan Anderson as the linebackers. Florida has two receivers bunched close to the line on the left along with an H-back on that side. Foster is on the weakside; and he takes a couple steps to the left, matching the movement on the offensive line. He sees the hole opening on the backside and moves to fill it, anticipating the cut back from RB Jordan Scarlett. Foster avoids Kavaris Harkless’s block and meets Scarlett at the line of scrimmage to stop him for no gain.
1st and 10: Alabama goes to its base defense as Florida brings in an extra offensive lineman, who lines up on the right. Foster is on that side along with Tim Williams. Foster reads run right away and shoots through the C gap. By the time Scarlett catches the pitch from Austin Appleby, Foster is already past the line of scrimmage. It’s not a run, though; and Scarlett turns and pitches it back to Appleby for the flea flicker. Unfortunately for the Gators, Da’Ron Payne has blown past the center. Scarlett takes on Payne, but there’s nobody that can stop Foster. He pauses half a beat when Scarlett turns to pitch, but Foster is quickly back in attack mode. Appleby realizes he’s doomed before he even corrals the pitch, and he goes to the ground.
1st and 10: Foster’s on the weakside again. Florida sends a man in motion right to left, so Tony Brown drops back deep as Hootie Jones rotates down. RB Jordan Cronkrite was on Appleby’s right hip, and he swings out into the right flat. Appleby ignores the receiver in motion and throws it to Cronkrite. Foster sees the jet sweep isn’t happening and takes off to cover Cronkrite. It’s a quick pass, but Foster’s just as quick. He reaches Cronkrite before he gets past the line of scrimmage and trips him up for just a 1 yard gain.
1st and 10: Florida has a tight formation here. They’re in the pistol; and they’ve got four receivers, with two bunched up on either side of the line. Foster’s lined up over the center. One of the Gator receivers on the left, Brandon Powell, comes across behind the line; and Appleby rolls in that direction. Powell pretends he’s going to block Ryan Anderson for a second, forcing Anderson outside a few steps before flaring out into the flat. Appleby hits him, but Foster has followed and is right there. Powell catches it, stops himself, and tries to cut back inside; but Foster matches the wide receiver move for move. 2 yard gain.
3rd and 10: Foster is the middle linebacker. Alabama only brings four: Anderson, Tomlinson, Allen, and Williams. Both the tight end and running back stay in to help, so the Gators have 7 blockers on 4 rushers. So, of course Alabama gets pressure. Williams beats the left tackle on the outside as Allen draws a double team from the guard and tight end. Appleby has to step up and starts scrambling. With the running back blocking - well, attempting to block - Foster doesn’t have a man to cover. He keeps his eyes in the backfield and his feet moving to be ready for the back to run a delayed route or the quarterback to scramble. It’s the latter. In a microcosm of Florida’s total offensive performance, Appleby just folds into the ground. Foster is credited with the sack.